After visiting the Big Apple, the Limerick Leader’s Eugene Phelan writes about its ‘hidden treasures’
SHOPPING – and a trip to the sights like the Empire State Building, Times Square and Central Park – are often the main reasons people from Limerick fly from Shannon to New York.
But now the authorities in New York are looking for tourists to seek out the real ‘city that never sleeps’ in a new Neighbourhoods initiative.
Currently Aer Lingus flies three times a week from Shannon to JFK and from January 2014, the frequency will increase on transatlantic routes from Shannon to New York and Boston, with year-round connections and an almost doubling of the schedule, with access of up to 40 destinations in North America with partner airline Jetblue.
With the pending increase in flights looming over the horizon, Aer Lingus and NYC & Company - the official marketing, tourism and partnership organisation for the City of New York - brought a group of Irish journalists there to show that there is more to the Big Apple than merely the traditional tourist sights and Broadway.
In particular we were brought to Long Island City, the residential and commercial neighbourhood of Queens and The Bronx.
Our accommodation was the excellent Hotel Beacon on 75th Street, just a few minutes’ hop on the subway from Times Square. The hotel has around 40 permanent residents, which can be very helpful if you want to find out information about the area.
One of the endearing features of the hotel is the attached, magnificent Beacon theatre, which on the night we had arrived had a sold out concert from one of the former Beach Boys.
When I was getting my taxi from the hotel, hundreds of people were queuing outside as the Dalai Lama was due to arrive a few hours later and was staying in the Beacon.
The rooms were magnificent, typical high rise New York hotel rooms with prices varying depending on what time of year you travel. Tom Travers, the general manager, is one of the most bubbly and charming people you are likely to meet and has a big Irish following and is a regular visitor here for trade shows.
We visited the headquarters of Jetblue, founded in 1998. They have a partnership with Aer Lingus and have connecting flights to over 40 cities in the States, and if you are interested in the Caribbean they are definitely the airline to check out.
At Jetblue we got all the usual hype about the phenomenal growth of the airline, its cheap fares and connections. One of the more fascinating aspects of their business is how they deal with social media. They have a monitoring team watching out for comments on Jetblue, 24/7.
So if you tweet or post on Facebook that you are frustrated, or that you are in a queue and delayed at an airport, they will immediately check it out, get onto their team and take action. They don’t interact with customers unless invited.
We also visited Long Island City, which is undergoing major transformation with massive skyscrapers adding to the already cluttered skyline. Interestingly developers of major projects have to build schools free of charge, with the apartment blocks. The pace is quieter and there are some lovely coffee shops, bars and restaurants in Long Island city.
The Bronx would not be on most people’s itineraries but the district has plenty of attractions. We passed the Grand Concourse, fashioned after the Champs Elysées, and saw the famous Yankee stadium, the impressive Bronx Zoo and if you are into literature, you can visit the home of Edgar Allen Poe, renowned author and poet. Amazingly his home from the 1800’s is still intact in the Bronx and is now a museum.
If you like Italian food and fashion and the whole Italian neighbourhood vibe, then nearby Arthur Avenue is a must. This is the real Little Italy of New York.
We visited the local retail centre which has a lovely vibrant atmosphere and the aroma of sumptuous food, which tastes as good as it looks. David Grecco, who run’s Mike’s Deli, is another great character who provided us with amazing fresh Italian food.
If you’re looking for fine dining, the MAZE by Gordon Ramsay is on West 54th Street and 7th Avenue. As you would expect from a Ramsay restaurant the food was top notch and the adjoining hotel had superb rooms and views, with prices to match.
Dress designer Grace Carroll, now Grace O’Connor, who is from Corbally lived in the Sunnyside district of New York for many years with her husband Paddy, and they recently returned home with their children Patrick and Clodagh, and live in Castleisland where Grace runs the popular boutique In Style.
They lived in Sunnyside, located in Western Queens 15 minutes from Midtown Manhattan and loved their 20 years in the States. Sunnyside is only 22 km from JFK International Airport and 9km from La Guardia Airport. The population is approx 29,506 with many ethnicities include Latin Americans, Asians, Koreans, Romanians, Greek and of course Irish. Many Irish citizens live and have settled in this lovely neighbourhood.
“There is an Irish Shop called the Butcher Block which carries all Irish products including Barry’s Tea, Tayto and others,” Grace explained.
“Most of the many supermarkets there also carry a selection of Irish products. Popular Irish bars and restaurants are mainly situated on Queens Blvd include Sidetracks, Molly Blooms, Bliss Station, PJ Horgan’s and on Skillman Ave The Copper Kettle, The Dog and Duck,” she added.