The Other New York

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A different, better, and cheaper way to enjoy a renowned city

In a city heavily visited by tourists, the difference between the life of the resident and that of the tourist can be gigantic. The two groups inhabit different areas, patronize different restaurants and shops, pursue their entertainment in different places. And most people would agree that the resident-in cities ranging from Venice to Phoenix to London-makes a far more profound and rewarding use of the city than the tourist does. No city better illustrates that point than New York. In this, the first of a series that will deal two months from now with London and then with Paris and elsewhere, Budget Travel explores the life led by New Yorkers, not tourists, and the institutions patronized by them, all in an effort to suggest a better approach to the city for an out-of-town visitor.

The theater

The "other New York" starts with theater that challenges the mind-something found in New York and a tiny handful of other large cities, but rarely anywhere else. Especially in America, most theaters are places of pure spectacle, escapism, or soothing music meant only to entertain; in New York, theater is a source of provocative new ideas, lifestyles, and beliefs. Though residents may occasionally go to the same splashy Broadway musicals as the tourist, they also patronize a form of more serious drama rarely seen by the tourist: the 200 or so Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theaters in neighborhoods removed from the low-life glitter of Times Square. At least 80 of those "Offs" and "Off-Offs" are described and critically discussed in each issue of Time Out New York ($2.99), found on all newsstands. Consider, for your own dip into cutting-edge theater, the New York Theater Workshop (it developed the show Rent) at 79 East 4th Street, 212/460-5475, $35 a seat, but students pay only $15, senior citizens (over 65) $28, tickets for Sunday night shows $20; the Public Theater (originated A Chorus Line), 425 Lafayette Street, 212/260-2400, about $50 to $60, $15 rush tickets a half hour before showtime unless sold out; Brooklyn Academy of Music for dance, theater, and concerts, 30 Lafayette Avenue and 651 Fulton Street, both in Brooklyn, 718/636-4100, $25 to $75, student/senior rush tickets $10; P.S. 122 (the city's top venue for avant-garde theater and dance), 150 1st Avenue, 212/477-5288, $15 seats. --Pauline Frommer

Nightly events

Wholly apart from the theater scene, New York is matched only by London in the number and variety of its free or nominally priced evening events (seminars, protests, celebrity signings, readings, and more) to which residents-but few tourists-flock every night. Time Out New York lists most of them, and just as important is the free-of-charge Village Voice, distributed in red dispensers around town. Bulletin boards at bookstores, cafZs, and visitor centers should also be consulted, particularly those near the city's colleges. Off Washington Square Park, at the NYU Information Center (50 W. 4th St., Room 123, 212/998-4636), windows are plastered with flyers, and free copies of Square Notes list the month's events. Uptown at Columbia University, a similar blizzard of postings is found around Alfred Lerner Hall (on your right through the small gate at 115th St. and Broadway). Or simply go online: columbia.edu/cu/news/calendar and nyu.edu/events. --Brad Tuttle

The changing art scene

Scores of art galleries supplement Gotham's many museums and are absolutely free. The best time to gallery-hop is Friday night, when many spaces hold new-show openings where you can meet the artists and scarf down classy nibbles and free wine. But you won't find the freshest, most exciting up-and-coming talents in SoHo or on 57th Street anymore. The scene today centers on the industrial buildings of Chelsea (20th to 30th Sts. between 10th and 11th Aves.). First to colonize this area was SoHo stalwart Paula Cooper (534 W. 21st St.) and her blue-chip catalog (think Andy Warhol). Other heavy hitters to set up shop in Chelsea include gargantuan Gagosian (555 W. 24th St.); Metro Pictures (519 W. 24th St.); Matthew Marks (522 W. 22nd St. and 523 W. 24th St.); and for photography Sean Kelly (526 W. 29th St.). Don't miss the DIA Foundation's new spaces (545 and 548 W. 22nd St.), or Printed Matter bookshop (535 W. 22nd St.). Looking for hotter, less established artists? The art world's rising stars are at Cheim and Read (547 W. 25th St.), Marianne Boesky (535 W. 22nd St.), Feature Inc. (530 W. 25th St.), and Derek Eller (530 W. 25th St., #2). To help your art search, The New Yorker magazine lists major shows weekly. Also check out artreach.com or pick up Gallery Guide (which nests on gallery windowsills) and discover the newest spaces in the true starving-artist neighborhoods: Williamsburg (Brooklyn), Harlem, and the Bronx.--Reid Bramblett

Ethnic societies

As the nation's leading international city, New York enjoys dozens of ethnic societies promoting a knowledge of their cultures and histories through exhibitions, libraries, screenings, lectures, and unusual encounters. At a recent retrospective of Yoko Ono's art at the Japan Society (333 E. 47th St., 212/832-1155, japansociety.org), visitors could speak to Ono herself via a live telephone line to her West Side apartment. The Asia Society and Museum (725 Park Ave. at 70th St., 212/288-6400, asiasociety.org) is among the most active: Its several giant galleries run full tilt with art and history shows, and a busy slate of events. Though it normally charges $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students with ID, free for children under 16, it allows free admission on Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Then, located in a palatial 1908 building-one of Manhattan's grandest-the Hispanic Society of America (Audubon Terr., Broadway between 155th and 156th Sts., 212/926-2234, hispanicsociety.org) has the largest collection of Spanish art and manuscripts outside Espa-a itself, and there are rotating exhibits. It's free. Also try: Irish Arts Center (212/757-3318, irishartscenter.org); Czech Center New York (212/288-0830, czechcenter.com); or inquire through consulates of the country you want to learn about. --Jason Cochran

Cool industrial tours

Hidden in the Big Apple, in the heart of the city's pumping financial district, are stacks of gold bars, part of the nation's treasure, at the Italian Renaissance-style Federal Reserve Bank of New York (33 Liberty St., 212/720-6130, ny.frb.org). On a free hour-long tour, you'll see multitudes of coins and notes from around the world, some thousands of years old, as well as exhibits on the bank's role in the economy. Or take the free Steinway & Sons tour (1 Steinway Pl., 718/721-2600, steinway.com) in Astoria, Queens, to witness the exquisite attentions of some 300 craftspeople as they sand, saw, rub, voice, and string expensive pianos. New York's beverage industry? At the Brooklyn Brewery (1 Brewers Row, 79 N. 11th St., 718/486-7422, brooklynbrewery.com) just across the East River in Williamsburg, you'll see huge copper vats a-brewin' in a 70,000-square-foot space before sitting down in the 300-seat tasting room for sample brewskies. Tours are free on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. (All of the above tours require reservations.) --Matthew Link

Harlem

You won't want to miss this dynamic section of New York, up-and-coming and full of life (don't forget Bill Clinton has set up shop here, too). The free Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (515 Malcolm X Blvd. and 135th St., 212/491-2200, nypl.org/research/sc/sc.html) has over five million items like manuscripts, artifacts, archives, photographs, and recordings, many on permanent display. Another must is the famed Apollo Theater (253 W. 125th St., between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Blvds., 212/531-5305, apollotheater.com), especially for its low-cost Amateur Night on Wednesdays, when tickets start at $16. If you love all things African, haggle with the sellers at the daily Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market (52 W. 115 St., 212/987-8131), where you'll find jewelry, clothing, masks, hats, watches, and more. And for food, a good budget choice is Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too (547 Lenox Ave., 212/690-3100), which serves up (many say) the best fried chicken in New York for around $10. --ML

Brooklyn Heights

Tree-lined streets, stately brownstones (more than 500 homes built before the Civil War), a brick-lined promenade with a magnificent view of Lower Manhattan-all this makes Brooklyn Heights the most elegant neighborhood in the borough, perhaps the entire city, and yet it is a sight scarcely known to tourists. Take just about any subway (N or R to Court St.; A, C, or F to Jay St./Borough Hall; 2 or 3 to Clark St. or Borough Hall), find your way to the cafZs and shops of Montague Street, then meander onto the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for a famous panorama stretching from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to the Statue of Liberty. Stop by the historic Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims (75 Hicks St., 718/624-4743)-where Abraham Lincoln worshiped on occasion-on your way down to Old Fulton Street. If your legs aren't wobbly yet, stroll back to Manhattan via the walkers' lane of the Brooklyn Bridge for an old-school commute. You'll walk right into another old, grand relic, City Hall. --BT

The Staten Island ferry

A harbor cruise, for free! Each year, 19 million people use the ferry for the 5.2-mile, 25-minute trip from Manhattan's tip (beginning at the South Ferry subway station) to the northern end of Staten Island, New York's most suburban borough. Along the way is a world-class view of the harbor that put America on the map, including postcard-perfect views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, and historic Governor's Island. For the same lineup, tourist tubs charge $13 per spin, but on the Ferry, you see it twice-going and returning. Boats go half hourly (every 20 minutes during rush hour), day and night, but if you time your trip well, you'll enjoy one of America's finest sunset cruises. And are you ready for the best part? In 1817, it cost 25¢ to cross the harbor; since 1997, it has been free. How's that for progress? (718/815-2628; no reservations required.) --JC

The Lower East Side

The Lower East Side (lowereastsideny.com) absorbed millions of immigrants between 1880 and 1920, and their experience is preserved in the Tenement Museum at 90 Orchard Street (tenement.org). Tours are popular, so book ahead. Of more than 500 synagogues once in the area, survivors include the Moorish-style Bialystoker Synagogue (closed 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) and the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue (eldridgestreet.org), ruinous but on the road to restoration. Though many Central European groups stamped the Lower East Side with their heritage, Jewish life still dominates, from Orchard Street's Sunday market to tiny Essex Street shops selling yarmulkes, tallith prayer shawls, and other religious paraphernalia. Best of all is the food. Sample a dozen different pickles at Guss Pickles (85-87 Orchard St.), nosh candies in the Olde Worlde setting of Wolsk's Gourmet Confectioner (81 Ludlow St.), or sip syrupy Maneschevitz at Schapiro Wine Company (126 Rivington St.). When it comes to baked goods, there's Kossar's Bialys (367 Grand St.) for hot bagels, Yonah Schimmel's Knishes (137 E. Houston St.), and Gertel's Bakery (53 Hester St.) for rugalach and potato kugel. And don't forget the orgasmic pastrami sandwiches at Katz's Delicatessen (205 E. Houston St.), backdrop to Meg Ryan's famous "faking it" scene in When Harry Met Sally. --RB

The ethnic restaurants of Jackson Heights

Superb ethnic eateries litter all five boroughs, but most New Yorkers agree that the finest concentration is in Jackson Heights, Queens. Grab the number 7 subway for a 20-minute ride from Grand Central to the 74th Street/Jackson Heights stop to partake of Indian, Argentinian, Ecuadorian, Peruvian, Thai, and Colombian cuisines. North of Roosevelt Avenue, 74th Street comprises a thriving Little India of sari stores, Bollywood video shops, and cheap curry restaurants galore. King of the all-you-can-eat buffets is Jackson Diner (37-47 74th St., 718/672-1232), a multicolored hall with a $6.95 lunch buffet ($8.95 weekends), served noon to 4 p.m., laden with goat curries, lamb vindaloo, and chicken tikka; ^ la carte dinners are equally cheap. At the elegant Argentinian steak house La Porte-a (74-25 37th Ave. at 75th St., 718/458-8111), platters are piled with a sizzling mix of prime rib, skirt steak, pork and blood sausages, sweetbreads, and tripe for $15; wash it down with a bottle of Argentinian wine as red as bull's blood. La Peque-a Colombia (83-27 Roosevelt Ave., 718/478-6528), a cross between a diner and the Brady Bunch den, serves up Colombian home cooking; the massive $10 plato mota-ero swims with beans, rice, ground beef, fried eggs, a split sweet plantain, and a giant pork rind. And throughout the area, you'll find shops selling inexpensive imported delicacies and ingredients that you can't buy anywhere else in the country. --RB

Queens for a day

Finally, unknown to most tourists, some of New York's museum activity has temporarily moved to former factories in the borough of Queens, the most celebrated being the esteemed Museum of Modern Art (33rd St. and Queens Blvd., 212/708-9400; $12 admission), which will stay there until 2005, when its Manhattan digs will be ready. MoMA's sister space, P.S.1, which is devoted to contemporary art and housed in an old school (22-25 Jackson Ave., 718/784-2084; $5 admission), is almost as important. For lovers of sculpture, the borough offers the serenely Zen Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (36-01 43rd Ave., its own temporary home; $5 admission) and Socrates Sculpture Park (Broadway at Vernon Blvd.; free), which hosts young artists with big ambitions-and projects. For sheer fun, there's no more entertaining (and educational) spot than the American Museum of the Moving Image, dedicated to film, TV, and video games. Interactive exhibits let you edit film, play with sound effects, even dub your voice over Audrey Hepburn's (35th Ave. at 36th St., 718/784-4520, ammi.org; $10). Linking these sites is the weekends-only Queens Artlink Bus (free), which loops from MoMA to P.S.1 every hour on the hour from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jump on and off at will. -PF

And others

We haven't the space to discuss still more: the modern-dance scene at the Joyce and City Center; the Russian community of Brighton Beach; Chinatown; lively Williamsburg, shared by Hasidic Jews and trendy artists; inexpensive walking tours of historic areas booked primarily by residents; unexpected shopping areas (lower Broadway, SoHo); and so on. In addition to finding activities in Time Out New York, visitors should check the Weekend section of the New York Times published on Fridays, and its Sunday Arts & Leisure section. The New Yorkers who avidly read every issue of their famed "newspaper of record" are also fascinated by the "other New York"! (Official info: nycvisit.com.)

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