The Metropolitan Opera in New York City truly has something to sing about! The Met set a record in ticket sales on Sunday, August 16, the first day of individual box office sales for the upcoming 2009-2010 season. The Met sold $2.5 million worth of tickets at its box office, telephone call center and through the Web site. The first-day sales for the new season was up sharply from the previous record of nearly $2.1 million that was set in 2007. The record setting amount of tickets sold for the upcoming season is a surprise to the Met’s management considering the bad economy. However, they have been committed to maintaining the Met’s artistic excellence throughout, drawing new audience members and delivering a distraction from the economic climate. The Met’s 2009-2010 season opens with the gala premiere of a new production of Puccini’s “Tosca” on September 21, conducted by James Levine. The season features eight new productions, four of which are company premieres. Season premieres include Rossini’s “Armida,” Verdi’s “Attila,” Shostakovich’s “The Nose,” and Janáček’s “From the House of the Dead.” New productions include Bizet’s “Carmen,” Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann,” Thomas’s “Hamlet,” and Puccini’s “Tosca.” There are also 18 revivals from the company’s repertory that will be in the season lineup.
Officials are scrambling to fix where a huge part of the ceiling collapsed in the 181st Street subway station in Washington Heights where the No. 1 train runs. Upper Manhattan is expected to not have No. 1 train service through this weekend and possibly into next week, with service suspended from 168 Street to Dyckman Street stations. Both tracks and the edges of the platforms were covered with rubble when the incident occurred Sunday at 10:30 p.m. No one was injured. While the debris is being removed and a protective barrier is built where the ceiling gave way, free shuttle buses are running between 168th Street and Dyckman Street stations. Although this will somewhat ease the problem, it takes the equivalent of 20 shuttle buses to make up one full train of passengers. The 181st Street subway station is 103 years old and complaints about crumbling tiles and water leaks poured in from local residents, but transit officials did too little too late. Local officials believe water seepage was the main reason for the collapse, a regular complaint at many of the deep No. 1 line stations that are not well kept or well lit. At three stories below, the 181st Street station is one of the deepest and dampest subways in New York City, with the elevators often under repair. A contract for construction is expected to be set in early 2010.
New York City is truly a cupcake lovers paradise, famous for its cupcake bakeries since a “Sex and the City” episode in which Sarah Jessica Parker eats a pink-frosted cupcake in front of Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street. Nine years since the episode aired, tourists still flock to Magnolia Bakery. New York City is crazy for cupcakes; cupcake bakeries can often be seen with lines out the door. Manhattan’s Institute of Culinary Education leads cupcake tours and offers cupcake-making classes. And cupcake bakeries are being more creative than ever to cater to the masses, offering everything from vegan to gourmet cupcakes. Here are some of the best cupcake shops in New York City worth a visit:
Babycakes NYC (248 Broome Street) serves up dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free vegan cupcakes, sweetened with agave nectar.
Buttercup Bake Shop (973 Second Avenue) cupcakes are have decadent touches like German chocolate cake and almond white cake.
Crumbs Bake Shop is a popular bakery with 10 locations throughout Manhattan that have large, sugary sweet cupcakes in flavors like watermelon, key lime, and cappuccino.
Magnolia Bakery (401 Bleecker Street) is arguably the most famous cupcake bakery due to its exposure on Sex and the City and for their cupcakes baked fresh all day, every day.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine (126 Rivington Street) is a vintage-themed bakery serving small buttercream cupcakes in simple flavors like red velvet and pistachio.
Looking for a fun new way to tour New York City? How about by boat? The New York Water Taxi offers a hop-on/hop-off weekend boat service around New York Harbor, making stops at 10 of the city’s best neighborhoods and attractions. This service will run from May 2 to October 11, 2009, every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. A day pass ($20 for adults, $15 for kids) allows for unlimited travel. The Water Taxi’s first stop is West 44th Street at Pier 84. Check out the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Pier 86 at West 46th Street to tour the large aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. The second stop is West 27th Street at Pier 66 in Chelsea. Cool off from the summer heat by ice-skating at Chelsea Piers. Next up is Greenwich Village at Pier 45. Stroll the West Village and Hudson River Park. Traveling further south, the Water Taxi docks at the World Financial Center for a great opportunity to see the World Trade Center Memorial. The fifth stop is Battery Park, the very Southern tip of Manhattan, with views of the Statue of Liberty. Round the island to South Street Seaport for shopping and a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, followed by Fulton Ferry Landing, the oldest ferry landing in New York City. The Water Taxi then stops at Hunters Point for access to Water Taxi Beach and Long Island City. The tour ends at East 34th Street, with sites like the United Nations Building and the Empire State Building in the vicinity.
A Liberty Helicopter Sightseeing Tours helicopter and a small plane that took off from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey collided midair above the Hudson River on August 8, killing nine with no survivors. All bodies and wreckage have since been recovered from the river. The passengers taking a tour of New York City on the helicopter were five Italian tourists. The accident occurred in a busy corridor over the Hudson in which pilots are free to decide their route, as long as they stay under 1,000 feet and don’t get too close to skyscrapers. Despite the tragic accident, tourists have remained unfazed and took to the skies for tours the very next day after the accident. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has even encouraged helicopter tours to continue, and that “there’s no reason why having helicopter tours shouldn’t be safe … I certainly don’t think that we should ban them.” A city councilwoman is pressing to ban tourist helicopter rides over Manhattan. Taking in a birds-eye view from a helicopter is an increasingly popular tourism attraction in New York City and a thriving business despite the risk and high cost. Liberty Helicopter Tours offers a Lady Liberty tour costing $135 for 6 to 8 minutes, Big Apple tour of Manhattan landmarks for $165, a 16 to 20 minute tour of all five boroughs for $230, and a romantic private ride around Manhattan at night for $1,010.
A new alternative to rock climbing at the usual New York City health club and Chelsea Piers has opened: a venue solely dedicated to indoor rock climbing. Brooklyn Boulders, an indoor rock climbing gym that is said to be a first for the borough, opened in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn on August 5 and is already a hit with locals. The gym is co-owned by Jeremy Balboni, 26, and Steven Spaeth, 25, who did all of the construction of the walls and padded floors themselves along with employees of Spaeth’s family’s design marketing firm (that also happens to design Macy’s holiday windows.) The 18,000-square-foot former Daily News warehouse at Degraw Street and Third Avenue has thirty-foot ceilings and tasteful graffiti art and cartoons decorating portions of the wall where there aren’t nylon climbing grips. Climbing walls are tilted from just under vertical to totally horizontal for the most advanced. A scalable mock-up of a tower of the Brooklyn Bridge is a focal point in the gym. Brooklyn Boulders is open to memberships. A day pass is $20/day with your own gear, or $30/day with provided gear and instruction. A yearly membership is $600 and a lifetime membership can be purchased for $5,000. It can be hard for gyms to survive on membership revenue alone, so to help Brooklyn Boulders survive, it’s available for corporate team-building, private special events and birthday parties. The hours are irregular as the finishing touches are being made. Brooklyn Boulders is currently open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays with classes taking place at a few different times. Visit www.brooklynboulders.com for more information.
Headliners of the New York Comedy Festival have officially been announced as Saturday Night Live’s Andy Samberg and 30 Rock’s Tracy Morgan, joining the bill of an already stellar line-up of the country’s best comedians. The diverse group of performers include actor/comedian Dane Cook, British comedian Ricky Gervais, “Howard Stern Show” regular Artie Lange, actor/comedian Mike Epps, and comedian/television show host/author/political commentator Bill Maher. This is the sixth installment of the festival, with an estimated 150 comedians expected to perform. It will take place over the course of November 4 through 8 in New York City. If a certain presidential election distracted you from the festival last November, then there is no excuse for not attending the festival this year. The comedy acts will be held at various locations throughout the city, at about 10 different venues, like Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, Town Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and the Beacon Theatre. The festival is presented in association with Comedy Central. Panel discussions will also be held at the Paley Center for Media. The line-up of panelists is yet to be announced. November 4 kicks off with “Stand Up For Heroes,” a special benefit presented by New York Comedy Festival and the Bob Woodruff Foundation at Town Hall. For more information and tickets, visit www.nycomedyfestival.com
A new take on the usual New York City architectural tour has come along. There are apparently a surprising amount of visitors and locals who are interested in seeing the city through LEDs, mercury vapor lamps and the prism of gels, as odd as that sounds. Three months ago, a self-guided tour map of New York City lighting designs was published by the Illuminating Engineering Society of New York in conjunction with the Designers Lighting Forum of New York. The self-guided maps have been so popular that only 1,500 of the original 20,000 are left in the office of the Illuminating Engineering Society. Much of the $25,000 spent on the project was provided by sponsors, and the society is currently considering a second printing. The large foldout map leads people to different areas of New York City. The tour highlights the ethereal lighting of buildings and structures, along with the lighting designers and firms associated with each. Some examples that can be viewed at nighttime are the Alexander Hamilton Customs House, the Brooklyn Central Library, the TKTS kiosk in Times Square, and of course the illuminated glass Apple Store at Fifth Avenue. Much of the tour’s purpose is to bring attention to the overlooked lighting design industry that places a crucial part in how we view structures. Attention to lighting has also become more relevant as buildings look to become more energy efficient. Copies of the map can be purchased online at www.iesnyc.org/CityLights.aspx
Despite a ban on gay marriage in the state of New York, a pop-up wedding chapel has opened on the Lower East Side that can perform marriage ceremonies for both homosexuals and heterosexuals. No bigger than a garage, the narrow space known as “Grand Opening” is a rotating storefront, with a new concept opening every three or four months. The space, owned by Kevin Fey and Joseph Peter, has been a drive-in movie theater and a ping-pong parlor in the past. It can be found at 139 Norfolk Street, currently with several rows of chairs for guests, flowers on the walls, and dreamy lights strung across the ceiling. The marriages are performed by Fey, who became a reverend over the Internet through Universal Life Church. Ceremonies can cost between 100 and 500 dollars at Grand Opening. Heterosexual couples can get legally married in just 10 minutes, as simple and as valid as a wedding in city hall or in a Las Vegas chapel. The ceremonies are without religious references and include the traditional exchange of rings and vows. The homosexual marriage ceremonies performed are not legal due to the state’s gay marriage ban, but are symbolic acts of protest. Couples who are native New Yorkers will still marry legally, or have already married legally, but choose to get fake married so they can have a ceremony at home with family and friends. Gay marriage is currently legal in six states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa and Vermont.
The national Candlewood Suites chain made its New York City debut for the first time ever on July 17 with the opening of Candlewood Suites Hotel at Times Square. This hotel has garnered the title of being the city’s first midscale extended-stay hotel, providing guests with the experience of staying in a studio apartment space for a midscale price. The new Candlewood Suites is located near Times Square at 339 West 39th Street, a perfect destination for business and leisure travelers. With nearly 300 branded hotels in New York City, this is the first unique hotel of its kind to open as a midscale extended-stay hotel, offering a practical alternative. The 188 guestrooms are all studio suites with large rooms and full kitchens with a full-size refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and microwave, and stocked with all the kitchen appliances one needs to live as if they were enjoying the comforts of home, such as pots, pans, plates and so forth. There is also a large workspace with desk, a recliner and deluxe bedding. Uniquely, though the rooms resemble studio apartments, the hotel still has hotel amenities like a 24-hour fitness center, onsite laundry facilities, and high-speed Internet access. Guests can also visit the Lending Library where free movies and music are available, and the Candlewood Cupboard in the lobby for food and small items.