With the end of the year just a few days away, I thought I'd use this abbreviated week to count (in no particular order) the many reasons I–a former downtowner–love living uptown. Some are personal, some a bit more general–but all are unique to a part of the city that offers so much more than I ever could have imagined.
1. The Audubon Mural Project
Spotting the Audubon Mural Project's bright, beautiful paintings throughout Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights feels a bit like the act of bird watching itself: you have to keep looking up and around until you finally find what you're looking for. A collaboration between the National Audubon Society and uptown gallery Gitler & _, this project's mission is to highlight the plight of climate-threatened birds while adding color and joy to John James Audobon's old uptown neighborhood.
2. The 125th Street Stop on the 1 train
Like a diver coming up for air, the uptown 1 train leaves the 116th Street station and, for one brief stop, crosses an elevated part of the track running high above Manhatttanville's natural ravine. If you take this route during the day, your train car is suddenly flooded with light, and passengers facing west can see Columbia's new Manhattanville campus and the glittering Hudson River beyond. The experience never fails to lift my mood, no matter the time of day or year.
3. Legendary soul food
Like many New Yorkers, I frequently host out-of-town guests and sometimes even take them to popular tourist spots. In Harlem, this can mean having dinner at legendary soul food restaurant Sylvia's. Although I say I'm doing it for my guests, any trip to this 55-year-old destination is really just an excuse for me to enjoy the restaurant's never-disappointing friend chicken, collard greens and macaroni and cheese.
4. Neighbors who decorate their Interceptors
I have yet to meet the neighbor who has reimagined a former NYPD Interceptor cart as some sort of Mardi Gras love wagon. But whenever I pass by the vehicle, I can't help admiring its logo ("Love is the spice of life") and the two befeathered mannequin heads that serve as its mascots. Maybe it's the former East Villager in me, but just knowing there is someone in the neighborhood who feels the need to express themselves in this way makes my heart skip a beat.
5. Easy, charming wine bars with staff to match
Here's a favorite memory from the summer: I was with a small group that had just sat down for a drink at wine bar Vinateria when one member pulled out the enormous chocolate chip cookie she had just bought at Levain Bakery. Without missing a beat, our waiter asked if my friend would prefer a glass of milk with her cookie. She did, so he brought one over–and never charged us.