Best Public Speakers (2011)

For many, the city's best open mics are semi-private affairs, evenings with friends in a warmly lit and moderately priced neighborhood coffee shops or late nights strumming Bon Iver songs with suitemates in the common room of a college dorm. Union Square Park, on the other hand, with its large crowds, gives you the world at its spacious south steps. On open-mic nights at Union Square, the orators who are strangers who will surely remain that way. They offer the opposite of an intimate gathering, and if you're in the right mood, this is much more enjoyable than annoying. We prefer to drop by after work, sit down on those south steps and unwind to sounds of the city, which at Union Square Park includes everything from beatboxed raps, eschatological warnings, and, yes, more Bon Iver. Meanwhile, BMX riders, protesters arguing for a free Palestine, and local dance crews divert attention away from the mic their own demonstrations, whether political, aesthetic, or both. And when the night ends—or, more likely, when you finally become overwhelmed—the Union Square subway hub offers easy access to nearly every part of the city, bringing you back to the calm of your dorm room or neighborhood coffee shop in no time at all.


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