Best Of :: Shopping & Services
One day we'll all reach the end of the line, but until your time comes you can take the 4 train to its final stop in the Bronx and relax amid the 400 bucolic acres of Woodlawn Cemetery. There's a good chance you'll see a hawk wheeling above spreading willow trees and spy enormous carp undulating just below the surface of Woodlawn Lake. Sylvan paths are marked for the flora found there — Spruce Avenue, Hickory Plot — and rustling branches drown out any urban cacophony. Opened in 1863, Woodlawn is an active, nonsectarian cemetery, and while the grounds are beautifully maintained, there is also a sense here of time beyond the increments of workweek or vacation day. Some headstones tilt, lichen covers others, and a rain-streaked inscription for a child who never saw a first birthday conjures an ineffable melancholy that entwines the setting like vines embracing a mausoleum. But visit Miles Davis's grave and hum the jazz standard "Solar," etched on his stone, or stop by Herman Melville's final berth for some literary musing, and you'll be reminded anew that life may be a crapshoot, but we're blessed to have a chance to roll them bones. Webster Avenue and East 233rd Street, Bronx 10470, 718-920-0500, thewoodlawncemetery.org
Sure, the New York Public Library is a great institution overall, with several branches dotting the city. But if you need to catch up on your John Ford westerns or map the differences and similarities between the styles of Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, or get to the bottom, once and for all, of the sound of John Cage, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is where you want to be. Serious theater scholars can make an appointment to view selections from the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT), the library's vast collection of recorded performances. And with only a library card, anyone can rent DVDs: Here's your chance to become a DIY scholar of the films of Douglas Fairbanks or Buster Keaton. The place can be overwhelming, but the staff is happy to help. For work-at-home types, the spacious, open area — complete with a 'wichcraft coffee kiosk — is a quiet, pleasant place to get stuff done, with fewer distractions than your typical café. At the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, Manhattan 10023, 917-275-6975, nypl.org/locations/lpa
In the past, Newark Liberty International Airport has gotten a bad rap — possibly, we suspect, because of its location in that great but much shit-upon state just to our west. But EWR, dedicated in 1935 by Amelia Earhart herself, is the best, in 2015 and forever, so let's set the record straight. After a scant twenty minutes aboard an NJ Transit train ($12.50) from Penn Station, you're there. As in, actually there — no shuttle transfers, no Uber ride out to the Rockaways. There. And with a train departing from Penn Station about every twenty minutes — think a slightly more efficient G-train schedule — it's actually possible to plan public transport to the airport with some degree of certainty, and for under $20. But just wait until you get there! Riding the free elevated AirTrain between terminals is legitimately fun, and we'll stand by that. Look out through panoramic windows over the Manhattan skyline; espy the neighboring Budweiser brewery. We dare you not to make friends on the small, amusement-park-like cars (or sing the monorail song from The Simpsons over and over in your head). The terminals themselves are linear and well organized, with an atmosphere of less overall confusion than a certain larger airport, and with more destination options than a certain smaller one. And how about a location-appropriate Jersey Mike's Subs right in the concourse? What more could you ask of the Garden State? 3 Brewster Road, Newark, New Jersey 07114, 973-961-6000, panynj.gov
Figuratively speaking, the turd in the New York City punch bowl is our public restroom problem. (Just ask any Starbucks barista.) So it's both strange and wonderful that the best public restroom happens to reside in perhaps the last locale you'd imagine: the Port Authority Bus Terminal, that most cringingly public of all places. Hear us out. It's a known fact that despite the inclusion of a pretty excellent Heartland Brewery, two separate Au Bon Pains (Au Bons Pains?), and an entire bowling alley, nobody wants to spend one more second in the Port Authority than they absolutely have to. But stigma can be a blessing to nonbelievers, and this makes it a breeze to score those empty stalls when the going gets urgent. You'll find four (four!) public restrooms, one on each level, all remarkably...passable, in terms of cleanliness. (This is a bus station, after all.) You'll also find clearly posted "Rules and Regulations" in each, which helpfully clarify a lot of the essentials, as in no person shall "loiter, bathe, shave, launder clothes, drink alcoholic beverages, [or] solicit funds for any purpose." Jarring, maybe, but that anyone has ever hung around long enough to do any of these things probably speaks to the not entirely awful state of the restrooms themselves. In the final analysis, it's about what you won't find: lines. Lines of restless, dead-eyed, wailing-kid-toting commuters that you'd find congesting, say, a certain nearby train station restroom — those are conspicuously absent here. We can only ponder why this might be, but we do know that a relatively empty public restroom in a town of 8 million deserves a medal. 625 Eighth Avenue, Manhattan 10018, 212-502-2200, panynj.gov
Opened by Danny Baptista in January of 2010, The Stepping Razor advertises itself as a "traditional barbering service for the gentleman and the outlaw." True to its tagline, the Bushwick shop's aesthetic blends a hodgepodge of seemingly incongruent styles. The name comes from a song by reggae artist Joe Higgs, yet the walls are decked out with images of skateboards, classic cars, and pinup girls. Baptista himself is heavily inked but dons a tonsorial white jacket on the job and specializes in giving the young men of Brooklyn ultraclean-cut hairstyles and shaves à la 1940s NYC. That said, the barbers here are happy to wield the scissors the way you ask 'em to. At $30 a pop for a quality haircut or a hot-towel straight-razor shave, the Stepping Razor is the perfect pit stop, be it before job interview or brawl. 952 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn 11206, 917-586-7710, thesteppingrazor.com
Never mind that this is the neighborhood that brings to mind every exterior shot in the movie version of Rent. Alphabet City has plenty going for it. Pierogies, for example. Whenever you want them, whatever time of night. Little Ukraine standards like Little Odessa, set against a backdrop of beautifully dingy pre-war tenements, provide that coveted melting-pot/Depression-era aesthetic that screams Old New York, rats and all. Of course, the picturesque comes at a price — a very high one. But you only get one golden first year in New York, and you're going to pay for it in blood anywhere you live (that's not Staten Island). Do it right. Alphabet City puts you equidistant from loft parties in Williamsburg and West Village lit-major traps like the White Horse Tavern and Café Wha? — all of which you'll need to visit in order to shatter your illusions. After you're properly jaded, avenues A through C maintain a few great dive bars (Sophie's, 7B, the Library) grimy enough to make it feel like a Ramone will stroll in at any second but sanitized enough not to pose any real threat to lilywhite newbies. Tompkins Square Park, with its lively dog run and storied history of protests and drug busts, draws a remarkably diverse crowd — at least in comparison to other small parks — and provides some of the city's best people-watching.
Readers' Choice: East Village