Levys' Unique New York! has been nominated as the best tour company for the prestigious 2016 Concierge Choice Award

I Love The Bronx… Week!

I Love The Bronx Week Levy's Unique New York Family Of Tour GuidesA few weeks ago, Jonah Levy and I had the wonderful opportunity to TAKE a tour, instead of LEAD a tour. Better yet, we got to take a tour of The Bronx – probably the borough I know the least about. (For example, I’ve led Staten Island Bike Beer Blitzes and I’ve led Queens Foodie Tours with aplomb. But the Bronx is a beast. And besides, our Dad happens to be a native Bronxite, so we hand all Bronx tour requests to him.

Therefore, when I learned about I Love The Bronx Week, and the absolutely free guided tour of the Bronx by Borough Historian Lloyd Ultan, younger bro Jonah and I jumped at the chance to learn more about the amazing Northern Territory. Filled with so-bad-they’re-good jokes (whilst passing under the Highbridge, NYC’s oldest bridge, Lloyd quipped “people always ask what the bridge must be smoking!”) and beautiful views of awesome art deco apartment buildings and fun-filled facts about native Bronxites (Stanley Kubrick! DJ Kool Herc! Tony Curtis! Ralph Lauren!) we tootled through a truly diverse collection of neighborhoods and areas. From University Heights to Fordham, Morrisania, the Hub, Belmont and West Farms, everywhere we went Bronxites were happy to see us.I Love The Bronx Week Levy's Unique New York

And even though the views atop that double decker were beautiful, the most refreshing experience in The Bronx was that, while zipping around on a double-decker bus, local New Yorkers were actually waving and cheering our presence! If you’ve ever spent any time on top of a DD bus in Manhattan, the reactions (when you get any) from the locals runs the gamut from disgust to outright hostility. As a tour guide, I’ve heard rude New Yorkers shout “Go love your own city!” to busloads of tourists who take the whole thing in as an “authentic NY experience.” Which, unbeknownst to them, is hardly how most modern-day NYers act. We’re nice people! We’re just always in a rush. Same goes for Brooklynites – whether they’re dyed-in-the-wool natives or they’re recent transplants – they often BOOO! the passing double deckers packed with people itching to see what all the Brooklyn hubbub is about.

Which is why it was so nice to see Bronxites of all ages and colors waving to us and cheering to us and truly welcoming us to The Bronx. That kind of hometown pride, unadorned by cynicism or irony, just pure unabashed passion and pride for their hometown. And that’s what we like to see when touring around our own city. Hooray for New Yorkers! And we LOVE THE BRONX all year round!

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A Concert In My Living Room

A Concert in My Bushwick Living RoomI came home a month ago to find a concert in my living room.

Well actually, I came home a month ago to find 40-some-odd complete strangers, hanging out in my kitchen and living room, drinking beers and wine (they BYO’d,) chatting and mingling, talking and hanging out. But there was a palpable sense of anticipation in the air. And a considerable amount of energy was focused over on one guy, tall and reed-thin, with a floppy hat and oval glasses. This was the guy that everyone had come to see perform. Indie rock and roll music. In my living room. So after about 40 some-odd minutes of excited small talk, everyone took a seat on the floor, this rock and roller took a seat on my couch, and the concert began.

LRConcert2

Alex Ounsworth is the former-and-sometimes-current frontman for a seminal lo-fi indie rock band from Philadelphia/Brooklyn called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. They were huuuugge back in the early aughts. Sold out venues, headlined festivals, you get the pic. They also happen to be one of my wife’s favorite bands.

So when Jenny heard that Mr. Ounsworth was organizing a series of “Living Room Shows,” where he would show up and play his acoustic guitar, answer questions, and basically be an anti-rock star in our own home, she jumped at the chance.

Pictures of the “venue” (aka our living room) were snapped and sent to Alec, a standard contract was signed, tickets were sold (with 100% of the proceeds going to Alec – we didn’t make a cent) and the date was set!

That particular day I had an 8 hour tour (!!) and had to pickup the kid from daycare and drop her off at the folks’ place so I didn’t get to chat with Alec until after his 2 hour show had ended, but he was as gracious, generous and good tempered as you could imagine. And after he sold some merch and signed some records, and after everyone had cleaned up their own beer and wine bottles and tossed away their bags of chips, our very own living room rock star packed his own guitar into his car and drove back to Philly.

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In which Matt Levy takes a DIY Craft Cocktail Class

Matt Levy and Eben Freeman make craft cocktailsFor those of you that didn’t know it, I am a craft cocktail enthusiast. This is a combination of circumstances (having a 2.5-year-old means I don’t go out much after bedtime) location (NYC is an incredible craft cocktail city) and my compulsion to learn as much as I can (to a seriously geeky degree) about things that interest me.

For those of you who’ve taken my tours, you may have noticed that I try to learn EVERYTHING about NYC. For those of you who have been to my home in Bushwick, that means you’ll be stuck listening to intimate insider stories of what it means to be a proud Brooklynite and homeowner (anyone want to see the bedroom? OF COURSE YOU DO!) And for those of you who suffered through enough of that to end up drinking with me, that means you got to enjoy a (hopefully) well crafted cocktail, be it gin, whiskey, rum or mezcal.

Matt's Bar

But as with any hobby, I can always learn more!

So I decided to take a Do It Yourself Craft Cocktail Class, run by the eminent cocktail professional Eben Freeman, of AvroKO and formely of Altamarea, both very highly esteemed hospitality groups. The class took place in Genuine Liquorette, a sneaky underground bar done up to look like your father’s favorite self-service package store from the late 70s.

Eben Freeman Mixing

What should’ve just run two hours on Monday night instead ran past three and a half, in which Mr Freeman expounded, to an intimate class of less than 10 people, on the finer points of bartending. Insider tips such as better speed-pouring, the importance of always holding your liquor bottle with the label facing the customer, how to master the incredibly intricate art of stirring mixed drinks, and the controversial “hard shake,” it was a wonderful evening of learning how to make better mixed drinks anytime one is behind the bar.

Behind the Bar

So next time you book me for a tour, consider having it end at my house in Bushwick and maybe you can even get a tasty Happy Hour drink! Just don’t forget to tip the bartender!

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Panorama Challenge 9: Round 1 Questions & Answers

Thanks again to all of you who came out to the Queens Museum to make it a great night! There were no perfect scores, but there were no 100% stumpers, unlike ‘Ota Benga’ from last year.  At least one team got each of the answers,  both Challenger & Pro. Congratulations to all!

See you at the Panorama next year!

ROUND 1

Used To Be

1 In 1853 the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations was held here.
What was the name of the sparkling structure it called home?
CRYSTAL PALACE
Across the street was the city’s tallest structure, another attraction of the exhibition.
What was the name of this 315 foot tall feature?
LATTING OBSERVATORY

2 The park and this Bronx reservoir are named for the grandfather of a man who had nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.
What was the grandfather’s name?
LEONARD JEROME
The reservoir replaced what racy attraction?
JEROME PARK RACE COURSE (HORSE RACING TRACK)

3 This venue was built for the ‘64 Worlds Fair. Back then it was called a Bowl and its corporate sponsor had naming rights ‘all sewed up’.
What was its name in 1964?
SINGER BOWL
Big changes lie ahead. What will be done to the stadium after the 2016 US Open?
TORN DOWN

Law & Order

4 This police show from the 70’s was set in this neighborhood.
What is the show?
BARNEY MILLER
This is not the 12th Precinct, as the show claims. What precinct is it?
SIXTH PRECINCT

5 When the theme music ended on this 80’s NBC show you’d be looking at a picture of the County Courthouse here, on Foley Square.
What’s the show?
NIGHT COURT
Complete the George Washington quote carved above the columns of the courthouse: The True Administration of Justice is the Firmest PILLAR of GOOD Government.

6 This neighborhood has a street named for an actor from this show.
Try to Remember the name of the Tony Award winning actor.
JERRY ORBACH
The show shot hundreds of scenes in Foley Square. Give us the two word nickname of the Tammany big shot the square is named for.
BIG TOM

Complicated Rocks

7 Arbitration Rock is here, in Ridgewood…. we think… actually, it’s complicated, let’s not get into it! What did this rock once mark?
BORDER BETWEEN BROOKLYN & QUEENS OR BUSHWICK & NEWTOWN
The rock currently resides in the backyard of what historic home?
ONDERDONK HOUSE

8 Here, you’ll find C Rock, named for the giant blue C painted above the Harlem River.
What is the name of this Bronx neighborhood to which it belongs?
SPUYTEN DUYVIL
Although it’s across the river from Columbia’s football stadium, another Columbia team claims the rock.
Which team does the painting?
MENS CREW

9 This park has a straight forward enough name. It has a significant peak and is a bit stony. It’s also home to the headquarters of the Greenbelt.
Name this park.
HIGH ROCK PARK
The complication comes with the name of its 260 foot high man-made hill.
Give either common name.
MOUNT MOSES OR MOSES MOUNTAIN

Practical Parks

10 This valley has kettle ponds and salt marshes and is the second biggest park in Queens.
What is its name?
ALLEY POND PARK
The park was once at one end of what Vanderbilt-built road?
LONG ISLAND or VANDERBILT MOTOR PARKWAY

11 There’s a nice pier here, but no big antenna and no pledge drive. Is this really the right park?
Give the official name of this Greenpoint park.
WNYC TRANSMITTER PARK
A block away are landmarked factory buildings. You might be holding, or chewing on, one of their products now.
Which Germanic family firm operated there?
EBERHARD FABER (pencil factory)

12 Not just barbeques and ballfields here, this former garbage dump also has a golf course with a highly impractical 200 million dollar pricetag. And it comes with a familiar name attached. Who manages the golf course?
DONALD TRUMP (TRUMP ORGANIZATION)
What is the name of the park?
FERRY POINT PARK

Speak Up!

13 In 1939 Fritz Kuhn addressed a crowd of 20 thousand at a rally in this neighborhood. He did not sing “Happy Birthday Mr President” or watch a hockey game. In which venue did he speak?
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
What German-American organization did he lead?
GERMAN AMERICAN BUND

14 In 1860, Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln gave a speech here, by Astor Place. In what institution’s basement did Lincoln and in this clip, Sam Waterston speak?
COOPER UNION
Only days before, he thought he’d be speaking in which venue outside New York City?
PLYMOUTH CHURCH

15 Dr King gave a notable speech here, at Riverside Church, subtitled A Time to Break Silence
What is the common name of this speech?
BEYOND VIETNAM
Where was Dr. King exactly one year later?
AT THE LORRAINE MOTEL IN MEMPHIS, ON THE DAY OF HIS ASSASSINATION

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Panorama Challenge 9: Halftime Presidential Quiz

Name any 4 Presidents for ONE POINT maximum.

He saw Lincoln’s funeral procession from his family home in NYC.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT

He lived in the Bronx (Riverdale) as a boy.

JFK

‘His Accidency’ got married in 1844 at Church of the Ascension on 5th Ave.

JOHN TYLER

He had 2 tickertape parades in NYC, but only one as President. Rode with a future President in one.

GEN. DWIGHT EISENHOWER

He was sworn in on Lexington Avenue (but the building didn’t get landmarked).

CHESTER A ARTHUR

He lived on Cherry Street.

GEORGE WASHINGTON

He lived on Maiden Lane (was in the Cabinet, not President yet).

THOMAS JEFFERSON

He lived at 810 5th Avenue, same building as Nelson Rockefeller.

RICHARD NIXON

Name ALL 4 Candidates for ONE POINT:

“I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.” This ‘golden boy’ rides down 5th Ave.

GEN. WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

1872: Stock broker and advisor to Vanderbilt, notable candidate.

VICTORIA WOODHULL

1972: Unbought & Unbossed, from Bed-Stuy, notable candidate.

SHIRLEY CHISOLM

From Brooklyn, went to James Madison HS, graduated nine years after ‘Notorious RBG’.

BERNIE SANDERS

Name ALL 3 ‘Lucky Losers’ for ONE POINT total.
He won the election but lost the Presidency. His name is on the NYPL main library building.

SAMUEL TILDEN

As a lawyer, he defeated Lucky Luciano. The Chicago Tribune said he defeated Truman.

THOMAS DEWEY

NY Gov. lost nomination, joined Team of Rivals as Sec’y of State, can be found in Mad. Sq. Park.

WILLIAM SEWARD

Give us BOTH of these Presidential first names for ONE POINT total.

What is the first name of the President ‘buried’ in Grant’s tomb?

HIRAM (ULYSSES S GRANT)

He dedicated the Statue of Liberty. What is the first name of President Cleveland?

STEPHEN (GROVER CLEVELAND)

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