Concierge: Why I Love New York

“Boy, I Love This Town”

It seems all too clear: New Yorkers adore this town not unlike the way avid sports fans obsess over their favorite teams. It’s intense. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say they wear their love like a badge of honor. Manhattanites, whether born here or not, can remember every detail of the moment they first fell in love with New York. We asked some of our favorite residents to recall their stories and collected them into a kind of scrapbook of this unique family held together by a common thread . . . this crazy love of New York.

I moved back to New York City in the early ’70s, just before the city went bankrupt, in its grittier period. I married; we had a baby and just after she was born, I was coming back from the doctor with her in a Snugli, and walking through the park. It was a perfect day. Radiant. Then something thumped into my foot.

I looked down and a huge rat bounced off my foot, staggering from overeating, and lurched away. As my daughter got older, we would go to the playground across the street. You had to really keep your eyes open because there were occasionally used hypodermics discarded here and there.

So when the Central Park Conservancy was formed to privately restore the park, it was the biggest gift to the city. If you don’t remember the comparison between then and now, you can’t imagine what a spectacular job they have done. The reservoir is my favorite place to walk. One of the best New York moments is when there are performances on the Great Lawn—opera or Broadway—and everyone brings their dates and friends and dogs, and picnics on the lawn at dusk. And the beginning of summer when Shakespeare in the Park starts their program with Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Marcia Gay Harden, Philip Seymour Hoffman and, last summer, Anne Hathaway—such a feast.

But it was the weeks and months after 9/11 that wed me forever to this city. The shrines along the sidewalks in front of buildings that had lost residents. The candlelight vigils. Volunteering at Ground Zero with my daughter and husband three weeks after to serve food to rescue workers who were dazed, shell-shocked. The fires were still going at the site. It was beyond words. But anyone who was in this city then is connected to it in a way that cannot be described.

Literary agent, Janklow & Nesbit
What I love most about New York City is the amazing amount of cultural events we are surrounded with at every moment. Great opera at The Met, wonderful concerts, distinctive museum shows, dance programs of all kinds and provocative theater.
My one regret is that there is such a smorgasbord of activities that too many people are not enjoying the solitary pleasure of reading a really good book.

Co-founder, Tory Burch LLC.
I love going to Gino’s with my boys. I have fantastic memories of going there with my parents when I was growing up and it is great to keep that tradition going with my children.

One of my most embarrassing moments? When I first started out in the fashion industry I worked at Harper’s Bazaar and was very naive about the way things worked. I was at a shoot and called Geoffrey Beene, Geoffrey. He turned around and said, “Darling, it’s Mr. Beene.”

Writer, Vanity Fair; Reagan biographer
As a child, my Manhattan was Radio City for the Christmas show and the Easter show, lunch at Schrafft’s, which no longer exists, shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral to light candles for dead relatives. In college (I went to Georgetown), I would come home for the holidays and stay with my parents, and that’s when I discovered Greenwich Village and the more bohemian corners of the city. My first apartment was tiny, off Riverside Drive, and $75 a month. It was my student apartment at Columbia. Then I got my first real apartment, a studio on East 76th Street facing The Carlyle Hotel and that was like $125 a month. I made $50 a week to be editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview, which had a circulation of 500. While I was still in film school, I wrote a review of Andy Warhol’s Trash for the Village Voice and Andy Warhol called me and asked me to come and work at Interview. So I was just suddenly in the middle of everything that was happening in Manhattan. Now I live in East Hampton most of the time so I can escape everything that’s happening in Manhattan and get some writing done!

C.E.O., Borghese
New York is more than a city; it’s a galaxy as deep and dense and hypnotic as the Milky Way. Whatever star you want to follow, regardless of what your interests are, you will find it in New York. But more important, you will find the very best of its kind in New York, from the lofty and most intellectual to the crazy and kinky. Personally, I treasure the fact that you can really have it all here. New York transports me. It is a real life “Fantasy Island.”

Novelist, ‘Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him
I knew I was a New Yorker when I moved away. I returned with the zeal of the converted. I absolutely adore this city, most especially the people. New Yorkers are manna for novelists. I’m enthralled by all the many characters—I even married one—who are drawn to our city from all over the world. I love how even the most random encounters of daily city life are fraught with
personality and intrigue.

Celebrity hairdresser and owner, Frédéric Fekkai Salons
When I first came to New York in 1983—after the cab ride from the airport, I arrived with my friend on Lexington and 81st Street and we were looking for the landlord we saw advertised in the paper in France. We rang the bell and nobody came, so I had my suitcase on Lexington Avenue and nowhere to go. I was doing a little bit of panicking because I didn’t speak a word of English. I went to a clothing store to make a phone call to try to reach the landlord. The owner of the store looked at me and said—in a little bit of French, little bit of English—that she knew me. I said, “That’s not possible, this is my first time in the States!” She said, “No, I know you.” Long story short, this was a woman who had actually come to Paris to get a haircut with me! Wonderful destiny! And it was a spectacular day in Indian summer, early fall of New York, a beautiful day, and I fell in love with the city greatly.”

Former maestro, New York Philharmonic
What I love most about New York is its coziness. Every city block is like a village . . . everyone knows everyone. Informal communities are formed . . . people greet one another, exchange a thought, ask after the kids, offer a sweet. When they go out into the real world of the next city block, they freeze up and put on the I’m-indifferent-to-everything look.

Being a New Yorker is a state of mind. You know you have become one when you take seriously the dog events at Riverside Drive.

New York . . . no place like it.

Owner and operator, Le Cirque
I love New York on a Sunday. That’s when New York is for New Yorkers, and it is so much easier to get around, travel and see things in the city.

I will never forget the day I first arrived. It was April 5, 1956. Nobody was there to meet me when I got off the boat, and I didn’t have any money to take a taxi. I walked from the 57th Street Pier on the west side all the way to a small hotel at 431 East 32nd Street—the Hotel Stanford—with three pieces of luggage. Six years later, Egidiana, my wife, was performing at a women’s show at Carnegie Hall. She was a famous singer in Italy and she performed at Carnegie Hall in 1962 and 1963. Then she stopped singing, and I went back to selling soup. She went on to become the best cook in New York. When I was 25 years old I accepted the position of maitre d’hotel at the famous Colony Club. I met everybody, and people said I was good.

President, Council on Foreign Relations
What I like most about New York? If I had to choose one thing, it would be the ability to walk just about anywhere. New York is right up there with Paris when it comes to being a great walking city. I’ve been here six years, and it is the first and only time in my life I’ve been able to walk to work. I probably average four to five miles a day. It is good exercise, provides time to think and break through writer’s block and gets me places (lunch, for one) just as fast as a car given the amount of traffic clogging the streets, especially if you want to cross town. I mostly walk on Park Avenue, which is the most relaxing, although sometimes I try to go on Lexington and Third, which are the most interesting. I tend to avoid Madison (too precious) and Fifth below the park (too crowded). My wife Susan and I love walking around the reservoir, except we can’t take our dog.

Filmmaker, Absolute Wilson
The best thing about New York is, without a doubt, New Yorkers—this strange unique breed that populates the city that never sleeps. I knew that the city and I were inseparably intertwined when I was standing in front of the Pyramids dreaming of bagels and lox, and when a Woody Allen picture felt like a home movie.

To me, New York is always fresh and new. Circles converge, separate and reconfigure in mysterious ways. When I married my husband Nathan after having met him just three months earlier, a mutual friend said, “Are you kidding me? You were dancing next to each other for hours at my wedding seven years ago. I have it all on video!”

One of my favorite New York stories happened shortly after I arrived. I was a student at Columbia, living in a studio apartment and about to give my first dinner party. Nervous that no one would show up, I invited everyone I knew and told them to bring lots of friends. The menu for the occasion consisted of spaghetti with ready-made pesto sauce, a big salad and bread. I had ordered a lot of wine, because I figured if there was plenty to drink, people wouldn’t pay attention to the food. At about 7:30 p.m. on the day of the big event, I was standing in the kitchen with wet hair, wrapped in a towel, trying to cook the spaghetti. Panic had set in because the liquor hadn’t arrived, the stores were closed and I had no idea how many people were coming. The bell rang. Half naked, I opened the apartment door in anticipation of the wine delivery, but instead found myself face to face with a most elegant, carefully-dressed, older gentleman.

“Good evening,” he said. “My name is Oleg Cassini. I was invited to a dinner party at the home of Katharina Otto? That would not be you?” He raised an eyebrow.

“That would be me,” I stammered, and confessed that my first dinner party was about to turn into a foodless, alcohol-free disaster.

Oleg Cassini, the legendary designer and ladies man whose conquests include Grace Kelly, Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney, certainly did not expect to spend the evening with a blushing teenager and ready-made pasta sauce. But Oleg Cassini turned out to be my Robin Hood. (He sort of looked like Errol Flynn.) He entered the apartment, surveyed the dismal state of affairs and took charge. After pinching my cheek, he told me not to worry, but to get dressed and look beautiful. Then he threw the ready-made sauce in the garbage, called his driver and sent him to get tomatoes, onions and two cases of wine from his home. While I was getting dressed, Oleg Cassini cooked. By 9:30, the place was packed with friends, fellow students and friends of friends. Oleg Cassini served up the most incredible meal and wouldn’t let anyone else into the kitchen until he had cleaned it up. Oleg Cassini was the hero of an unforgettable evening, and the most astonishing thing was that he seemed to have a good time, too. As the saying goes, “Only in New York, kids, only in New York.”

Author, The Power of Style
I love Central Park. It’s one of the most beautiful city parks in the world. There is rarely a time that I enter it and I am not awed and overwhelmed by what the Central Park Conservancy has achieved in the last two decades.

Additionally, what I love about New York is that it’s like a living laboratory. It’s a lab for all forms of culture, for science, for sociology, an anthropological study in human behavior—you name it. You could spend an entire year in the city without ever leaving it and you still wouldn’t be able to do all the things the city has to offer.

I moved to New York City in 1975 and during my first week here, I was having dinner at P.J. Clarke’s in the front room, which in those days was the right place to be eating your hamburger, and my handbag was stolen off the back of my chair while then-Mayor Abe Beame dined at the next table. I remember my date saying to me at the time, “Well, I guess you’re officially a New Yorker.”

President and C.E.O., The Trump Organization
New York has an energy that you won’t find anywhere else. There is no place on earth like it. The energy comes from the people who live and work here. This city can humble and exalt in equally strong doses, but the end result can be inspiring and even heroic. New York City became a stronger, more vibrant and more unified place after 9/11, and that had a lot to do with the core integrity of its citizens. I have great faith in this city because it warrants my faith. New Yorkers are indomitable.

One of the funniest moments I’ve had in New York was the night I was on a boat to make a short appearance before it took off for a three-hour evening cruise around Manhattan. I didn’t notice the boat had left the dock until it was too late, so I had an unplanned tour of the city. It was clear that this turn of events was a surprise to me—just as it was for the guests on the boat—but it turned into a very pleasant evening for everyone.

I knew I had arrived in New York when I rented my first apartment, a studio on East 71st Street. It was small, dark and dingy but I loved being part of Manhattan. I would walk everywhere. I became a city person and I loved it.

Founder, DailyCandy
My favorite block in the city is 10th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues. It is the most charming pocket of ManhattanÑwith stunning brownstones, incredible window boxes brimming with flowers and a cast of residents that make me proud to be a New Yorker.

I love the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park. I spent a good part of my childhood climbing all over that poor girl. I find Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle immensely comforting. I simply adore it. I always have and always will. Minetta Tavern is my favorite restaurant of the moment. I could eat their lobster salad everyday and never tire of it. Having known Keith McNally for years, I am president of his fan club.

Fashion director, Lincoln Center
When you live in New York, you live and work amongst a people with all the diversity of a great community with universal interests.

The parks of New York are our backyard and when I take my children to their benches to have an ice cream or read a book, I realize the beauty of the simplicity of just taking in the natural wonders around us that the parks offer.

There are so many New York charities that are so dear to my heart, like the Food Allergy Initiative, Baby Buggy, the Central Park Conservancy and New Yorkers for Children. I am active in each one of these and am able to give back to a community that needs more people to lend a hand in so many ways and to make a difference.

Police commissioner, NYPD
A lot of people living on the Upper West Side when I was a kid were trying to get out of the neighborhood. The only thing keeping them there was rent control. The escalating violence in the neighborhood in the late 1950s into the ’60s inspired West Side Story.

Still, there was nothing like growing up rough and tumble in Manhattan. There were always impromptu gamesÑstickball and touch football with pass completions between parked cars. There were no soccer moms ferrying players to organized competitions. Come to think of it, there were no minivans either.

Newcomers to New York may not appreciate how much safer the city is now. Despite an increase of one million in population, New York City has fewer crimes—and fewer murders especially—in gross numbers, not just per capita, than it did a decade or so ago.

There’s more about New York than crime-fighting, of course. It has the best theaters, museums and restaurants in the world. Brooklyn has the best pasta con sarde this side of Sicily.

The city’s comeback since 9/11 is nothing short of miraculous especially in my neighborhood of Battery Park City. Forced out of our building by damage caused in the attack, my wife Veronica and I returned soon afterward. Years later, after more people returned and more shops and restaurants reopened, the vibrancy has returned to lower Manhattan. It, like the rest of the city, never sleeps, and we love it there.

Curator, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
A few years ago, Philippe de Montebello, then the MetÕs director, and I had an appointment with the Brooklyn MuseumÕs director, Arnold Lehman. It was an early-morning meeting and we were a few minutes early so we wandered down the hill from the Brooklyn Museum to a funky, greasy spoon-style coffee shop. It was one of those old-time places with yellowed Formica and 40 to 50 years of accrued ambience. We ordered our coffees and were chatting when the cookÑwhose broad back was to us as he stood at the grill doing bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns, that kind of stuffÑturned around and said to Philippe, “You’re the director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I recognize your voice.” I then noticed that there was Albinoni playing over his sound system. New York is filled with people like him, which thrills me.

President, home design for Limited Brands; President, Slatkin & Co.
I travel the world in search of inspiration. It is magical to see and visit far-off landsÑthat jaded I will never be. But every time I find a turquoise embroidered shawl in the hills of Madeira to spark a collection, or magical scent potions at a pharmacia in Florence, or preppy colors and patterns in Palm Beach or glass that echoes Prussian palaces in St. PetersburgÑit always happens that on my many wondrous walks around New York City, the exact items or inspirations are in our hometown.

When I go to Paris I always take a bateau mouche how magical to motor up and down the Seine around Pont Neuf and then see the Eiffel Tower all lit up. Well, try a Circle Line around the city and see how magical it looks from the water uptown to downtown, west to east—the Empire State building twinkling in the distanceÑthen walk around SoHo and find those special, inspirational finds and then treat yourself to dinner at magical, gourmet restaurants Italian, French, Indian and, yes, even American fare. I love lunch at Balthazar and maybe dinner at CiprianiÑwell, that took care of a trip to Paris and Florence. Maybe take in a play, the ballet, opera, one of the many amazing museums that my daughter and I go to every Sunday in the fall. There is so much in New York City, it’s a wonder we ever leave it. Maybe itÕs just to make us appreciate it all the more.

Founder, Cinema Society
I’m such a die-hard New Yorker and love just about every single thing in this incredible city of ours. Where to begin? I love that Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese call New York home. I love the Ziegfeld Theatre. I love feasting at the Waverly Inn, Sant Ambroeus, The Four Seasons, ’21’, Nobu, Mr. Chow and The River Café.

I love wandering around the Frick and The Metropolitan museums. And I love The Met Ball—the most glamorous night in New York, hands down. I love that you can have anything delivered in moments—an iced coffee in the morning or a sushi smorgasbord at midnight. I love the Upper East Side, the West Village, SoHo, Tribeca, Brooklyn Heights and the Statue of Liberty. I love the Chrysler Building. I love Broadway and Off Broadway. I love sitting outdoors at the Delacorte watching Shakespeare in the Park. And I even love leaving New York, because thereÕs nothing like seeing that magical skyline in the distance when you return to the city.