Here at the New Yorker

o-ph_25I’M ON THE 31st FLOOR of a classic  Art Deco building in midtown Manhattan. From the window of my small but plush room at the New Yorker Hotel, I look down on water tanks and roof terraces and Garment District loft buildings, and feel I am really in the heart of an old city. The hotel opened in 1930, in between the Chrysler (1929) and Empire State (1931) Buildings (imagine the excitement of that time!) Both are visible from my window, but there’s very little in the way of later glass boxes. Looking directly due east from 8th Avenue, it’s almost as if the last 75 years never happened.

The original architecture lives on here, most majestically in the lobby, but also in the halls’ original ceiling fixtures and signage, and even the doors and moldings in the guest rooms. The porcelain tub, with its X-shaped chrome faucet handles, reminds me of my grandmother’s 1940s bathroom in Rego Park.IMG_1620

Renovated last year to the tune of $70 million and now operated by Ramada, the hotel is well past its heyday, when all the Big Bands and the likes of Joe DiMaggio wouldn’t stay anyplace else.

On this muggy, uninspiring day, there were tourists from Europe and Japan and American families thronging the lobby and elevators and the hotel’s Tick Tock Diner. has my room, a City View with queen bed, listed at $149/night this week.

I’m not enchanted with the mobs in midtown and I personally resent the ugliness of nearby Madison Square Garden and all that surrounds it, but I’m glad to be here. I’ve always been curious about what’s inside this 43-story Art Deco pile with the red neon letters that dates back to the days when travelers walked underground from Penn Station through a series of tunnels to emerge here in the grand lobby, still dominated by an astonishing chandelier.

A traveler could do worse.


From a hotel press release:

Situated in Manhattan at 34th Street and Eighth Avenue, The New Yorker Hotel was the largest hotel in New York when it opened in 1930 rising 43 stories and comprised of one million square feet. The New Yorker Hotel featured 2,500 guestrooms, two grand ballrooms, 10 private dining “salons” and five restaurants that employed 35 master cooks. The barber shop was one of the largest in the world with 42 chairs and 20 manicurists. There were 92 telephone operators and 150 laundry staff who washed 350,000 items daily. This was all supported by America’s largest private power plant located in the sub-basements of the property. When it was erected in 1929, the hotel cost $20 million to be constructed.
With the arrival of the “Big Bands,” the stage was set for the ‘heyday’ of The New Yorker Hotel. Society’s elite as well as political figures, business leaders, business travelers and tourists all gathered at the hotel to listen to entertainment from famous musicians including Benny Goodman, Woody Herman and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. The Brooklyn Dodgers and manager Leo Durocher chose The New Yorker Hotel as its headquarters during the 1941 World Series. New York Yankees great Joe DiMaggio once lived at the hotel when rehabilitating an injury during the baseball season.
The New Yorker Hotel was the epitome of luxury and first-class service when it opened. Guests were greeted by hotel bellman when they arrived at Pennsylvania Station on the B & O railroad and were guided through underground tunnels to the hotel’s grand lobby. Staff members were always on hand to meet the needs of its guests.

Garden Stalker


IT’S ONE THING to be a garden voyeur, checking out places that are open to the public or that I’ve wangled an invitation to. Now I’ve gone a step further and become a garden stalker, sneaking looks into yards whose owners are unaware of my presence.

More than once I’ve parked my car (or left it running) and stealthily crept around to peek over a hedge or fence at a house whose roofline promises something interesting, scurrying away guiltily when a door opens or a voice is heard.

The latest object of my stalking is a stunning estate on Springs Fireplace Road, above. It’s a cedar-shingled Colonial — or is it just a very artful contemporary house in Colonial style? The general shape of the building, large and boxy with a high peaked roof and wings added on just as they would have been if the place were indeed 18th century, seems authentic.


The landscaping is by Oehme van Sweden, according to a small sign on the property, in the currently fashionable idiom — ornamental grasses and prairie-style flowering perennials in drifts or ‘waves,’ a look pioneered by that firm and Piet Oudolf, the Dutch landscape architect. There’s a pool, a pergola, and a no-nonsense electrified deer fence.

In front, the property is open and farmlike, visible to all who pass by. In order to see the side and rear of the property, I went down an old farm road. Only later did I notice the small “Private Road – No Trespassing” sign.




Good Fences Make Good Gardens


GOOD FENCES may or may not make good neighbors, but good deer fences definitely make good gardens.


A friend here just told me how her husband, fired up with enthusiasm the very first day they moved to a wooded lot in Springs 20 years ago, planted vegetable seedlings, saying “I’ll put up a fence tomorrow.” The next morning, of course, there was nothing to put a fence around.

I’ve decided not to plant anything at all this year. This fall and winter, when I’ve had a chance to figure out just what I want, and when the landscape contractors’ business slows down, I’m going to focus my resources on four things:

  • a gravel driveway/parking court
  • a flagstone patio and paths
  • removal of 4 or 5 large trees to gain more sunlight
  • a proper 8′ tall deer fence around the entire property, including a gate across the driveway

I’m convinced it’s the way to go. Otherwise, between the deer and the shade, I’ll be limited to ferns and a few other things. (Go here for the most comprehensive article on deer fencing I’ve found.)

I know my list is ambitious. Based on prior estimates and hearsay, I’ll be lucky if I can do all that for $20,000. It may end up taking me longer than I’d like. Meanwhile, I’m looking around at what others have done to make deer fences go away, visually, and deer go away altogether.

The 99 Cent Banana

IMG_0861CHIEF AMONG THE THINGS I MISS about living in Brooklyn are Sahadi’s, the Middle Eastern food emporium on Atlantic Avenue, Trader Joe’s, and Fairway. Not just the selection, but the prices.

Here in the Humptons, as blogger Michael Daly likes to call them, finding reasonably priced sustenance is an ongoing challenge. Yesterday I paid 99 cents for a single banana (not even a big one) at the Springs General Store. There seems to be a “we’re here in a resort community at the ends of the earth, so factor in extra shipping charges and expect to be ripped off” approach to pricing.

So, full-time resident that I now am, and frugal to boot, I embarked on an informal survey of  prices at Citarella, the upscale Manhattan chain that now has several stores on the South Fork, one conveniently located on my way home from anywhere; the Amagansett Farmer’s Market, now owned by Eli Zabar (it’s like the Upper West Side around here in a number of ways); and the IGA supermarket on North Main Street in East Hampton, which you would THINK would be more down-to-earth.

It seems that prices on the items in “Cara’s Market Basket” — the groceries I, creature of habit, typically buy — are best at Citarella (though not across the board), and that’s where I gravitate. They have top-quality cheeses, olives, and produce. Their house brand of French Roast coffee is wonderful at $7.49/pound.

The food is generally impeccable but prices are outrageous at the AFM, though I like to go there for the beautiful picnic grounds. Sometimes I fall into a what-the-hell-it’s-a-resort-community mentality myself. But I cringe at paying $7.99 for a can of tuna — a brand called American, ‘pole caught’ and delicious, but still.

The IGA, where the produce is disgusting, has some of the most bizarre grocery prices I ever encountered. Total 0% yogurt – the large size – is $7.49! Still, I go there for basics like spring water, seltzer, milk, and canned beans. For paper goods, it’s CVS all the way.

Just check this little table of mine, below, for price comparisons between Citarella, a relative pleasure palace of quality and service, and the IGA, so depressing you might as well be anywhere but here.


ITEM                                                                                    CITARELLA                 IGA

Tuscan Milk –  quart                                                          1.79                                .95

Total Yogurt – large size                                                    6.49                              7.49

Carr’s Table Water Biscuits                                              3.49                              4.29

Hero Preserves                                                                    3.99                              4.79

Genova Tuna                                                                        3.99                              2.19

FSBO: 1929 Cottage in Springs 600K

I CANNOT RESIST a ‘House for Sale by Owner’ sign, especially when it’s an older cedar-shingled cottage on Old Stone Highway, one of my favorite roads around here. Even though I just bought a house two short months ago, I called the number on the sign (add area code 631) and went to see it this afternoon. Why?


  • I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a better deal than the one I got
  • It’s good blog fodder
  • I have friends I’m hoping to lure out here to keep me company

Here’s the scoop: The house is a 1929 cottage added onto twice (most recently, a large, high-ceilinged sun room in the back, below), with a brand new well and septic, on an open/partly woodsy half-acre midway between Springs and Amagansett, a very short distance from my favorite bay beach, Louse Point, and not more than two miles from the fabled Amagansett dunes and ocean beaches, pride of eastern Long Island.

The owner is a woodworker who built himself a large (500 square foot) workshop in the back with a wood stove, that could also be a very fine artist’s studio (a writer wouldn’t need that much space).


The house is about 1,200 square feet, tucked between two other cedar-shingled cottages of similar vintage, with a clean unfinished attic space that could someday be a master bedroom suite or some such. Taxes are $3,500/year.

What’s bad? The downstairs — the original part of the house — is claustrophobic. You want to tear the dropped ceiling down with your bare hands. The bathrooms (1.5) and kitchen need drastic updating. Happily, there’s that sun room at the back — but the rest of the interior needs major re-thinking.

My considered opinion is that it’s overpriced by about 100K. It’s in a quieter, more attractive location than mine (which is a slightly smaller house but more intelligently laid out, for which I paid 320K), and on roughly the same size piece of land. It already has that valuable workshop, and a shed, and a patio, which mine does not.

If you’re in the market, it might be worth a look, and a stab at negotiation.