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Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Many years ago, when my father worked in the Northern NJ area, he would always take me to the same place if I visited. I knew about the Hamilton Park Ale House before I really knew anything else about Jersey City. Ironically, after being priced out of Brooklyn, my husband and I wound up buying a condo in the Hamilton Park area of downtown Jersey City almost 2 years ago – just blocks away from the Ale House.

The Hamilton Park Ale House has long been a staple of downtown JC. Under the watchful guise of Maggie Vecca, a former waitress turned co-owner, the Ale House thrived and was a local favorite. The food was always top-notch, especially considering the other choices in the area at that time. Executive chef, Krista Trovato, had been a cook at impressive locales such as Gramercy Tavern and the World Trade Center’s Windows of the World before coming to the Ale House.

In recent years, however, since Maggie (also involved with Skinner’s Loft) sold the bar the service and food has gone downhill. One of the biggest issues that had surfaced in my mind…the lack of a good beer selection – they do call themselves an “ale house.” I have read many complaints about the owner that came after Maggie, Jim Leo, and how he ran the bar into the ground. I can attest to the validity of these rumors. The food and service became terrible. Their burger wasn’t even that great. For me, it was the brunch that was the worst. We only had it once. It’s a shame because it’s so nice to walk a few blocks from home in the nice weather and sit outside for brunch. We just haven’t found anything that fits the bill for a good brunch with outdoor seating. (I will write about Beret’s Simple Café in a later post).

After a long phase of papered windows, there is a new name on the window: The Hamilton Inn. There has also been some activity in the way of renovations. I have read some rumors online that the new deal for the Hamilton Inn fell through and that management ran out of capital after the renovation. It has been quite a long time since we noticed the reno being done, but I cannot confirm the validity of these rumors. There’s a short blurb from November 2009 in the Jersey City Independent that states the Hamilton Inn would open in a few weeks, but obviously that didn’t happen. Although, there is another article in JCI that discusses Jessie Dardar – the chef behind JC dessert truck La Petite Temptation – who is “readying to supply desserts for the Hamilton Inn, which is set to open in the former Hamilton Ale House space on Jersey Avenue this April.” So, maybe we’ll get lucky next month and see an open door. I did find the official Hamilton Inn website where there is no new information about their much anticipated and elusive opening. However, if you give your email address they promise to send you “information” about their opening.

For now, we’ll just have to wait it out. If I find out any new information, I’ll write an updated post. In the meantime, check out The White Star bar on Pavonia and Brunswick. They boast a good burger and decent beer selection, better than the Ale House has had in years.

The Hamilton Inn (formerly the Hamilton Park Ale House), 708 Jersey Avenue, Hamilton Park Jersey City.

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The move to NJ is upon us, so the hubby and I took this weekend to do a few of our favorite Brooklyn things. Hanging out in Prospect Park is great during the summer (and all year), but we had never gone pedal boating at the Wollman Rink. So, on Sunday we decided to give it a go.

It was pretty hot, but a gorgeous day. We walked all around the park and eventually found our way to Wollman Rink. There was a line for the boats, but we didn’t want to give up right away, we would wait it out. It was $15/hour and a $10 refundable deposit. We were given our life vests and got on line. The guy said it would only be about 15 minutes, but it turned out to be more like an hour. We were getting pretty antsy and so were the bunch of kids waiting. Finally it was our turn and we couldn’t wait to sit down and relax. After about five minutes of pedaling furiously we were sweating and getting pretty worn out. This is harder than it looks! Then we took a look around at our fellow boaters and realized we didn’t have to pedal that hard, just get into a nice even rhythm. Once we figured that out, it was a blast!

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I found this article in the latest issue of Time Out New York and thought it was great!! In the dog days of summer, you need to cool off and if you are in the city (and don’t have access to a pool) this is a great way to do it! It’s actually illegal, so if you aren’t feeling like a thug, you can call the FDNY and they’ll hook you up for the day! Here is a portion of the article by Lisa Freedman:

“1. There are two common brands of hydrants throughout the city: Smith and Dresser. Not only are they the easiest to find, they’re the easiest to open. “You can use a regular pipe wrench,”says Jeffrey Ercolino, lieutenant of Engine Company 26. Pick up a pipe wrench at Home Depot (40 W 23rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves; 212-929-9571, homedepot.com) and look for a hydrant with either brand name stamped on the top.

2. Use the wrench to unscrew one of the two bolts on the side of the hydrant. Some turn clockwise, while others turn counterclockwise, so you may need to try both directions.

3. To release the water, slowly turn the bolt on the top clockwise. “The further you turn the bolt, the harder the water comes out,” Ercolino warns. “The pressure ranges between 40 and 70 pounds per square inch, which is very powerful.”

4. Splash around wildly but keep an ear peeled for police sirens, and be ready to run like hell.

4b. There is also a legal approach: “Go to your local fire department and ask them to install a free spray cap for the day,” explains Seth Andrews, a spokesperson for the FDNY.”

—Lisa Freedman – Time Out New York – Click here for full article.

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Recently, the hubby and I have been trying to buy our first home. It was very simple at first; we got pre-approved for a mortgage and off we went in search of a real estate broker. The long and short of it really is…it’s not that simple. It starts that way, but one must prepare themselves for a lot of heartache along the way.

Our first attempt was on a really nice place in Jersey City Heights. The apartment was 1,000 square feet, had exposed brick, brand new kitchen (!!!) — it had a lot of character. The seller was in a hurry, so we rushed through the contract. We had a home inspection and before you knew it attorney review was over and we had a closing date set! Then the property was appraised for $20k less than the agreed upon price we were paying for it. Our bank said flat out, NO WAY. We tried everything. We begged for another appraiser, even one at our cost and that was a no go. Then we turned to the seller and asked if he would come down on the price. He could not do it. Suddenly, the whole deal fell through and we were back to square one.

We set our sights on Downtown Jersey City, specifically the area around Hamilton Park. We loved it there. It reminded us a lot of Brooklyn (some areas that aren’t overly populated yet). Soon enough we found another place. It was smaller, but based on some research, this hood was a better investment for us. In a whirlwind of showings and signings…we were in contract again! That’s when the problems began. The seller was in a rush, so everything had to be done very quickly. That was OK by us because the building we’re currently living in (in Park Slope) is falling apart, literally. This time we were smart and we had the appraisal done first, before we paid for another home inspection. It appraised $18k higher than what we were paying for it! Hurray! That means we have $18k in equity the day we move in. Wow!! We were psyched! We started planning and packing and since we were a shoe in this time (all the financials and information that was being used was the same as last time) we gave notice at our Brooklyn pad. Everything was great, the inspection went fine and we were just waiting to hear back from the bank… TBC

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Hot summer days add up to one thing…ice cream! Lately, I’ve been craving the old school ice cream parlor feel. So many of the places around Park Slope try to be fancy and gourmet, all I want is some good old fashioned ice cream with hot fudge and peanut butter sauce.

Uncle Louie G’s has been a Slope favorite since 1998, when they opened their first store on Union Street, right off of 5th Ave. The hubby and I went their to cure an incredible ice cream craving and truth be told, we were disappointed. They have gone downhill. They didn’t have soft ice cream, the toppings were limited, the staff was rude and to top it all off, the ice cream wasn’t that good. Too sugary, like Baskin Robbins. Blech.

Next stop was The Old Brooklyn Parlor [564 Vanderbilt Ave.]. The ice cream was good, but not a lot of flavor choices and not many toppings. Where does one go around here for good old fashioned sundaes?

There is always Tempo Presto, on 5th Ave. between Carroll and Garfield. They serve up homemade gelato and it is pretty good, but not ice cream.

Last night, we happened to stop by Sweet Melissa on Court Street and behold, an old fashioned ice cream parlor, right in the front of her shop! They call it The Cremerie and it was heavenly. There were many intriguing ice cream flavors and oodles of toppings. I even saw big waffle cones! The place was packed. There was a line clear out the door for this creamy goodness. Kudos Melissa, on bringing back the old ice cream parlor, now if you could just bring it to the Park Slope store 🙂

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I guess you get to a point with anything — when the love just stops. I have been thinking about it and I think Brooklyn has stopped loving me (for now). That’s not to say that we won’t eventually come back here — because we love Brooklyn, I think it’s just time to leave for a bit. It seems many others are having the same problems as we — hence, the same thoughts.

When you are getting priced out of your own hood (happening a lot lately in my fine borough) it makes it hard to move on with future plans for your life. Yes, it’s convenient to travel to our jobs, but is that enough? It’s finally a time in our lives when we can buy a property and it’s hard to give that up just because the place we live is too overpriced and inflated to buy anything.

Park Slope, Red Hook, Williamsburg, DUMBO and BoCoCa have been referred to as Brooklyn’s “Creative Crescent,” due to a high volume of self-employed creative professionals. Park Slope is in first place with over 3,500 self-employed creative pros reported in 2003. Now, there are many more. Recently, with the strange shift in the NYC real estate market, this group is getting priced out of Brooklyn. Not long ago, many people like these professionals and a large number of artists were priced out of Manhattan. It didn’t take long to price the whole population out of Brooklyn. This crisis is being called the “single largest challenge facing New York’s creative core.”

What would New York be, – hell, what would BROOKLYN be – without this “creative core”? If all of the artists and designers, etc. keep being priced out of this town, where will they go? We are going to Jersey City, but where are all the others going? And what will this borough be in a few more years? Without culture, without art (or maybe just without the artists)… Whatever the case may be, the prospect seems bleak.

And it’s not just the artist community (such a vital part of our culture) it’s also the middle class. What would BrooThe new Park Slope Novo Condo Buildingklyn be without the middle class either? I feel like Brooklyn has always been a low to middle class borough. In recent years, we’ve watched the upper echelon of New York City society come across the river and inflate the prices of our homes and rental spaces. Families making between $80k and $150k a year can’t make it. How is that possible? Where are the people making under that?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Wait for the election (could make things worse). Wait for the “bubble to burst” (we’ve waited decades for that). Wait for the market to level out (???). Just wait…

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The hubby went for a bike ride/run in the park on Thursday. Something large was being set up, and not in the bandshell. The whole “Long Meadow” was being overtaken with workmen who were constructing a stage and hanging large speakers. Whatever it was, we knew we had to be there.

When we found out the Metropolitan Opera was doing a summer concert there, out in the open, we packed up our blanket, flask (couldn’t leave Johnny out, of course) and camera and we were there. Best of all, it was FREE! How often does that happen in New York?

The MET has been working on an ongoing initiative to make opera more accessible to New Yorkers and to expand it’s audience. They expected a crowd of up to 150,000 people. There were many sets of speakers and large screens going from the baseball fields (where the stage was setup) all the way to the back of the Long Meadow (which has twice the capacity of the Great Lawn in Central Park.)

The performers were not the young unknown casts that the MET usually boasts for their free summer concerts. The stars were veteran opera performers Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna (real life married couple, deemed “opera’s love couple”.) Instead of a full length opera, they opted for a number of well known arias and music from a variety of famous operas. Among the highlights, a breathtaking Puccini from one of Alagna’s encores and a gorgeous Madama Butterfly aria from Gheorghiu.

The crowd was large (see my Flickr on the sidebar for pics soon), but surprisingly chill. Everyone seemed to have the same idea. Friday night relaxation in Prospect Park. There was a staggeringly high number of children there, but the music must have tamed even the wildest of beasts — I barely heard a peep the entire time we were there. Some spectators had more forethought than ourselves and brought bottles of wine, candles, cheeses, etc. We were happy just to lay on our blanket looking up at the stars on the first night of summer in our favorite park and listen to extraordinary singing. The night was so perfect, you barely noticed you were in a loud bustling city, especially when dusk came and the bats started dive-bombing. It was actually just another amusing part of our evening to sit and watch them fly, trying to guess who would get buzzed next.

It was a great night. I hope they decide to do it again next year. I would make the trek over the river to see it again. Plus, I think I even got the hubby into going to an actual opera!

Prospect Park does “Celebrate Brooklyn” a concert series (usually free) all summer long — click here for details and if you are going to one, let us know!!!

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