What I Saw This Week: Observations From the Wonder City #1

Life moves much faster in New York City than it does anywhere else in the entire world. The world passes through this grid of gritty, grimy and glistening streets and as it does so it leaves behind sprinkles of other lands, cultures and ideas.

Every morning as I wake up, I look out my bedroom window in Harlem (which faces east towards the Bronx) and remember how fortunate I am to live in such a place where there is something for everyone and everyone is accepted for who they are and what they believe. When you go to Rome, you get the Italians. When you go to Dublin, you get the Irish. When you go to Rio, you get the Brazilians. When you go to New York, you get everyone.

Each morning, as I ride the Brooklyn-bound 2 or 3 train to work, I casually glance around the car and notice a variety of life that simply couldn’t be replicated on any mass transit system in any other city in the world. I have never seen the same people twice on the train, even though I take the subway at exactly the same time each morning.

It’s impossible to document every single moment you notice in a city such as New York. It’s insanity to try to remember every interesting thing that happened to you on any given day. Everything is interesting and something is always happening. What I intend to do with this new series, “What I Saw This Week: Observations From the Wonder City,” is give you flickers of moments I experienced during the past week to give you a taste of what life is really like in the center of the universe. Think of it as a flip book of sorts as I’ll be saturating your curiosity through photos I take.

Here are this week’s observations:

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This is less than a block from Penn Station and a scene from my daily commute.

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I saw Selma last weekend, and it made me realize how the civil rights movement and African Americans’ push for voting rights wasn’t long ago, especially with recent events in New York City, Ferguson and elsewhere. As someone who saw the movie, I’m surprised it didn’t receive more Oscar nominations as there’s some excellent acting and the cast is pretty impressive.

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A diner I often walk by when I’m in the Upper West Side.

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I went to a roundtable dinner at Keen’s Steakhouse in Manhattan this week to discuss 2015 travel trends with other travel writers. Keen’s is considered one of the best steakhouses in New York City and I agree with that claim. It’s a Victorian steakhouse and you feel like you’re stepping into the Civil War era as soon as you step through its doors. Of course, prices are reflective of modern-day Manhattan and can tip the scale at hundreds of dollars per entrée.

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The steak I had at Keen’s, one of the best I’ve ever tasted by far.

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Caught this distant view of Times Square and the Bank of America tower (skyscraper with slanted roof) walking home from work one night.

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I attended a conference for young travel professionals at the Park Hyatt New York last week and aspire to stay there even for one night some day. To give you an idea of how upscale a typical guest room suite is, there’s a TV built into each bathroom mirror (like something out of the Jetsons) and the toilet seat automatically lifts up as soon as you open the bathroom door. Oh, and the floors are heated throughout each suite.

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Saturday was a semi snow storm for the NYC area so the only way to deal with that is warm up inside with a delicious cup of green mint tea.

The Art Of Being Skifty: What I’m Doing in New York City

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The Skift team at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, Queens.

This is a REALLY exciting time to live and work in New York City. Probably one of the coolest times in recent history, discounting the skyrocketing cost of living.

Hasn’t it always been exciting, though?

Yes, and no.

The past 15 years have been something of a roller coaster ride for the city. Following 9/11, many people left New York to try to forget the unimaginable events of that day, and few could blame them. Those who stayed helped the city rise from the rubble and recover, a verb that New Yorkers  unfortunately used too often in the past 15 years.

Neighborhoods became gentrified. Brooklyn began to break the bank. Even parts of Queens started getting regal.

Then 2008 happened.

As the financial capital of the world, the Great Recession spread out its ugly tentacles from Wall Street and suctioned them to main streets across America. Within a few years, recovery was yet again on the horizon and Wall Street’s self-esteem started improving.

Then Sandy hit in 2012, literally shaking the city to its core.

Once again, New York bounced back, but it wasn’t easy. So much was lost, but a lot was gained. Not everywhere is back to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
normal, but the rejuvenation of waterfront areas and infrastructure in the outer boroughs is so palpable that you can’t help but feel something big is happening here.

I mention the last 15 years because they are the fabric that’s laid the patchwork for what’s happening in New York’s Silicon Alley right at this very second. This is the fastest growing area in the country for startups outside of the San Francisco Bay/Silicon Valley area. It sounds cheesy, but the sky is the limit here, if you can even see it above the towering skyscrapers and new high rises that go up every time you blink.

Working at Skift, located at the heart of Silicon Alley, is what the “new” New York is all about. Opportunity. Renewed promise. Leadership. And talent. Every day I count my blessings for being at the top travel news site in the world. Skift is now the top authority on business travel and travel trends. We publish original reports and data while offering insights into where the industry is going and how it will get there.

With the Skift Global Forum and first-ever Skifties Social Media Awards in October, Skift is about to propel itself even further to the top of the travel news industry. The first-ever Global Forum brings together some of the top executives from the airline, hospitality and tourism industries, and the Skifties recognizes what companies do the best with branding themselves on social media. And last but not least, Skift recently acquired Gadling from AOL, and the team’s working on getting that site running and making it look brand new.

But the best part of working at Skift is the team. Everyone’s talent, experience and character are the reasons why Skift got to where it is now. I can’t lay claim to its success up to this point, but I hope to contribute to it moving forward.

All Skifters regularly travel and deeply engage in the industry that we write about. Based in midtown Manhattan, we observe the behaviors of tourists every day on the streets right outside our office. We know what tourists are doing, what they’re looking for, and what they expect on a trip to New York City, and these observations are often translatable to what’s going on in other destinations as well.

Skift also does some sweet company outings, too. The team went to Iceland in May, and a few weeks ago went on a “Hack The Met” tour at the Met.

There is such a surge in innovation and tech startups across the city that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. If you’re willing to work hard and sift through them all, there’s more chances than ever to chase your American dream.

It’s true.

It’s a tough road, but it’s true.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecently, I’ve drawn parallels in my mind about how similar things are now in New York to how they were when the immigrants came a hundred years ago. Funny how history repeats itself.

 

 

5 Things I’ve Learned From Living In New York

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve lived in New York for almost two months now, and while I’m eons away from becoming a New Yorker tried and true, I feel that I’ve been here long enough to let some preliminary lessons sink in. Every day I remind myself how lucky I am to be here, in the capital of the world. The place that everyone dreams of coming to launch their careers, but few actually get here to do that. The closest they get is in the movies, which don’t even begin to show you what the true New York is like. Here are five things that I’ve discovered about the real New York:

  1. New York isn’t for everyone. Everyone thinks that this is the place to be and where they should be if they want to make it. While it is the epicenter of so many industries, it takes decent amount of toughness and confidence. Sounds obvious, but it’s not. This city is fast, and if you don’t know where you’re going or what you want, step aside because there’s thousands of others that do. Unless you’re really driven and have a five year plan, New York isn’t for you.
  2. Getting anywhere takes a considerable amount of time, although the subway becomes one of your closest companions, especially if there’s no traffic and the train is running at regular speed.
  3. New York isn’t the scary place it once was. The New York of the 70s, 80s and 90s is long gone, and here to stay is gentrification and lots of money. Taking the subway no longer involves praying to the Virgin Mary that you’ll make it out alive. Don’t discount any neighborhood until you’ve actually visited in person, and completely disregard what the Internet has to say about it.
  4. Don’t be afraid of running out of money. There are likely thousands of other people in your shoes who are somehow making it work with what they have and probably having a lot of fun as well. You can to!
  5. Never, ever be afraid to ask for help. Every New Yorker is in his or her own bubble, often furiously pacing to and from their day jobs trying to imagine being anywhere but midtown Manhattan. But if you’re a tourist or unfamiliar with where to go or how to get somewhere, just ask someone. If you slow a New Yorker down, provided they don’t look like they’re on the way to witness the birth of their child, you’ll usually find that they can be quite friendly and offer some fantastic advice. And make sure to get their top three favorite restaurants, everyone loves talking about food!

P.S. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @djpeltier and on Instagram @danpeltier20 to keep up with all of my adventures in NYC!

 

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Boston Has A LOT of Pride

The start of the Pride Parade at Copley Square with the Prudential Center in the background. All photos taken by Dan Peltier

The start of the Pride Parade at Copley Square with the Prudential Center in the background. All photos taken by Dan Peltier

HAPPY PRIDE! June is Pride Month for the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Ally) community. If you’ve been seeing more rainbows than usual this month, it’s not because leprechauns have invaded the city. The rainbow represents the entire spectrum of the LGBTQ community and stands as a symbol of hope that everyone can find a place where they feel comfortable, supported and loved.

President Obama, the first U.S. President to “come out” in support of same-sex marriage, issued a proclamation declaring June Pride Month. Since he first publicly supported same-sex marriage in 2012, the President has become a staunch supporter of gay rights, often expressing support for the gay community in many of his speeches.

Pride is celebrated in June each year to commemorate the June 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. The riots were the catalyst for the gay rights movement and to this day the spirit of Stonewall lives on. You can visit the Stonewall Inn, the site of the riots, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan to learn more about the riots.

Cities across the world will hold parades and festivals this month to celebrate the LGBTQ community. On Saturday, June 14, I photo9attended the 44th Annual Boston Pride Parade. Boston’s parade is one of the oldest Pride parade’s in the country, it started shortly after the first Pride parade in L.A.’s West Hollywood and is still going strong over four decades later. This was the first parade since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that struck down DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) on June 26, 2013. This year also marks the tenth anniversary since Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in May 2004, becoming the first U.S. state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

 

 

 

Massachusetts is known as a “mecca” for the LGBTQ community, and both of our U.S. Senators and several Congressmen and women, including U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, marched in the parade and showed off their pride. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh along with Gov. Deval Patrick were this year’s grand marshals. Patrick was honored at the parade this year for his advocacy and work with the LGBTQ community since his term as governor expires at the end of this year and he is not seeking re-election. Notably absent from this year’s parade was former Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who is somewhat of a darling of the Boston gay community and worked tirelessly to make Boston a more inclusive place.

U.S. Senator Ed Markey waves to parade spectators on Boylston Street in Boston

U.S. Senator Ed Markey waves to parade spectators on Boylston Street in Boston

It was great to see our politicians present and showing their support, and their presence shows how important Pride is to bringing visibility to issues such as same-sex marriage. I often hear, “why is gay marriage even an issue, its 2014?” Those people are right, it shouldn’t be an issue, but sadly it is. In over seventy countries, it is still a crime to be openly gay or partake in homosexual acts.

In over 30 states, someone who identifies as LGBTQ could be fired from their job just for being who they are. And gay couples living in states that don’t allow them to marry face a myriad of problems when it comes to taxes, hospital visits, adopting children and the list goes on.  Bills like the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) have been debated in Congress for years, but has never been passed. Maybe Senators Warren and Markey can put their love and support to good use and fight harder for ENDA, in addition to all the good work they’re currently doing. It’s key to remember that even though things might seem fine in your own backyard and you may perceive your community or yourself to be progressive and supportive towards the LGBTQ community, that isn’t the story everywhere. Hopefully someday that will change.

Pride is a month to look back and remember all that has been accomplished, and also a time to look ahead and renew the strength for the work that still needs to be done. This is the first Pride month that all states who do not currently allow same-sex marriage have some sort of lawsuit filed against state bans. Sounds confusing, and it kind of is. In some states where this is happening, judges have issued stays or marriages have started but then stopped. It’s basically a big, unnecessary game of musical chairs with people’s lives that is just plain wrong.

The number of states that allow gay nuptials is a little tricky too, but this map might help clear things up a bit and shows the current state of marriage equality in the U.S. The map seems to change nearly every day so it might not be accurate by the time you view it!

Gov. Deval Patrick and his wife Diane Patrick.

Gov. Deval Patrick and his wife Diane Patrick.

I had a blast at the parade and loved seeing people express themselves and be who they are. Even better, I was able to see this happen in the great city of Boston, known as being a pioneer of gay rights and a city that can perhaps be credited with starting the marriage equality movement.

The rain was luckily not too harsh and the sun eventually came out, just in time for the Pride Festival at City Hall Plaza. And being able to watch the parade on the same street that one year ago was a scene of chaos was bittersweet. Boston continues to show how it only gets stronger when you try to knock it down.

There was a lot of corporate sponsorship, which is fantastic and it was awesome to see so many companies showing their support. It was also nice to see so many religious organizations and faith communities showing their support. But I personally enjoy Ptown’s annual Pride parade much better. It is much more, shall I say, “expressive,” and there’s always a theme which never fails to incite lots of laughs. I recommend checking it out if you’ve never been, it’s held in late August each year. Plus Ptown is a beautiful place to visit anyways with so much to do.

While this year’s Boston Pride Week is over, Pride Month is not. There are plenty of events going on around the Boston area this month and plenty of ways that you can show your support as an ally. Reach out to the many organizations who work with the LGBTQ community. Or just simply try to be kind to everyone you meet, you never know how far it will go.

photo10My next stop is attending London Pride later this month, more on that later. But Boston will always be where my heart is, and where my Pride is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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