As a clinical associate professor of nutrition and food studies at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, Lisa Sasson considers herself lucky to be so close to the Union Square Greenmarket. The venue offers a kaleidoscope of goods every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with regional farmers piling their wares on tables just fast enough to keep the eager foodies satisfied. But for a closer connection to what's on her plate, Sasson doesn't even have to leave campus. Every summer, she buys a share in the Washington Square Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group that NYU sponsors, and each week she receives fresh local produce directly from Norwich Meadows Farm in Upstate New York. "You can't get any fresher," she says. "The earth is still on the vegetables." And while it can cost a bit more to pay up-front, she swears it's worth it: "When I don't buy local produce, I end up spending less money but throwing out more food because it's tasteless." The CSA is open to anyone, and shares vary in cost depending on the amount of produce purchased.
Washington Square CSA, 212-998-5580; www.washingtonsquarecsa.org
Amidst the cacophony of the city, it's often difficult to be alone with your thoughts. But in his 38 years at NYU, Stephen Polniaszek (SCPS '84), coordinator of the campus's Spiritual Diversity Network, has uncovered dozens of urban enclaves of solitude among the city's museums, parks, and holy places. "Museums are sort of lay sanctuaries for the nonreligious," he muses. And "people don't always know about all the pocket parks that are around the city." (His favorite, and one of the smallest, is Sir Winston Churchill Square, which borders Sixth Avenue and Downing Street in the Village.) But the best place for a quick respite, Polniaszek says, is the Grace Church, especially during "Bach at Noon," a midday meditation offered Monday through Friday. Visit the beautifully manicured gardens outside the church before ducking into the huge Gothic revival building, as its high ceilings engulf you in a cocoon of quiet. After 20 minutes of silent contemplation, the organist begins a 15-minute selection of Bach's finest works. "I have friends who go and read books through their lunch break," he says. "It's just a beautiful way to spend an hour."
802 Broadway, 212-254-2000; www.gracechurchnyc.org
"I was born to do comedy," says Barry Goldsmith, an Emmy Award–winning comedy writer who teaches a course on the history of humor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Goldsmith spent his youth stoking the crowds on the comedy circuit, and now does "tumor humor" for cancer patients since recovering from "a bout of testicular cancer" 15 years ago. After seeing the city's clubs from both sides of the stage, his favorite is still the Upper East Side's Comic Strip Live, where Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, and Paul Reiser, among others, got their start. The club, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, offers shows every night of the week, but its managers suggest showing up midweek (with a reservation, of course) to catch a glimpse of A-list performers tweaking their acts. "I've seen Chris Rock and George Carlin, my favorite comedian, perform. They've all been there," Goldsmith says.
1568 Second Avenue, 212-861-9386; www.comicstriplive.com
Growing up in Brooklyn, Jeff Bernstein, assistant athletic director for sports information, used to traipse all over the metropolitan area as a teenager to hit the links. But he keeps coming back to the 18-hole course at Van Cortlandt Park, a wide expansive green nestled in the heart of the Bronx. "For historic value and for just a challenging course, you've got to go," he insists. "It has a lot of character, and it's well maintained." Founded in 1895, Van Cortlandt is the oldest public course in the country, and is still considered challenging by discerning locals. Luckily, mastering the hilly terrain requires little travel because it's one of the easiest courses to get to in the city, just off the No. 1 train. "People don't realize that you can live in New York City and play golf," Bernstein says. "I love seeing someone walking down 28th Street with a bag of clubs on his arm. Nowhere else can you take a subway to play."
Van Cortlandt Park South, 718-543-4595; www.golfnyc.com
Photos from top: © Norwich Meadows; © Stephen Fuller;
© Ryan Mccormick; © Don Pollard