Autumn and football go hand in hand, but finding space to throw around the pigskin can be tough in a concrete jungle. Not even the green haven of Central Park can accommodate flag and touch football players. “It’s gorgeous, but if you try to play a pickup football game you’re going to get a citation because they don’t want you chewing up the grass,” says Christopher Bledsoe, director of athletics, intramurals, and recreation at NYU. Instead he recommends Randall’s Island, which sits in the East River just off Manhattan, offers 18 fields for football and soccer, and is the easiest place in the city to find regular playing space. While his own football days may be behind him, Bledsoe still visits Randall’s to play softball and Frisbee or to watch the track−and−field events at the $42 million Icahn Stadium, which opened in 2005 and is the premier outdoor track facility in North America. Randall’s also boasts new tennis and golf centers, 26 softball and baseball fields, picnic areas, a playground, and waterfront pathways for walking and biking. “You can always get a good game,” Bledsoe says, “and it’s a great place to enjoy views of the city in the fall.”
Randall’s Island Sports Foundation, 212-830-7722
“People are either very curious about ghosts or have great disdain for the idea,” observes Joyce Gold (GAL ’88), an adjunct assistant professor who teaches Walking and Talking New York in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Those in the former group have plenty of options for visiting haunted spots in NYC, says Gold, who has been giving historic walking tours of the city for over 30 years. One of her most popular is the Macabre Greenwich Village Tour, inspired by a photo she once took in a Manhattan cemetery that revealed what appears to be a ghost. Highlights include St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, where Peter Stuyvesant, who was buried there in 1672, is said to roam the chapel, and the White Horse Tavern, where Dylan Thomas downed 18 shots of whiskey just before his death in 1953 and now allegedly haunts his favorite table. Gold also suggests that curious mortals check out the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights. Built in 1765 and used as headquarters by George Washington during the Revolutionary War, the house is a historic landmark and public museum. Over the years, there have been numerous ghost sightings of Hessian soldiers, former servants, and a previous owner. In 1964, schoolchildren waiting outside for a tour spotted a woman on the mansion’s balcony who scolded them to “Shut up!” They assumed it was an angry guide in period costume, until the curator explained that the building was locked—and empty. Eliza Jumel, the woman they likely saw, had been dead for nearly a century.
65 Jumel Terrace (btw. West 160th and 162nd streets),
When NYU Alumni Magazine deputy editor Nicole Pezold (GSAS ’04) heard we were looking for the city’s top soup shop, she was eager to share her favorite: Café Medina. This unassuming eatery is tucked below street level near Union Square. And while many delis load their soups with oil and salt, the cooks at Café Medina, whose owners hail from Casablanca, rely on spices and creativity. Ten different varieties are made in-house daily, including staples such as Tuscan tomato bread and the wildly popular pumpkin corn bisque, alongside specials. “My order really just depends on my mood and the weather that day,” Pezold says. With so many options, it can be difficult to decide between, say, the African chicken peanut and the French bouillabaisse, but diners may sample them all. The soups are so well liked that they sell year-round, with lighter selections such as gazpacho available in summer and heartier fare in the winter—when a good bowl of soup is crucial. “Walking around New York on a cold, dreary day can be one of the most depressing things, so anything that’s warm and tasty is soothing to the soul,” Pezold says.
9 East 17th Street (btw. Broadway and Fifth Avenue), 212-242-2777
’Tis the Season
Holiday shopping is terrifying for many people, but shopaholic Ashlea Palladino (CAS ’06) has a remedy for the long lines and depleted department store shelves. Each year she goes to the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park, where from November to January the space is transformed into a winter wonderland. And though holiday markets spring up throughout the city, only Bryant Park features free ice-skating, a rinkside lounge with heated outdoor dining, and a holiday tree covered in more than 30,000 lights. There’s even a kiosk that offers a tree setup and decorating service. “It really takes the stress out of shopping and creates a fun experience,” Palladino says. The park features more than 100 booths of wares from all over the world—including handcrafted jewelry, Italian wool knit hats, luxurious lotions, and custom ornaments—and most of the booths are manned by the designers and artisans themselves. “You can find great deals and then get a little something for yourself, which is a nice reward for getting all of your shopping done,” Palladino says.
Sixth Avenue btw. 40th and 42nd streets, 866-221-5157
photos from top: Randall’s Island Courtesy ZogSports; Café Medina © Opto Design; mansion © Morris-Jumel Mansion; Bryant Park © José Luis R. Cortes