NYU Alumni 

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Best of New York

NYU faculty, staff, and alumni Offer up their Favorites

by Renée Alfuso / CAS ’06

Geek out over comics or get out into nature this spring


Enter through a door adorned with Captain America’s shield while under the watchful eye of a life-size Terminator endoskeleton, and it becomes obvious that Forbidden Planet is geek heaven. Beyond its vast selection of comics, action figures, gaming, and apparel, the shop also boasts one of the world’s largest collections of manga and graphic novels—with more than 50,000 volumes. “New York City is blessed with a bounty of fantastic comic shops, but my default is Forbidden Planet,” says Daniel Ketchum (GAL ’06), associate editor at Marvel Comics whose current titles include X-Men: Legacy and Uncanny Avengers. A regular since his NYU days, Ketchum still gets nostalgic when he strolls through the new, expanded 3,400-square-foot space or talks to the eager staff. There are items for every type of fan—from Batman T-shirts to Star Wars statuettes and Game of Thrones posters. Plus, it’s one of the only places in the country that carries Doctor Who Magazine from the United Kingdom.

832 Broadway near Union Square, 212-473-1576; www.fpnyc.com

Bronx Bloomers

“We tend to draw boundaries between nature and the city, [but] realizing that they exist together will bring us closer to developing a sustainable urban environment,” says Nikki Mokrzycki (CAS ’13), president of NYU’s Community Agriculture Club. So when the environmental studies major needs inspiration, she heads to the New York Botanical Garden. Opened in 1891, the 250-acre garden contains more than a million plants—from magnolias and cherry blossoms to over 600 varieties of roses. “The garden offers a biodiverse landscape that can’t be found even in larger green spaces like Central Park,” Mokrzycki says. “It’s sort of like a museum for plants.”

Visitors can explore the unspoiled forest with its cascading waterfall or take a guided tour of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, which each year hosts the largest exhibition of orchids in the United States. As the nation’s biggest Victorian glasshouse, the conservatory hosts 11 distinct habitats—from cactus-laden deserts to aquatic plant life and tropical rain forests. The garden is also home to the city’s only freshwater river. “The Bronx River is very calming,” Mokrzycki explains. “It’s nice to breathe misty river air instead of exhaust fumes.”

2900 Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, 718-817-8700; www.nybg.org

Mangia on the Run

When Italian cuisine meets the fast pace of city life, the result is old-world taste right in a cup. Meatball Obsession forgoes the tablecloths in favor of a walk-up window serving all-natural meatballs that can be enjoyed with a spoon or on a sandwich. “You think of pasta and meatballs as this sit-down family meal, but this could be a delicacy right in the middle of the day,” says James Devitt, deputy director for media relations at NYU. “It’s a delicious blend of Italian-American cooking and urban convenience.”

The secret to Meatball Obsession’s authentic taste is the owner’s family recipe: Dan Mancini uses his grandmother’s Sunday Sauce, slow-cooked in cast-iron pots, just like she taught him as a kid growing up in Bay Ridge. The Parmesan dipping bread is perfect for sopping up sauce, while artisanal toppings like fresh mozzarella pearls, sautéed red peppers, and mini ravioli keep customers wanting seconds. The shop serves Italian ciabatta pockets from Hudson Bread bakery for meatball sandwiches, and cannoli from Artuso Pastry, near Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, for dessert. Meatball Obsession also offers free delivery—further proof that home-style comfort food doesn’t have to slow you down.

510 Sixth Avenue, 212-260-8646; www.meatballobsession.com

Bars and Bards

“I love how poetry gives us this thing between people that is timeless—literally, this thing we can get from people who are long dead and still speaking to us,” poet Matthew Rohrer says. When he’s not teaching at NYU’s Creative Writing Program, one of his favorite places to catch live poetry is Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg. The bar’s intimate backroom is done up like a train car, where poets take the stage while “passengers” sip cocktails. But one of the city’s most storied literary sites lies, of course, in the East Village.

St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery has been around since 1799, but it became a sanctuary for writers when the Poetry Project was established there in 1966. With a heritage that includes Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, and Adrienne Rich, Rohrer explains: “Everyone who is anyone has read there.” Today, the Poetry Project hosts writing workshops and special events like its annual New Year’s Day Marathon Reading, which features more than 140 speakers over 11 hours. Past participants have included Philip Glass, Patti Smith, William S. Burroughs, Yoko Ono, and Rohrer—who describes the epic experience as “intense and exciting to be a part of. And also overwhelming.”

709 Lorimer Street in Brooklyn, 718-302-3770; www.petescandystore.com
131 East 10th Street, 212-674-0910; www.poetryproject.org

photos from top: © John Chance Cotti; © Ivo M. Vermeulen; © Evan Sung; © Timothy Krause