I've lived in four different neighborhoods in New York City, all of them very different and interesting in their own ways. The one that surprised me the most was the last place I lived -- Battery Park City.
I am ashamed to admit that for many years I had no idea that Battery Park City existed. I didn't know anyone who lived there, my friends and I never went out there, and when I heard about an apartment for rent in the neighborhood, I had to consult the map first before checking it out.
Battery Park City was the perfect place for me to be at that time in my life. I was considering leaving the city, as the daily grind had really started to wear me down. I began to feel claustrophobic between the cement underfoot and the tall buildings obscuring the sunlight. I needed a dose of nature, yet I'm hardly the country girl type, so I was a bit confused as to what my next step should be.
Once I found where to go on the map, I headed down to BPC and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. It's an insular neighborhood with wide sidewalks, set right on the Hudson with beautiful views and manicured public spaces. It gave me just the right dose of nature, and I felt like I was able to breathe the air a little more freely. I don't think BPC is the best place for someone to live if they have just moved into the city, as it doesn't have the energy and life to it that somewhere like Greenwich Village does. What it does have, and what I really needed, is a strong sense of community.
I was lucky enough to meet some great people in my building. Beth became a very good friend, and she and I spent many a Sunday chilling out on the park benches. Katy and Matt, who lived across the hall and watched my cats when I was away, really looked after me. And the doormen of the building perpetuated my long-felt admiration for the profession, by making me feel safe.
There were two bars in the neighborhood at the time, Foxhounds and Gatehouse, and I quickly became a regular at both. It was very much like a scene out of Cheers, with a cast of characters that could rival Sam, Diane and Woody with their strong personalities and eccentricities. There was Brian, the bartender with a heart of gold who befriended me early on and remained a good friend. There was Heather, the reigning doyenne of the corner barstool who liked to act bitchy but who was actually really sweet, and there was Dave, who regularly got in trouble with his various girlfriends and in doing so provided all the drama we needed.
But there was an element of sadness to this as well, because what became painfully clear over time was the fact that many of the regulars could have had serious drinking problems, as going to the bar was entwined with being part of the community. Let's be honest; some really fun times can be had while at the bar -- which was perhaps more the center of the neighborhood than any church, school or workplace was.
Foxhounds also has a special place in my heart, because it's there that I met my husband. He was in town for a consulting project and he used to frequent Foxhounds because it served London Pride, a beer he didn't often find in New York City. We struck up a conversation, chatted a bit and that was that. Proof that yes, you can meet people in a bar. If I ever move back to New York City, there's a good chance I'll end up in BPC with a gorgeous view of the Hudson River and a nice wide sidewalk to myself.