LUNY! was just named Best Private Tour of NYC with US News and World Report!

Tour Guide of the Month: Ammi Simon!

 
Full Name Please: Ammiel Simon.
 
Where’d you grow up? I grew up in Forest Hills New York.
 
Where do you live now? Today I live in Spanish Harlem.
 
When did you move to NY and why?  I moved to New York twice: One when I was 6 years old when my family moved here from Chicago. I went to the High School of Music and Art for one year before my parents decided to move the family to Israel. After 12 years in Israel, two wars and the loss of my stepbrother in one of those wars, it occurred to me that I might not be all that Jewish. I missed Manhattan terribly. When I was 28 I gathered up enough money and flew back to Gotham. I went down into the subway and smelling that combination of braking fluid and dead rat…I knew I was home.
 
Where would you live if money were no option? If money were no option I would live in one of the new condos around Union Square.
 
Could you ever live anywhere else in the world? I think I’ve made it clear that I could never live anywhere but New York. Wild horses will not take me from this city, again. When you’re in love with something (or someone) and you lose it – and then get it back, you tend to hold on tight to it 
 
What don’t your tour groups know about you? My groups get to know me pretty well. I’m an open book.  
 
What’s your favorite restaurant? My favorite restaurant is Joe Allen. White tablecloths, good house wine and sometimes, not often, but occasionally – a Broadway star comes in and everyone is super cool about it.  Very New York.
 
What’s your favorite neighborhood? My favorite neighborhood – too many to number. Neighborhoods connect to memories. Upper West Side, Harlem, Murray Hill Forest Hills – all hold special people and memories for me. I love New York.
 
Whats your favorite tour? My favorite tour is the one with the most engaged tourists.
 
One Piece of Advice All NYC Tour Guides Should Know? The most important piece of advice for a tour guide: Connect!  You may be the only real New Yorker your clients get to know while they’re here. Give them a chance to know you and through you – the city. 
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10th Annual Panorama Challenge: Final Scores!

Thanks to everyone for such a great night, especially the amazing folks at the Queens Museum!

In the heat of the moment I thought we had an Ota Benga Stumper with MONGO.  But I was wrong!  One team got credit for that answer: the Van Wycks.  Well done!

Another team got the answer correct, but since they were Challengers it didn’t count.  They get credit here, however.  Nice job Realistic Expectations, you exceeded expectations with that answer!

The Cheese Strings got a perfect score on the quiz and added a point during the halftime bonus to win the Challenger round.  (The second place teams each got to 30 with bonus points.)

And the long suffering Triboroughs  aced their Challenger questions and squeaked by with a one point margin of victory this year.  The Pro category finished close this year, as usual.

I’ve already begun work on next year’s questions — see you then!

Your Quizmaster,

Jonathan Turer

PROS

Triborough Thoroughs 56

Civic Virtue 55

Flatlanders 54

We Have No Clue 51

The Taking of Panorama 123 48

The VanWycks 46

The Rule Breakers 35

CHALLENGERS

Cheese Strings 31

2nd Avenue Stubways 30

Kosciuszko Bridge Preservation Society 30

Zack Attack 29

Uncreative Ones 29

Tappan A to Zee 29

Team Koz 28

The 3 Boroughs 28

Metropolitan Trivia Authority 27

Gotham Gams 27

Hellegat Warriors 27

Norman Mailer for President 26

Shaq Plaque 26

Below the Belt 24

Team Neversink 20

Realistic Expectations 20

The Winners did not finish

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10th Annual Panorama Challenge 1st Half Q&As

What a great night!  Here are the questions & answers from the first half of the Panorama Challenge at the Queens Museum on 3/4/2017. (Any part of an answer in parentheses was not required, or was an alternate acceptable answer!)

SEINFELD IN NEW YORK

Twenty years ago Seinfeld began filming its final season.

1) Are George’s parents Jewish? Or is Costanza Italian? And what’s the deal with Estelle making paella?? Doesn’t matter. The exterior of their home is here, in this historically Greek neighborhood. Challengers, name the neighborhood. ASTORIA

When Seinfeld ended, George’s dad – Jerry Stiller – went on to play Carrie Heffernan’s dad on another sitcom, also set in the city. Pros, name that second sitcom. KING OF QUEENS

2) Elaine was invited to a party at Tim Whatley’s apartment, here, by the American Museum of Natural History, the night before a major holiday. What holiday was it? THANKSGIVING

That same episode featured the starring actor from the 1969 Oscar-winning movie set in New York City. It wasn’t his LeBaron convertible that George bought… Pros, name the actor. JON VOIGHT

3) When George worked here as the Assistant to the Traveling Secretary, who provided Steinbrenner’s voice, even though by the last season he was no longer with the show? LARRY DAVID

Pros, Before Steinbrenner came on the scene, the Yankees were owned by what major media company? CBS

PLAY

4) When Paul Simon was with Julio down by the schoolyard, Rosie was the queen of this neighborhood, (PLAY AUDIO) Challengers, please name it. CORONA

Pros, she’s not the only royalty around. There’s a king in the neighborhood too. What is he king of? BE SPECIFIC! LEMON ICE

5) Al Smith, who grew up here, used this playful old tune while campaigning for President. Challengers, name the song. (PLAY AUDIO) SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK

Pros, As Governor, Smith relied on his street smarts. When others claimed a PhD he said he had an FFM, which referred to what nearby institution? FULTON FISH MARKET

6) Released in 1999, the album PLAY was recorded at the artist’s apartment, here, on Mott Street. (PLAY AUDIO) Challengers, Whose album is this? MOBY

Pros, Which former New York customs official is the artist related to? HERMAN MELVILLE

FORTS

7) Building the Brooklyn tower of this bridge destroyed a fort named for a foreigner, who was also good friend of Hamilton (whose fort is just up the hill, appropriately enough) Challengers, what was the fort called? FORT LAFAYETTE

Speaking of Fort Hamilton: the Captain who spent five years as Post Engineer fixing the forts in the 1840s would later gain fame, or infamy, as the General of another army. Pros, Who is he (GENERAL ROBERT E) LEE

8) Battery Weed, here, is part of Fort Wadsworth and overrun by weeds. In recent years the National Park Service has brought in some unusual workers to remove the unwanted plants. Challengers, please explain who these workers are. GOATS

The battery was named for Brigadier General Stephen Weed, who is buried on Staten Island, in the same cemetery as a very wealthy Commodore. Pros, name the cemetery. MORAVIAN

9) After 1981, the 41st Precinct, here, in the Bronx, was well known by what name, thanks to a Paul Newman film? FORT APACHE

The 41st Precinct is responsible for patrolling this peninsula. Pros, name the neighborhood. HUNTS POINT

GARBAGE & GETTING TO ZERO

This category was inspired by Open House New York and their new series of events about waste – and reducing waste – in the city. Make sure to check out the website Getting To Zero.nyc There’s a lot of great stuff on their calendar!

10) If you live in this neighborhood, your sanitation vehicle starts its run here on East 99th Street, at the 11th District Garage. Challengers, what is this neighborhood called? We’re looking for the name used by Community Board 11 on its website. EAST HARLEM

Upstairs at the garage is a curated selection of objects found along the collection routes. Pros, what do the sanitation workers call these finds? MONGO (not MUNGO)

11) No matter where they’re picked up, everything in the ‘blue bin’ is brought to the SIMS facility here, at the water’s edge in Sunset Park. Challengers, this is the primary sorting point for which three recyclable materials? GLASS PLASTIC METAL (CARTONS, also acceptable) (not paper or compost)

The new building is perched upon four feet of fill to protect it from storm surges. This material was delivered from Manhattan and is a byproduct of what major endeavor? Pros: where is the fill from? 2nd AVENUE SUBWAY

12) Once separated, many recyclables are loaded on train cars and head to this rail yard, to be sent to New Jersey. Challengers, how do the trains get to New Jersey? BARGE (CAR FLOAT)

Pros: Operating in Brooklyn and Jersey City only, what is the name of this very limited freight railroad? And we’ll take either of its two most recent names…. NY NJ Railroad OR Cross Harbor Railroad

FAIRY TALES

13) It’s here on Narrows Avenue that you’ll find the landmarked Gingerbread House. Hansel and Gretel beware of brokers, not witches, its on sale for over $10 million dollars! Challengers, Name the Gingerbread house’s neighborhood. BAY RIDGE

Pros: The house is “a witch’s hideaway” in “Black Forest Art Nouveau” style according to which well known guidebook’s 5h edition? AIA (AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS)

14) Whose pond is this? It sounds like it might belong to a fairy tale villain — little hoods and pigs beware. Challengers, what is the name of this pond? WOLFES POND

Pros, The pond is part of what green infrastructure project – unique to Staten Island – to keep rainwater out of the sewer system? BLUEBELT

15) This neighborhood, Sunnyside, shares its name with the Westchester home of what author, who gave us American fairy tale characters like Rip Van Winkle and the Headless Horseman? Challengers, we’re looking for the author’s name. WASHINGTON IRVING

He also created a fake-history of New York City under the pen name Knickerbocker. Pros, what was this fictitious character’s FIRST name? DIEDRICH

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10th Annual Panorama Challenge: 2nd Half Q&As

Here’s the second half Questions & Answers for the 10th Panorama Challenge  (again, any part of an answer in parentheses was not required, or was an alternate acceptable answer):

MILLS MILLS MILLS

16) The mill, once here, was built at the water’s edge by a guy named Wolfert. It was operated by what regular force? Challengers, What made the mill go? TIDES

This “creek” and this nearby neighborhood both have Wolfert’s last name. Pros, Please correctly spell his last name. GERRITSEN

17) The mill, now in the botanical gardens, here, was built for a French family firm in the 1840’s, to create what tobacco product SNUFF

Pros, please correctly spell the name of that French family firm, which was also attached to products like Newport and Kent. LORILLARD

18) In the 1670s Jan Martense Schenck built a home and ran a mill, here, in this appropriately named neighborhood. Challengers, please name the neighborhood. MILL BASIN

Pros, where is Schenck’s house now?  BROOKLYN MUSEUM

SNOW

19) Over two days in March, 21 inches of snow fell, killing 200 and knocking down miles of overhead wires. During the storm Roscoe Conkling walked three hours to try to get to his club here where a statue of him stands today. Unfortunately he was trapped in a snowbank for 20 minutes, caught pneumonia, died shortly afterwards and became the blizzard’s most famous victim. Challengers, what year was this storm? 1888

Conkling was a big deal politician. But he once quit the US Senate. And he is the last person to turn down what lifetime appointment after being confirmed by Congress? Pros, what position did Conkling turn down? SUPREME COURT (JUSTICE or JUDGE)

20) It’s 1969 and Queens is hit with 20 inches of snow. The Stock Market is closed. 42 people die, half of them in Queens. When the Mayor tries to visit, his limo gets stuck, here, in Rego Park. Later he’s booed and pelted with snowballs. Challengers, who was the mayor during this storm? JOHN LINDSAY

Pros, Rego Park is not named for a person or place. Where does the name come from? REAL GOOD (CONSTRUCTION COMPANY)

21) In 1992 MC Shan produced the number one hit “Informer” for the Canadian artist SNOW. See what we did there? Shan is from here, the largest public housing project in the US. Challengers, What is the name of this complex? QUEENSBRIDGE (HOUSES)

Two years later another resident, the son of jazz musician Olu Dara, released his influential first album Illmatic. What is his name? NAS (NASIR bin OLU DARA JONES)

POTPOURRI

22) In 1657, here, members of the Religious Society of Friends, and other Flushing residents, signed a petition requesting the freedom to worship as they wished. Challengers, what is the common name for this group – the Religious Society of Friends? QUAKERS

Pros, what is the common name of that 1657 document they sent to Peter Stuyvesant? FLUSHING REMONSTRANCE

23) Residents of City Island complain about the noise the NYPD makes, here. And since every officer is supposed to visit twice a year to practice, it does get loud. Challengers, what NYPD facility is found here? FIRING RANGE (GUN/RIFLE RANGE) (PISTOL PRACTICE)

The facility is generally referred to by its location, this ‘Neck’ off Pelham Bay Park. Pros, what neck is it? RODMAN(S)

24) Although the amusement park, here, no longer bears her name, the Parks department still honors which pioneering journalist who wrote Around the World in 72 Days and 10 Days in a Madhouse. Challengers, what this fearless female’s name? NELLY BLY (ELIZABETH COCHRAN SEAMAN)

Pros, In 1904 she took over the Iron Clad Manufacturing company, here, in Bushwick, and, according to the American Oil and Gas Historical Society, pioneered the use of what ubiquitous container? STEEL OIL DRUM (55 GALLON DRUM) (MODERN OIL BARREL)

LIKE GOING FROM POINT A TO….. POINT A?

We’re going to take the subway from one place to another but the start and finish will have something in common.

25) Want to spend the afternoon watching Thor and take a ride to watch the Ride of the Valkyries at night? Get on the train at Willets Point, here, and transfer at Times Square. Then get off here, at 66th street. Challengers, Explain your voyage. FROM THE METS TO THE MET OPERA
Pros, which trains did you take? 7 to 1

26) Your bet on that stock hasn’t exactly panned out. Get on the train by Trinity Church, transfer at Fulton and travel all the way to North Conduit, here. Challengers, what casino are you at now RESORT(S) WORLD

The casino is run by Genting Group. Pros, In which Asian country are they based? MALAYSIA

27) Let’s start at the Franklin Avenue station and transfer to the 4 or 5 at the Botanic Gardens. Transfer again at Grand Central and get off the train at the end of the line, in Times Square. Challengers, think carefully about the start and finish of this journey. What have we done? SHUTTLE TO SHUTTLE (S TO S)

Pros, The last leg of our journey wasn’t always so short. In what year did this track enter service – but for a different purpose? 1904

LIKE DEE DEE RAMONE OR CC SABATHIA

28) Here at the 42nd street library you’ll find a glass case with several storybook characters inside. (AUDIO CLUE) What is the name of the author who created them? AA MILNE

Pros, The author and his son were tired of the characters. But they didn’t give them to the library. Who did? HIS PUBLISHER (DUTTON)

29) Here in Greenwich Village you could find this poet who, by his death in 1962, was considered to be America’s most read – if you didn’t mind his weird punctuation and capitalization. (AUDIO CLUE) Challengers, what is the poet’s name? EE CUMMINGS

Pros, Starting in 1924 he lived on what was essentially a dead-end gated alleyway. What is the name of the street where the poet lived?  PATCHIN PLACE

30) Even though he’s on NCIS Los Angeles, he’s from here, in Hollis. (AUDIO CLUE) Challengers, What is his name? LL COOL J

His first album was also the first official release from what label, co-founded by Russell Simmons and NYU student Rick Rubin? Pros, we’re looking for the name of the record label. DEF JAM

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TGotM: (Tour Guide of the Month) Megan Marod!

   Megan Marod Strikes a Pose!

Here at Levys’ Unique New York!, you’d be surprised at how often we still get questions like:

Is it just you and your Dad booking and running tours?
Isn’t your brother also involved in your company?
How do you guys do so many tours? 
 
When the truth of the matter is we haven’t been a Dad & Son business for well over a decade. As our hundreds of student tours will attest, we have an amazing corps of NYC Tour Guides who love working for us (we swear!) and love talking about New York City for a living. So we decided to start a TGofM column, introducing you to the shining stars of the LUNYverse! For our first installment, we’re thrilled to introduce you to a sparkling ball of energy, the inestimable Megan Marod. 
 
Full name please! Megan Marod.
 
Where did you grow up? Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
 
Where do you live now? Proud resident of Harlem.
 
When did you move to NY and why? I’m a musical theatre actress, so New York is the place to be.   In addition to being where all the auditions take place,  New York also has the most innovative and inspiring theatre and the best classes.  I’ve taken acting classes with cast members of Hamilton and, a few days ago, I stood next to Misty Copeland at ballet barre!  Talk about inspiration!
 
Where would you live if money were no option?  New York.  (I mean – the theatre is HUGE draw.  Also – where else in the world can you get a cragel with s’mores cream cheese?)
 
Could you ever live anywhere else in the world?  For a long time I really wanted to live in London.  I love the Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Old Globe Theatre, and West End Shows.  I also love Paris for the history, shopping, and food.
 
What don’t your tour groups know about you?  I used to be a competitive figure skater.
 
What’s your favorite neighborhood?  Williamsburg for the food, Soho for the shopping, Lower Manhattan for the history.
 
Your favorite restaurant?  The Sugar Factory
 
Your favorite tour?  Lower Manhattan history.
 
One piece of advice all NYC tour guides must know?  Take improv classes.  You gotta know your facts and stories, but tour guiding is also a lot about improv.  Every group will have different interests.  Some groups may be really into pop culture, while others may be really into Revolutionary War history.  You gotta adjust your material to appeal to your group.  Additionally, you never know what you will encounter on the streets of New York.   Your group may see a parade march by, or an impromptu dance party, or a celebrity, or it may start to blizzard, or a beautiful photograph opportunity of a rainbow over the Brooklyn Bridge will arise.  You roll with it.   Often unexpected events make a tour magical!  Once, Billy Mitchell, who has worked at the Apollo Theatre in 1965, overheard my tour and offered my group a free private backstage tour!   They got to take photos on the Apollo stage!  It was a wonderful impromptu addition to our itinerary.  
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