Coming to see Bruce on Broadway? We've got a tour down to the Jersey Shore!

Archives for March 2011

Great New Tour Guides for the New Tour Season

Not all Levys’ Unique New York! tour guides are Levys. Four of us are, (and four are also named Matt) but what really makes us successful is working with the best tour guides in New York City. We are happy to welcome 3 new guides into the LUNYverse. They come from very different backgrounds, even different continents but what they share is a passion for New York and the verve and energy that makes them great tour guides.

That's a happy lookin' tour guide, presenting: Ibrahima Diallo!

Ibrahima Diallo has come the farthest to join our family. He’s Senegalese and we met him when we needed a francophone guide for a French Canadian group. We quickly realized that he is simply superb no matter the language, and we’re in the process of snatching him away from his double-decker tour job. Ibrahima says: “I want to become another one of the great NYC stories. I’ve got a good start: from Senegal (West Africa) to Brooklyn (East New York), I’ve continually explored the wonders of my adopted city since 2000. In order to fulfill my never-ending thirst of NY knowledge, I became a licensed sightseeing tour guide in 2008.” More can be read on our website.

Southern Belle Becky Hoffman!

Becky Hoffman, our Southern belle, has had a varied and excited career path, including past lives as an Associate Professor at Georgia State University, a local NBC TV anchor in Atlanta for health and medical reporting, a drummer for a rock band and an international Tour Group traveler, including a six month stint in Southeast Asia! Becky also has more info on our website.

Straight from the streets of Brooklyn, Kristin Singleton!

Kristin Singleton, a native Brooklynite, has traveled and lived far and wide, including 12 years in Milan, Italy as a shopping tour guide. She is also an actor with the Brave New World repertory – Ditmas Park’s neighborhood troupe. She is a rare “maker” guide; somebody whom we met and thought: “She would make a great guide!” and she got her tour guide license within weeks. She then went through our crash training program and is on board our buses. More of her story is on our site.

With these new exciting faces and names in the LUNYverse, we feel we really have the best tour guides in NYC.

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Fourth Annual Panorama Challenge Answers and Scores!

Brought to you by LUNY!, the CR, and the QMA.

On Friday night we hosted the 4th Annual Panorama Challenge at the Queens Museum in Flushing-Meadows Corona Park. It was a blast! Over 250 people came to try and answer obscure geographical geek-tastic questions about the five boroughs of New York City, aided only by audio clue and laser pointer. Easier questions pegged gamers to identify notable Manhattan streets; try this one out:

4) This street used to be home to the “House of Morgan” and the Bank of Manhattan.

Then a laser pointer would highlight . . . Wall street, in Lower Manhattan.

But to separate the wheat from the chaff we had to include some doozies. How about this guy:

44) This park shares a name with an infamous facility that’s now gone although Geraldo’s career lingers on.

The laser pointer zapped down to . . . Willowbrook, in Staten Island (of course!)

View Panorama Challenge 4 in a larger map

Beers were sold and proceeds went to the City Reliquary Museum, in Williamsburgh, where Matt acts as Vice President. The Five Borough Thoroughs, reigning champions in 2011, won only after a three-way tie locked them into an instant-death round. Our serious Qs were assembled by the masters of NY minutia, Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY, Dean of NY Tour Guides Lee Gelber, former LUNY! guide Eric Renner Smith and Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione.

Without further ado, the score-cards for the 32 (!!) teams that participated. To get each question, click on the above embedded map. And check out more pictures online here and here.

See you at the 5th Annual Panorama Challenge, with ALL NEW questions!

Big props up to the Five Borough Thoroughs - Winners!

Panorama Challenge 4

AFTER 60 QUESTIONS (Best possible score = 60+5 extra credit answers)

5 Borough Thorough 60
Force Tube Avenue 60
Dead Horse Flotsam 60

Unispherics 59
Your Mom 58
Ft George Gentlemen 57
Fresh Kills 56
Rufus King 55
Red Hookers 55
Oyster Bars 55
Walk the Earth 54
Dome Pieces 54
Board of Estimates 53
Hodgepodge 50
Winners 50

Team Trepid 49
10-20 49
Team Harvey 47
Legislators 47
Maptastic 46
Percepticons 45
Stomping for Stuy 44
The Halsey Bop 44
Service Advisory 41

Lucky Guessers 39
Canal Yards Project 36
BQE 35
Comissioners Plan 31
Dukes of Flatbush 29
Astoria Rulez 21

Team Terry DNF
Queens Crutch DNF

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NY Mag’s Best of 2011 Tour: Best Brooklyn Booze Bounce!

New York Magazine’s Best of 2011

Who better to custom-craft a Best Of tour, using New York Magazine’s estimable 2011 list, than NY’s First Family of Tour Guides!? Taking into account the plentitudes of activities that New York Magazine has to offer in-the-know New Yorkers, we decided to put together two different Best of NY Mag 2011 Tours that could apply to both residents and visitors alike!

In both cases, we figured that New Yorkers like to talk, like to drink, like to learn and like to dance. To that end, we created the Best of Brooklyn Booze Bounce that includes history, hip-shaking, and hitting the bottle! We start our Best of Brooklyn Booze Bounce on the corner of Grand and Bushwick Avenues, by the historical Grand Street High School, since broken up into a bunch of smaller charter schools. Learn the history of East Williamsburg, nee Bushwick, from German to Italian to Latino to Hipsters and multi-culturalism.

A nautical themed bar for salty dogs. Pic courtesy of The L Magazine

But we shouldn’t keep you waiting – off to our first bar! Listed in NY Mag’s 2011 Best Cocktail list, we’ll attack The Drink (228 Manhattan Avenue) for their massive Rum Punch cocktail. $43 will quench the thirst of 10 imbibers (or seriously do damage to just 5) and will kick the night off right.

Notice a trend here? The Commodore pic courtesy of

Following our descent into The Drink we’ll keep strolling our way through this North Brooklyn ‘nabe over to The Commodore (366 Metropolitan Ave) for another NY Mag 2011 anointed beverage – the Sloe Gin Fizz. For a fantastic $7, we can sip and slurp the tasty treat down. If tour tipplers find that all this booze is doing damage, NY Mag also announced that The Commodore’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich (a modern variation on the Southern classic “Pimento Cheese”) hit the list, under the expected category Best Grilled Cheese.

Franklin Park, an awesome indoor/outdoor bar. Pic courtesy of Franklin Park

Finally, there’s only one way to shake off the torpor of cocktail and culture – that would be shimmy-shaking itself. We’ll jump the G train (a Brooklyn-Queens fav!) and ride into Crown Heights, for local watering hole Franklin Park’s (618 St. John’s Place) twice-monthly free dance jam, hosted by Little Shalimar, that crashes together hip-hop, crunk, soul, and sweet sticky jams. Best of all, its free – thereby topping NY Mag’s Best No Cover Dance Party list! Spend the rest of your dough at the bar.

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NY Mag’s Best of 2011 Tour: Manhattan Eats and Shopping Streets!

New York Magazine's Best of 2011

Who better to custom-craft a Best Of tour, using New York Magazine’s estimable 2011 list, than NY’s First Family of Tour Guides!? Taking into account the plentitudes of activities that New York Magazine has to offer in-the-know New Yorkers, we decided to put together two different Best of NY Mag 2011 Tours that could apply to both residents and visitors alike!

For our Manhattan exploration we went upscale, knowing how citizens from across zip codes as well as oceans descend upon our Empire City for the best in shopping and eating. So we combined these two for the perfect high-low, morning-into-afternoon that keeps the costs down on the grub, so that the finer things in life (with attendant price tags) can be in the upper echelons.

Tacos served straight from a vintage VW bus. Pic courtesy of

Since no shopping extravaganza can start on an empty stomach, we’ll begin our day with NY Mag’s heralded Best Breakfast Taco at Fonda NoLiTa (267 Elizabeth Street). The housemade chorizo is exceptional, and the taco isn’t stuffed to the point of stuffing us. Once sated, we’ll stroll the streets of NoLiTa and SoHo and discuss the legendary cast-iron architecture of the neighborhood – the largest district of its kind in the world.

We cant talk too much, since our first stop is on the block, 8 storefronts away. Thomas Sires boutique (243 Elizabeth) won the mag’s acclaim for Best Gifts for Women – a fun, funky mixup of French and Japanese knick-knacks and paddy-wacks. Jewelry, home- and office-wares, with prices ranging from single-to-triple digits. Plus, the mag made special mention of the boutique’s lovely gift wrap job.

Palmer Trading Company. Pic courtesy of wecouldgrowuptogether.blogspot

We can’t leave the men behind, so our next stop is a half-dozen blocks west, for NY Mag’s Best Men’s Accessories, at Palmer Trading Company (137 Sullivan St.) a one-stop shop for the necessities in life that dont wax and wane with the fashion cycles. We’re talking wallets, belts, leather boots, and for poker nights, some peek-a-boo reveal-all beer glasses from the 70s. We’ll also be discussing the history of SoHo’s many life cycles, which seems to change with the self-same fashion cycles.

Its back to NoLiTa for an afternoon slice at Rubirosa (235 Mulberry street), NY Mag’s Choice for Best Slice. A spinoff of the venerable Joe & Pat’s Pizzeria, Rubirosa is a joint in NoLiTa that feels like Little Italy never became Littler Italy. The platonic ideal of a nice pizza slice, Rubirosa has got it down, alongside a cold beer to refresh your shopping sensibilities.

Dont miss the Chicken Parm! Pic courtesy of

Back into the fray – we find Creatures of Comfort (205 Mulberry Street) NY Mag’s Best Downtown Boutique, offering super exclusive name brand designers for upper-level projects like Christian Wijnants and Zero + Maria Cornejo, for a wild mash-up of high fashion and street design stuffed into one store. Our penultimate stop helps replace the shoes we’ve been stomping around downtown in. Marvelous Italian Boots are on sale at Florentini + Baker (54 Mercer St.) for basic, stylish boots that will take us home. But our final stop is for NY Mag’s Best Antipasti (and the dinner that accompanies it,) Torrisi Italian Specialties (250 Mulberry st) for their $50 prix fixe meal of modern/old-school Italian. Have a glass of wine to accompany your meal. You’ve earned it!

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“Hey! We’re shootin’ here!”

Mark, Matt, Aunt Meryl, Gideon and Jonah with LAURA LINNEY!

Oscar night is a wonderful swell of the awards season for film enthusiasts like myself. Having had the pleasure of enjoying the film world on both sides of the screen, I love telling my tour groups of my most exciting encounter on a film set. For ten days in 2007, the Oscar-nominated film The Savages was shot in the Levy house! Working as the assistant location manager, I was inches from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney and in the constant throes of moving equipment, scurrying crewmembers and creative energy.

I’ve turned much of my energy from the big screen to the big apple, but I’ve definitely kept in touch with the film world. My cousin Neil has worked on the set of TV and movies for many years and is a solid movie-going companion of mine, and I still keep my eye on entertainment news, and behind-the-scenes featurettes. To assist my fellow tour guides, I’m in the process of creating an extremely comprehensive guide including my own snarky yet interesting commentary. Some excerpts from my list:

Almost Famous: (Max’s Kansas City, Gramercy Park Hotel, The Plaza) This film effectively brings back the hey-day of NYC’s rock scene of the 70’s and bravely reproduces the consequences…getting your stomach pumped in the bathroom of a Plaza Hotel suite after overdosing on Quaaludes.

Jonah was an Oscar in 2010 for Best Use of a Light Saber

Fame: (46 st btwn 6th and 7th) The school in the film is a church in reality, but dancing in the streets occasionally happens whether it’s impassioned theatergoers or crazy homeless people.

The Godfather (Old St Patrick’s Cathedral) Sofia Coppola plays the goddaughter at the peak of her acting career.

Hannah and Her Sisters (The Dakota) Mia Farrow’s apartment at one of the New York’s most famous residences doubles as Hannah’s apartment in the film. Soon-Yi has a cameo as one of the small children being entertained by Woody Allen’s character in the Thanksgiving scene. Awkwarrrrrd…

I Am Legend (The USS Intrepid) You can hit golf balls out over the Hudson River down by Chelsea Piers, but you gotta pay 30 bucks. New Yorkers remain price-savvy even after the Zombie Apocalypse.

National Treasure (Trinity Church) The climax of the film occurs here where—SPOILER ALERT—they find the national treasure.

The Nanny Diaries (Conservatory Water) A popular place to take kids, there’s a scene in this film where Scarlett Johannsen sits alone and contemplates how hot she is.

The Producers ’05 (Bethesda Fountain) The update was almost shot in Toronto but Mel Brooks thought the bagels there were “too mushy.”

From the classic 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy

However, my favorite movie location & story comes from this incredible blog Would you believe that one of the most instantly recognized & “New Yorky” lines of dialogue in film history was completely unscripted? That the most classic outburst that became synonymous with the rough and ruthless New York lifestyle was a flare-up caused by the grinding teeth of the city itself?

We’re talking Midnight Cowboy, 1969, and the set was the crosswalk at 6th avenue and 58th street. Shot by John Schlesinger sans permit to halt traffic, using a hidden camera in a parked van and remote microphones to capture Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight stroll across the street. They do about 15 takes and just as they’re getting it right, a taxi runs a red light, endangering Hoffman’s life, not to mention the perfect shot. Hoffman stays completely in character and, as Ratso Rizzo, he slaps the hood of the cab and screams, “HEY, CAN’T YA SEE I’M WALKING HERE!!”

Cut, print, and that’s a wrap!

By Jonah Levy

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