In which Bwogger Armin Rosen shows first-years how to break out of Morningside without breaking the bank.
New York’s expensive, but the cheap bastards among you are in luck. Yes, New York’s notorious cigarette taxes mean that smokers will have to do a little pinching—or, better still, quit smoking altogether. And although $6.50 might seem a little steep for a sandwich, the tenth punch of a Ham Del Gold Card and its attendant free hero drops the price to a slightly more reasonable $5.90 something. Even then, it’s possible to subsist off of club pizza, the Wednesday night vegetarian potluck, various Hillel events, and post-conference wine and cheese receptions (IAB 15 is a goldmine, by the way…).
But what if subsistence just isn’t enough for you? As freshmen will soon discover, a night away from campus does wonders for your mental health. And luckily, New York is one city where parsimony needn’t keep you in. What follows are a few suggestions for how to have a good time even if you’re not dropping Franklins.
Take in some culture: Whether you have a favorite Rossini tenor or are just grubbing for cultural capital, there’s little classier than a night at the opera. With new Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb ongoing campaign to broaden his company’s appeal, there’s also little in New York that’s cheaper: the lower-level standing room is an affordable $20, while the stratospheric Family Circle is only $15 on weeknights. And speaking of Rossini, this blogger highly recommends checking out the Met’s revival of last year’s brilliant new production of Barber of Seville.
High5tix.org doesn’t offer a huge variety of $5 theatre tickets, but it can surprise from time to time (it once got me into the Blue Man Group for free). If you’re of open mind and shallow pocket, you should also check out some Off-off Broadway—PS 122 and The Brick are excellent, sub-$20-a-show venues, although anything off-off is bound to at least be, umm, interesting. And as the back page of just about every Playbill in town will probably remind you, acoustically-perfect Carnegie Hall has $10 student rush tickets.
Go to a concert: While even the beloved Knitting Factory can ask an exorbitant $15-20 for a main-space show, a glut of cheap and mind-expanding venues has sprung up in its place. For $5, John Zorn’s experimental jazz club The Stone will school you in music the likes of which you probably didn’t know existed. For less than that, Luna Lounge, Union Hall, Arlene’s Grocery, Glasslands and literally dozens of other places will clue you into New York’s vast independent rock scene.
But by far the best cheap venue is Harlem’s St. Nick’s Pub. Quality downtown jazz rooms like Smalls have turned into swingers’ clubs for the yuppified West Village set, but the small and usually-packed St. Nick’s gives a damn about the music—and has a ludicrously low (and seldom-enforced) $3 cover charge. The Saturday night Afro-jazz jam, which usually concludes at around 3 or 4 in the morning, is highly recommended.
Ride the Staten Island ferry: When this blogger graduates sometime in the middle of the next decade, he fears that this turd-shaped isle, which was gerrymandered into New York City for reasons unknown, will be the only affordable place left in the city. Yet aside from offering a horrifying glimpse of the future, the cheapest date in New York promises impressive views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the lower Manhattan skyline, as well as access to Staten’s myriad attractions. The Yankees! Fresh Kills! The Ship graveyard! Why Staten Island is an undiscovered gem—although this blogger won’t blame you if you take your boy/girlfriend/bottle of Georgi and drag yourself back to Manhattan.