Teresa Gotay's New York

Written by  Teresa Gotay

Our latest offering from our series of Questionnaires for Experts, Bloggers and other Travel Knowledgeables comes from Teresa Gotay, who blogs over at The Art of Backpacking.  Heralding from Spanish Harlem, Teresa has some brilliant suggestions for how to visit New York.

Where's your home town, and what's the main reason people visit?

I was born and raised in Spanish Harlem, NYC. Honestly, ten years ago, tourists were scared to go above 96th Street. Lately, tourists flock to Upper Manhattan for savory local Spanish food, easy access to the beginning of Central Park and to visit the (first) Target in Manhattan

What's the main reason you think people SHOULD be visiting?

Spanish Harlem, NYC is filled with so much culture and history. It was founded  by the Dutch (Haarlem is a town in The Netherlands), inhabited by Italians, then Puerto Ricans and now all sorts of Spanish cultures. You see its influences everywhere from the Cuchifritos selling Spanish fritters to Rao's Italian restaurant. If you really want to learn why you should visit, Spanish Harlem is home to the Museum del Barrio (Museum of Spanish Harlem) and next door, The Museum of the City of New York

If you had to recommend to the friend of a friend one unmissablething to do in your home town what would it be?

New York City is a big hometown and I recommend so much to do! But, if we're talking about my neighborhood, I'd say go for a run or bike down the FDR drive. It's a great spot for photographs, a fresh breeze and is hardly congested with people. People often disregard it which makes it so low-key.

If they had a whole day in town what would you recommend they do?

Start off with a trip to the museums mentioned above. It'll give you a nice prep  about the history of the area. Take a walk through the park by the Conservatory Gardens; you'll find lots of wedding pictures being shot here. Look out for Lasker Park where in the summer, you can swim and the winter, you an ice skate.  Don't miss the beautiful lake by Central Park North- where Central Park begins. Stroll down 116th Street for massive shopping and stop by a Cuchifritos; a local snack bar serving a handful fried fritters and have an alcapurria or chichcharron- fried pork skin. Check out the local Target; the first in Manhattan in the new East River Plaza Complex by the water. 

What if they had three days?

In addition to the above mentioned, have dinner at La Fonda Boricua for traditional Puerto Rican food. Play of game of Dominoes with locals; you'll find them all around the parks. Visit the Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center and take a Bomba y Plena dance class. Look out for De La Vega murals; found over Spanish Harlem. He is an outstanding artist who fought NYC law to Become his Dream as an artist.

What will you never catch a local doing?

Having a quiet conversation. The neighborhood is loud and expect people to shout things from across the street. Example: Shouting out from across buildings to say hi to someone you know passing by. 

What WILL you catch a local doing?

Hanging out in the streets. Especially if it is a hot summer day; it means playing dominoes, opening a fire pump as a huge sprinkler and sitting on your stoop enjoying the day. 

And what local delicacies would visitors be fools not to try while they're there?

Some were mentioned above, but here are some more recommendations:• Pastellios: Fried patties filled with cheese, meat or chicken.• Lechon Asado: Roasted suckling pig.• Piraguas: Crushed iced with flavored syrup drizzled over it.And a personal favorite: The BEST pizza in New York City, at least to me: Sam's Famous Pizza on 116th Street and Lexington Avenue. They've been there  as long as my parent's have been in Spanish Harlem. (Over 50 years) 

In 140 characters, how would you sum up your home town as a greatdestination?

SpaHa: Local culture, cuisine and an up and coming place for urban renewal. A mix of local flair with modern ingenuity. 

Anything else you want to add!?

A lot of people are concerned with the gentrification in the area. As a native  Spanish Harlemite; I welcome to change to an extent. For years, people have  been scared of this beautiful neighborhood. The modern changes gives Spanish  Harlem a new light; to clean out the poverty and drugs and to welcome new  opportunities.Many feel threatened that local culture will disappear; but I don't think it's true. Culture is embedded and rooted for so many years. It's about time locals can have modern stores nearby. Usually to shop at bigger chain stores, we'd have to go to Queens or Long Island. I just can't wait till we get a Barnes and Noble bookstore and then I think we are set!

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