Pat Kiernan, morning anchor of 24-hour local New York City news station NY1, is a boyish, indefatigable presence, whose Mojave-dry wit is best observed during the network's “In the Papers” segment daily at 7:40am. Kiernan reads headlines from The New York Times, New York Post and New York Daily News, among others, and offers commentary on the day's news stories; the segment's success led him to launch Pat's Papers online, where he rounds up and comments on other US newspaper items, from the timely and important to the curious and bizarre. Canadian by birth, Kiernan moved with his wife to New York in 1996. He became anchor at NY1 a year later and has gone on to host a variety of other programs, including the VH1 quiz show The World Series of Pop Culture. We caught up with the Upper West Side dweller to discuss what he likes about his neighborhood, his tried-and-true plans for rookie visitors and why he really enjoys the City's transportation options—especially the Staten Island Ferry.
You've lived on the Upper West Side for the past 15 years. What do you like about the neighborhood?
Pat Kiernan: We've got a great combination of access to public transportation, access to Central Park and Riverside Park, and access to everywhere else with the West Side Highway. I like the character of the Upper West Side and that it's family-friendly. But, ultimately, the fact that we have so many subway options from here is huge. I have left home for a Rangers game five minutes before it was supposed to start, jumped on the express subway and got to Madison Square Garden in time to hear the last few bars of the national anthem. So that's handy.
What were your first impressions of New York City?
PK: Coming here as someone who only knew New York from what was in movies and TV, it was understanding that the City is just a collection of neighborhoods. It's not all Times Square. I got this image from watching NYPD Blue—or whatever it was at the time—that the City was rough and that there were sirens in the streets at any hour. Even now for first-time visitors, if you land in Times Square, it still seems like there's a relentless pace. We as New Yorkers know that's not representative of the entire city.
How do you think New York has changed since you've lived here?
PK: There are more areas that tourists would want to see and would feel comfortable walking around. The change in crime rates under Giuliani and continuing under Bloomberg has been transformational. It's hard to understand now how different it might have been 25 years ago. Largely, you can go anywhere.
Many New Yorkers develop itineraries for out-of-town guests. What's on your list?
PK: If guests get in late afternoon or early evening, we always jump on the subway to take them down to Times Square. That accomplishes two things. First, it gives them the wow of seeing Times Square at night, so they feel like they've really arrived. Second, everybody from out of town, again from watching cop shows and action-adventure movies, has this nervousness about getting on the subway. We walk them down to the subway station, have them buy a MetroCard, teach them how to swipe it and show them the difference between uptown and downtown. For the rest of their trip, they have a level of comfort in getting on the subway, which, in addition to being an affordable way of getting around, is also, in many cases, much faster. The other thing I love doing with visitors is taking them down to the Staten Island Ferry. You get your blast through the harbor for free. Unless you've always dreamed of touching the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, take the Staten Island Ferry and get your picture as you go by!
Plus, the Staten Island Ferry is practically famous in its own right. It was in Working Girl, after all.
PK: If you're up early and can take the ferry outbound from Manhattan at 7am and then get on the return trip at 7:30am—so that you're on it with the Staten Island commuters—it's a great slice of New York City life. There really are Staten Island working girls doing their makeup.
For more of Pat's picks of the City, see below:
Hit the driving range at Chelsea Piers. It's a great illustration of how outdoor space is scarce in Manhattan. Where else would they build a four-level golf driving range over a river?
Get a bird's-eye view of the City at The Panorama. The Queens Museum of Art is, admittedly, not the easiest place to get to. But the 9,335-square-foot model of New York City is a great way to put the entire city into perspective.
Attend an event at The Allen Room. This Jazz at Lincoln Center concert venue features an amazing perspective of Columbus Circle and Central Park.
Feed your sweet tooth at Economy Candy. The charm of the Lower East Side candy emporium is its mayhem. The aisles are narrow, the candy is stacked to the roof and if your favorite childhood candy is still in production, chances are they sell it.
Have a cone at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Brooklyn Heights is an easy subway ride from Manhattan, and there are two reasons for the trip: the ice cream and the spectacular view of the skyline from the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Grab a burger near Times Square. New Yorkers aren't afraid of crowds. But Times Square is so packed with visitors that I enjoy finding food options that are a block or two away. Two casual places for burgers come to mind: Schnipper's Quality Kitchen, in the New York Times Building, and The Counter, at 41st and Broadway.
Dine at 9 in the Meatpacking District. After dark, the people-watching is spectacular in the former industrial neighborhood that's been taken over by restaurants and bars. Take a walk along the High Line, then enjoy a steak at Pastis.
Ride the wooden escalators at Macy's. You'll probably be near 34th Street at some point on your visit, so make sure you check out the vintage escalators at the iconic department store.
Go off the beaten path in Central Park. Wollman Rink and Bethesda Fountain are lovely spots to visit, but if you venture just a little farther north, you'll find The Ramble. You can't entirely escape the sounds of the City, but kids love exploring the “wilderness” paths. They'll also enjoy climbing to the top of Belvedere Castle.
Walk the West Village. The neighborhood isn't on the Manhattan street grid, so traffic is relatively light and the streets are fun to stroll. If you're there at mealtime, try the Swedish meatballs at Smorgas Chef, buy a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery or splurge for a dinner at Mas (farmhouse).
Choose between corned beef and pastrami at Katz's Deli. The Houston Street deli is as authentic as it gets. The sandwiches are fantastic, and it's busy at any hour. And they've marked the table where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal shot the famous “I'll have what she's having” scene for When Harry Met Sally….