The Talkhouse Reader‘s Guide to New York

Craig Finn, Anastasia Coope, Fievel Is Glauque, and more share their favorite places in the city.

For the first issue of the Talkhouse Reader, we asked some of our favorite local artists about their favorite places in New York — the place that most make them appreciate that they live in here. Below are some of their answers. You can read more on the subject of NYC in the Reader (and there are only a couple print copies left, so get yours while you can!). 
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music

The McCarren Park Pool

I live in Greenpoint and I am a regular at the McCarren pool. It’s beautiful and has such a rich, interesting history. It was built in the 1930s and is a beautiful example of Art Deco WPA architecture, which the city restored when Bloomberg reopened the pool in the early aughts. 

You don’t feel like you’re in New York City when you’re inside. It’s giant and open, AND it’s shockingly clean and well maintained — which is not what you’d expect when you think of a public pool in NYC. It is so well managed, and there are rules in place to keep it that way (no phones allowed — which I love — and no food. You’re only really allowed to bring your towel, sunscreen, water, and your book). 

One of the first times I went to the pool, I had this bizarre flashback. I was like, “I swear to god, I’ve been to a concert here.” None of my friends believed me. I went home and did a bit of googling, and sure enough my memory was correct: Before it was restored a little over a decade ago, the empty, graffitied, abandoned pool was a concert venue. I went to my first ever indie concert at the pool with my friend Lucy; we saw Iron & Wine. 

This lead me down a rabbit hole of researching the history of the space. In the ‘70s, the pool was boarded up and neglected. The fight over whether to demolish it or rebuild it became a contentious battle that lasted 25 years. During that time, it was a place where people would break in and hang out, skateboard, party, etc. Some local Williamsburg hipsters saw the pool, and got the city to approve free, community-run concerts every Sunday called “Pool Parties.” The parties started getting really popular, and Brooklyn Vegan and Stereogum caught on and started curating concerts. Every iconic indie band of the early 2000s played there: MGMT, MIA, The Walkmen, Blonde Redhead, Modest Mouse, The Breeders, Sonic Youth, Deerhoof, Yo La Tengo, Titus Andronicus — to name a few. 

The pool being a piece of NYC music history makes me love it even more. Some might read this and lament the symbolism of a DIY concert venue becoming a pool for the gentrifiers of Williamsburg — but in fact, the pool (which is free and open to the public) is used by everybody. It is actually an amazingly inclusive and well-run public resource, something that is not very common in this city. I’d argue a more diverse swath of Brooklyn utilizes the space now than during its indie concert phase.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

We love the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens. There’s this long stretch of road that goes from Howard Beach to the Rockaways, and it’s sitting on the other side of it. We’ve done a lot of birdwatching there. It’s a good mix of terrains: You get some woods to walk through, you get some beach, and you can still see the city. And it’s near some really good pizza — after we go birdwatching, we get a classic New York slice at New Park Pizza.

When we moved to New York, we were a little concerned that the birdwatching scene wouldn’t be as good here. We found JBWR when we were looking for wildlife sanctuaries, and birdwatching there, we realized that there’s actually a really good scene, because there’s just not a lot of places for birds to go in New York. You get a really high concentration of species and you end up seeing stuff that you maybe wouldn’t see in the wild, because they can hide a little better, but they’re out in the open here. We love to see any wading bird, like herons or egrets. We really like ospreys because we like to watch them dive and catch fish — they put them between their talons but the fish looks like it’s still swimming in the air. We had a very fruitful warbler season this year. And we saw a glossy ibis — that was a highlight. You get to really see some cool stuff. 

Anastasia Coope’s last-of-its-kind loft

My favorite place in NYC is the loft space that I live in. It’s literally not in a neighborhood — it’s not in Clinton Hill and it’s not really in Southwest Williamsburg, but it floats in that nameless place. It’s an old warehouse space that’s been converted into eight or nine bedrooms, and it feels like not just a living space, but like my hub of New York. It’s kind of comical that I ended up here. My boyfriend left his apartment and there ended up being an opening for a room here, and he jumped on it. Then I started subletting my apartment because I was like, “I just want to be here too!” I’ve been here less than a year officially, but I’ve been coming around for a little bit longer, a year-and-a-half maybe. It feels like a sitcom or something. There are eight other characters living here, and they’re all involved in the arts, whether they’re writers, painters, sculptors. It feels like some hipster ideal of Brooklyn. 

There are two bathrooms. There’s one bathroom that’s a sink and shower, and there’s this other one that’s “the haunted bathroom.” It’s on another part of the building that was an add-on, and it’s like a dungeon. It’s basically falling off of the building — but I don’t think it’s gonna fall any time soon. Maybe in 10 years it’ll be gone. 

Everyone gets along. At first I didn’t feel like I could get any writing done here — there was such a high amount of stimuli that I just was not really able to find the mental space to write and record. But now, our room is pretty big, so if I’m in here long enough I can feel pretty alone. 
Anastasia Coope

The Ridgewood Reservoir

After being locked inside the Cemetery of the Evergreens while I was taking a run, I decided to exercise further away. The Ridgewood Reservoir has many faces. Lots of different forms of life cohabitating in the same space: humans, their pets, many birds, a giant turtle, squirrels, big trees, probably fish that I couldn’t see, insects, lichen and moss, different kinds of stones, mushrooms, and all the entities invisible to my eyes. Different rhythms: seasonal phases with birds’ migration and the vegetal world changing colors and shapes, the circadian cycle of the users, weekend outings to grill whatever would fit on a barbecue, the schedule of the workers and management of the park that are shaping the trajectories by closing/opening the paths… Lots of different uses: walking the pet, exercising, taking the kid outside, picnics with friends, reading a book, going out of the house, being alone, seeing people, working, living under the bridge, loitering, etc. 

The same difference, every time I go there.
— Ma Clément (Fievel Is Glauque

Parrots Appliance Sales

Parrots Appliance Sales on Broadway in Bushwick is a home appliance store that has tropical birds everywhere, and it’s just so fuckin’ weird. Every time I pass it, I’m like, How does something like this even happen? It makes me wonder what kind of a person opens a shop like that. I imagine it’s probably some mysterious bird guy, like the pigeon man from Hey Arnold! It’s not my “favorite” place, but it’s enigmatic as fuck, and it’s something that wouldn’t happen anywhere else.
Dirt Buyer

North Six (RIP)

In January 2003, my band The Hold Steady played our first show. It was at a club called North Six in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The show went well enough, and 20 years later we’re still a band. North Six is mostly gone, and it’s somewhere that I’ve been thinking about lately. 

I don’t have a timeline on when North Six opened, but it was sometime after 2000, which is the year I moved to NYC. I remember being introduced to this guy Jeff at a show, and he said he was opening a club in Brooklyn. He told me the location, and it sounded good to me. I was going out all the time to see bands and it would be convenient to not go into Manhattan every time. 

I also don’t remember who played the first time I went there. World/Inferno Friendship Society? Les Savy Fav? Those are my two best guesses. I do remember the space — a little raw but very functional. It felt a bit raw and wide open. Possibly slightly unfinished. There were bleachers along the back, and a downstairs green room. The stage was decent sized and I remember the room sounding good. 

The club’s run intersected with a time that I was meeting a lot of people. North Six had rehearsal spaces upstairs and downstairs, and musicians came and went. Stopping in to see a band could stretch to an accidental trip to last call, a new friendship, or a reconnection with someone I’d met while touring in my first band, Lifter Puller. At the shows, we drank cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. After a while, I came up with the idea that PBR made me especially hung over and switched beers. In hindsight, it might have been the amounts consumed rather than the brand.

When I got a new band going in NYC, North Six and us became entwined. As I mentioned, The Hold Steady played our first show there. But we also played a number of others, to various audience sizes. A very modest one on my birthday one year, a packed and sold out show sometime in the next year or two. We also shot the cover of our record Boys & Girls In America there. The club was nice enough to let us use the space during a Saturday, and we assembled a crew of pretend show goers — barely enough to make it look good. We pushed confetti into blowing fans and told the audience to go crazy while they were photographed. Our intention was to create something along the lines of the Kiss Alive II inner sleeves, and we got our own version. 

Even before I showed up in 2000, Williamsburg and Brooklyn had been morphing into something new. Somewhere along the line, the club was purchased and turned into the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I am not at all irritated by this, and the Music Hall is still my favorite place in the city to see live music. Change is inevitable in the face of capitalism, nostalgia is dangerous, and rock clubs are only as good as the people that run them.  But I realize that I still know the club’s address — 66 North 6th — from calling car services to pick me up in the pre-Uber days. And that, seared into my memory, tells me that I lived some of my important years in that space.
Craig Finn