Sunday, October 15, 2023

Q&A with Deirdre Gartner




Deirdre Gartner is the author of the new book Dearest New York: A Love Letter to the Big Apple. A former fashion executive, she is based in Manhattan.


Q: What inspired you to write this book about New York City?


A: I love New York and am proud to have been born and raised in this quirky, quizzical, magical, messy, yet always triumphant city. As a former fashion executive traveling the globe, there was nothing more affirming than returning home and seeing the NYC skyline glistening in the distance as the plane headed for the tarmac.


After years of friends and family asking me to put together itineraries for them about where to go, what to see, what new restaurants or exhibits had just opened, I decided to start an Instagram account and website featuring all my NYC finds named Girl in the Yellow Taxi NYC.


As my social media accounts grew, I started getting contacted by real estate companies, travel magazines, various websites, and enthusiastic international and domestic travelers.


As the city started to recover from the pandemic and people were questioning New York’s recovery and tourists were trying to plan postponed trips to New York, I was approached by NYC Tourism asking how I could spread the word that New York is coming back and will be better than ever.


I started a hundred-day project on Instagram, where each day for 100 days I would highlight something beautiful or inspiring about the city. I received overwhelming responses and messages about how my photos and stories sparked loving memories of life celebrations, favorite eateries and shops, but most of all a fervent desire to return to New York.


Many people asked if I would write a book and thus my love letter to New York was born, Dearest New York: A Love Letter to the Big Apple.


Q: What would you say are some of the most common perceptions and misconceptions about New York?

A: New Yorkers continuously get a bad rap for not being the nicest people in the world, yet every day I see New Yorkers doing random acts of kindness.


If a group of tourists are looking at a guidebook trying to figure their whereabouts or a person falls on the street, multiple people will ask if they can help. When a commuter is rushing to get into the subway before the doors close, there is sure to be someone holding the door for them. Don’t mistake the hustle and bustle of New Yorkers for being rude.


New York is a concrete jungle with no nature. Yes, New York is filled with soaring skyscrapers and if you live in an apartment with outdoor space, you feel like you have won the lottery, but the city is filled with pocket parks, community gardens, and massive beauties like Central Park where you can soak up the sun, jog, bike, picnic, or find that perfect spot to enjoy a quiet contemplation.


Many people think that Midtown/Times Square is the most exciting part of the city. Filled with noise, the crowd’s colorful characters, and home to some of the city’s most iconic and popular tourist attractions, it is usually the first place people identify and want to spend time.


But what makes New York so unique is all the different neighborhoods, each so rich in their own character, from the historic Lower Manhattan to the elegance of the Upper East Side and everywhere in between.


Q: Of the various New York neighborhoods you featured in the book, do you have a favorite?


A: Bursting with energy, history, culture, and creativity, and divided into many diverse and eclectic neighborhoods, it was hard to narrow it down to just a few.


I have walked many miles and know each of the neighborhoods I featured really well. I have gotten to know the old-time shopkeepers, and the new restaurant owners. I wave to the old lady that sits in the window on East 9th Street and always make sure to give Manny, the beautiful tabby cat in the Flower District, a little extra scratch on the chin.


I love the quiet beauty of the Upper East Side and the neighborhood feel of the Upper West. Central Park never gets old and with 843 acres to explore, no matter how many times I have been in the park there is still some corner that I will stumble upon that I had yet to discover.


The East Village is unique with its patchwork of different generations, cultures, long-time residents and new transplants, but the most charming and my favorite neighborhood is the West Village.


With its quaint patchwork of 19th-century architecture, treelined angled and oft-times cobblestoned streets and public squares, cozy cafes and specialty shops, it’s easy to feel as if you’re on a movie set about a bygone era of New York City.


Q: What do you see looking ahead for New York?


A: New York is a study in constant motion always evolving and a glorious example of true resiliency that will continue to attract people from all over the world. New York Board of Tourism predicts 70 million visitors to the Big Apple in 2024.


It is one of the world’s epicenters for food, fashion, finance, art, dance and theater; I see a very bright and innovative future for New York City.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Other than launching my book, Dearest New York, A Love Letter to the Big Apple, I have a couple of other projects that I am just starting to formulate.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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