The TCQ&A: “It’s Like Living on a Houseboat”
Longtime Battery Park City resident Glenn Plaskin is a writer and celebrity interviewer, although his latest book, Katie Up and Down the Hall, is about a much more local star—his cocker spaniel, Katie, who “types, uses a remote, models, has a great wardrobe, makes friends with horses, and changes the lives of everyone around her” (in the words of the book’s promotional materials). Plaskin, who has also written a biography of Vladimir Horowitz, will be at Barnes & Noble Tribeca on Sept. 16. Maybe he’ll bring his new cocker, Lucy (above), although at only five months old she’s a bit rambunctious. In the meantime, you can preorder Katie at your favorite online bookseller.
How long have you lived in the area? I feel like Thomas Jefferson telling you I’ve been here 25 years! Back in 1985, the prices for apartments in Battery Park were unbeatable—and so were the views. It was undiscovered then, and nobody wanted to live here, figuring it was too inconvenient. For me, it was scenic, peaceful, and super-friendly. And I considered myself lucky to escape a windowless dark tenement on the Upper East Side to this—a sun-filled apartment overlooking the Hudson and Statue of Liberty. It’s like living on a houseboat. I would never move.
Which restaurants do you frequent most often? My all-time favorites have been Bouley Bakery (mushroom salad, truffle-infused pasta, pistachio raspberry tart), Ivy’s Bistro (which has the best turkey burger in NY), Landmarc (the chopped salad with beets, risotto with asparagus—plus complimentary homemade caramels delivered to the table at the end), Gigino (the Esotica salad and any pasta, plus the best view of the Statue of L.), and the World Financial Center’s Donald Sacks (Mediterranean tuna and great homemade soups.)
Which restaurants do you tend to go to for special occasions? For birthdays, if you want a complete circus with tableside cooking, try Acappella. Last time, with his flambé stunt, one of the waiters almost set me on fire! It’s like being in an opera. I’ve also gone to Bouley—where the food and service is impeccable, but a bit formal. I feel the waiters should be sitting down. One of the most enjoyable birthdays was at Bubby’s—you can’t beat their watermelon lemonade, catfish, and the homemade sour cherry pie. I’ve also never gone wrong with City Hall, Capsouto Frères, Nobu, or Odeon (try the doughnuts!).
Where do you order in (or get take-out) from? Are there dishes you always order? When I’m at home with my dog and don’t feel like going out, I usually call Samantha’s, an Italian takeout, where I get excellent lemon chicken. The eggplant hero is really good. For Chinese, I like the China Chalet, especially the chicken and corn soup and garlic chicken. And for thin-crust pesto pizza with olives, I like the Garden Diner.
Which shops do you find it hard to resist popping into when you pass by? I love frozen yogurt (Café Express) and the gelato at Ciao Bella in the World Financial Center is incredible. And on the way home from there, for a sugar high, I sometimes can’t resist the chocolate covered strawberries at Godiva. By now, you must be thinking I’m morbidly obese! (When in fact I’m 5’9” and weigh 150 pounds. I credit this to biking.)
What was the last non-essential item you bought in Tribeca or BPC? New toys for my dog at Le Pet Spa—as she already has enough for an entire troop of dogs, but the chewing never stops. I also love the incredible selection of breakfast cereals at Whole Foods—and I buy all different kinds, putting eight different flavors in the bowl each morning. I’d rather have cereal than dinner.
Are there any services (salon, fitness, etc.) that you’re particularly glad are in the neighborhood? I love having a dog grooming store just a few blocks away. To get a discount, I bought my dog a block of 10 haircuts—and she loves going there and returns transformed. I also love visiting with the the local manicurist Lee at our nail shop, Blooming Nails. My dog, Lucy, gets carted around and cooed over by all the women in the shop and she likes stealing treats from the candy jar there. Also, having a gym in the building, Battery Park Swim & Fitness, is ideal. I’d never go every day if it wasn’t right there—and it’s a great place to make friends.
Where do you always take out-of-towners? Lunch at Southwest—not really for the food, but because the view of the marina from there is incredible. The Grill Room overlooking the Marina is also super-quiet and enjoyable. But better than food, my guests like going out on the Shearwater, a wooden sailboat built in the 1920s offering a two-hour sunset cruise for $50.
What’s the area’s best-kept secret? The restaurant Gigino. Most people in the city would never find it, as it’s tucked on the Hudson behind the Ritz-Carlton—but the views and food are superlative. Try the strawberries covered in chocolate.
Which neighborhood building do you wish you lived in and/or owned? I wished I lived in the Millennium Tower Residences—mainly because I hear you can get maid service every single day! You gotta love a building that offers fresh ducted air that has been adjusted for desired year-round humidity levels and has been filtered to remove 85 percent of all outside particulates, soot and airborne toxins! And that’s not to mention the option of daily maid service!
What’s your favorite part of the area (street, park, whatever)? Without doubt, it’s the tree-lined Esplanade that I often describe in my upcoming book about my life in Battery Park City. All the buildings and outdoor spaces are set along this walkway and I love it. In the fall, the English oaks, river birches, and weeping willows sway in the wind. In the evening, purple lanterns set close to the water glow while you eat at candlelit tables. Have I persuaded anyone to move here?!
Your most memorable celebrity sighting? I didn’t know we had any! Well, I did see Katie Couric eating ice-cream down here—and she looked so young in person. And one July 4, Donald Trump was strolling along the river.
If you could change one thing about the neighborhood, what would it be? I’d change the number of new buildings under construction. It’s ridiculous to use up every inch of spare space. Also, sadly, the ongoing construction of the WTC site is a continuing burden for all—too much confusion, dust, transportation disruption, and, of course, the harrowing memories of those who were lost. In Katie, there are three chapters with a first-hand account of what happened that day.
What’s changed around here that you like? That you don’t? After 9/11, the neighborhood, which was always friendly, became incredibly unified. In most buildings in NYC, you can’t borrow an egg! Here it’s like a suburban resort. Walk around enough and you know everybody. The neighborhood is filled with kids, and hundreds of dogs, and students, and seniors, a wonderful dinner party.
Why Tribeca or Battery Park City? The atmosphere is relaxed, there’s no crime, we have our own troop of Conservancy gardeners, unobstructed views of the Hudson, and a parade of boats up and down the river.
Any questions you wish you’d been asked? Just one: Do you ever leave the neighborhood?! (As little as possible.)