New York State of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews Pinar Ayata, graduate student in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Country of origin: Turkey

1. How long have you been living in the New York area?

6 years.

2. Where do you live?

Upper East Side.

3. Which is your favorite neighborhood?

Park Slope.

4. What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated?

Many people who have never been to NYC or only had a short touristic visit associate the city with high-rise buildings, aggressive people, and busy streets. NYC is so much more than that! Various neighborhoods, green markets, bike lanes, parks, roof tops, block parties, art, strangers smiling at each other on the street and making conversation, mounted police—a personal favorite—and the fact that the city is only one hour from natural preserves where you can do all kinds of outdoor activities. The city has so many things to offer, you just have to look around.

5. What do you miss most when you are out of town?

To feel that I belong to a place—even when I just walk on the streets. I don’t feel like an outsider, because no one really belongs here. I feel like the city will let me be whomever I want. I haven’t felt like that anywhere else.

6. If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

I think I would improve the public transportation and make it a lot cheaper, ideally, 25 cents per ride.

7. Describe a perfect weekend in NYC.

I get to pick the weather, right? It’s partly cloudy, windy, with a temperature in the 70s, no precipitation, all weekend. Friday night: go to a small bar and try out different microbrews and small bites while catching up with friends. Later, hang out in the East Village for some live music, and end the night dancing in Nuble to experimental music. Saturday morning: have a nice long breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, bike to Breezy Point for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean (during my perfect weekend, Park Avenue is closed to traffic on that Saturday.) Take the subway to Central Park to listen to a Summerstage concert for free, then go to an authentic restaurant and eat something you’ve never tasted before. Sunday morning: wake up really early to go upstate for some rock climbing in the Shawangunk Mountains, enjoy fresh air, quiet and high exposure. Get dinner in a local joint before driving home so you beat the traffic and enjoy driving fast on the George Washington Bridge. Alternatively, drive to the city early, go to Oliva for some Spanish tapas and live Latin music. Ready to go back to lab on Monday!

8. What is the most memorable experience you have had in NYC?

One of my very good friends had an overnight layover in NYC. So he came to my place to stay and as I was making his bed he said that he wanted to see the city. Around 2 a. m. in the morning! So we went to Times Square and then Battery Park. We took the Staten Island ferry, walked to the East Village and to Union Square. After sunrise we went to Central Park and then he took his flight home. It was a surreal experience of the city. Like the scene from the movie, vanilla sky, Times Square was completely empty, but still bright as day.

9. If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?

I have never been, but I have a hunch that it would be San Francisco.

10. Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker?

Yes, because when I got settled here I thought to myself: “Ha! So that’s what was missing in my life!” And I still feel that way. I love leaving the city to travel, but I love coming back to it even more!

September 2012

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