New York State of Mind

To celebrate 10 years of Natural Selections, this month we are reprinting an interview with Zach Veilleux, Executive Director of Communica- tions and Public Affairs. Country of origin: USA. The original interview was published in the April 2004 issue.

How long have you been living in New York City?

I moved to the city in the summer of 2001 from Allentown, Pennsylvania, where I had lived for five years. I needed a change of scenery.

Where do you live?

Just off York Avenue on 75 th Street.

Which is your favorite neighborhood?

It depends. To live in, the Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights or Battery Park City – I like being near the water. For eating dinner and walking around, I like Tribeca and the West Village. For character, Canal Street. For architectural flavor, the Financial District.

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

Overrated: They call this the city that never sleeps, but it’s hard to find a video store open past midnight, and you can’t get decent sushi later than 10:30 p.m. Underrated: The Roos- evelt Island Tram. Most people don’t even know it’s there and even those of us who work a few blocks away rarely ride it. Take it at night. It’s the best $2 you can spend in the city.

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

The energy. Just standing on a busy street corner in New York City is both exhilarating and exhausting. Every so often I need a break from it, and yet once I leave I start to wonder why everything seems so quiet and slow.

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

Trash on the sidewalk. We’re the most evolved society in the world but we put our rotting food on our front doorsteps and let our dogs use the sidewalks as open sewers.

Describe a perfect weekend in NYC.

A long bike ride along the Hudson; a round trip on the Staten Island ferry; walking over the Brooklyn Bridge at night; eating at a sidewalk café I’ve never been to before, will never go to again and don’t bother to notice the name of; visiting the gorillas at the Bronx zoo; a long nap – in no particular order.

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

The first night I moved to New York I spent in the Lenox Hill emergency room, waiting four hours to get a tetanus shot after cutting my thumb on a metal fan blade. I made friends with a girl who sprained her ankle. She turned out to be crazy. I hadn’t even lived here 12 hours and I’d had the entire New York experience–danger, perseverance, romance and heartbreak, all of it totally superficial.

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

I’ve always thought my own tropical island would be nice. Beyond that, I’m not picky.

Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker? Why?

I pay the exorbitant rent; as far as I’m concerned, the title comes with it.