New York State of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews Amanda Martinez, Associate Director of the Women & Science initiative in the Development Office. Country of origin: USA.

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

I have lived in New York for nine years.

2. Where do you live?

I live in Astoria, Queens.

3. Which is your favorite neighborhood?

My favorite neighborhood is Jackson Heights. It is the intersection of many different cultures. Astoria is a very diverse area as well, but in Jackson Heights this diversity is more pronounced. It’s great to walk around and hear the different languages, smell the different foods, and feel immersed in an international experience only a short subway ride away.

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

I think the most overrated thing in the city is driving. I realize that it is convenient to have a car for weekend getaways or shopping trips. However, I feel that the hassle of owning a car outweighs the perks. I would much rather take the subway or a bus to work every day than navigate city traffic in a car. Parking also seems like a headache, as does dealing with road rage. Also, I have a membership with Zipcar through Rockefeller that I can use on the off chance that I need a car.

The most underrated things in the city are the great parks. When people think of New York, they think of a concrete jungle, but there are great green spaces. Central Park is the most well-known, and certainly a city treasure. I was just at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens with its many soccer fields, fountains, and the remnants of the World’s Fair in the 1960s. My favorite park is Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I used to live close to this park and loved to walk there and enjoyed the summer concert season as well.

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

I miss the conveniences and the variety—and walking! I like that I can easily get to a grocery store and a movie theater without the need of a car. I am fortunate enough to have most every convenience in my neighborhood within 10 or 15 minutes from my apartment. I have lived in other big cities—Boston and Denver—but New York is the most pedestrian-friendly of any of them. It is also becoming a great city for bike riders. I don’t bike, but I appreciate that there are now bike lanes in many places to encourage this mode of transportation.

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

I have to say that it would be the humidity. I come from the Southwest where humidity is non-existent. I hate the feeling of being sweaty and sticky whenever I’m outside, and I also dislike air-conditioning because it is usually too cold for me. Where I come from, it can get hot, but it’s a dry heat that dissipates in the evening.

7. What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

I tend to spend most weekends in my neighborhood, Astoria. My favorite weekend activities include taking my dog to Astoria Park, having brunch, and catching a movie in the afternoon. I also enjoy walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan. My favorite walk is to start in Chinatown and just walk uptown until I get tired or distracted by another activity. The Second Avenue bus is also a great ride if the weather isn’t so great. You can see a number of neighborhoods on your way down.

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

This is a tough question. I think the most memorable experience I’ve had is watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the rooftop of a building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I am actually fortunate enough to have had this experience twice. This was when Macy’s used to have a barge on the East River and the fireworks seemed to be exploding right above our heads. I could see the other firework displays in the distance, too. It was magical. I also enjoyed walking back to the subway after the display and seeing families on the streets barbequing and kids playing together and music blaring out of windows. The feeling was very celebratory and communal.

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

I would live in Santa Fe, New Mexico—my hometown. That is where my family lives and where I plan to return one day. Beyond the familial connection, Santa Fe is a beautiful city that has a small town feel but also has great restaurants, a thriving art and music scene, and other cultural activities.

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

I do consider myself a New Yorker. I am not sure when that happened, or if I can, indeed, rightfully consider myself a New Yorker. I know that when I get off a plane in New York City, I immediately get the comforting sensation of being home. I know and enjoy the neighborhood I live in and I’ve made friends at work and in my community. These are all very affirming things.

I know the most efficient ways to get where I’m going in the city and I can share the same gripes about living here that New Yorkers feel. Sometimes the city can be overwhelming. There are crowds, and it’s expensive, noisy, etc. But there are amazing benefits to living here as well. There are great people, access to many different cultural opportunities and a real sense of community that keeps me here in this great city.

May 2013