Tell Us Your Best New York Story Contest: See the Finalists

Almost a month ago, we announced a contest to win two free tickets to see the new production of A Bronx Tale the musical on Broadway by telling us your absolute best New York story.

We’ve extended the deadline until the end of this Friday, October 7, but we couldn’t wait to share some of the best entries we’ve gotten so far. The stories we got ranged from touching, to funny, to inspirational, but all were distinctly New York.  Here are some of the best.

From Mark K.:

Here’s my story:

I was born and raised on Long Island and as an adult, I chose Manhattan to call my home.

Although nothing can replace the energy of the city, I wanted something in between suburbia and the constant buzz.

I never thought that I would call the Bronx “home” but here I am. After ignoring the bad rap that the Bronx has seemingly earned, I decided to try it firsthand and see if I fit.  To my delight, this is exactly where I want and need to be.

With a 20-minute subway ride, I’m in the heart of Manhattan, but at home I live in a community that is filled with diverse people and cultures that commingle ideas, food and affordability – without the anonymity I felt in Manhattan.  There are so many struggles we choose to make, when you let go of preconceived notions and try new things, it’s an amazing gift to receive.

I am in love with the Bronx as a whole and am a better person, thanks to my daily experiences here. The lesson to be learned is that “people are people” and we all want the same things – to be respected, loved and allowed to live our lives peacefully. My goal is to share that message in my life and work, with whoever I interact with.

While this isn’t a story of a specific event, it is my story of the decisions I’ve made regarding the city and the impact it’s had on me.

From John D.:

On a class trip, back around 1960, we went into the Diamond Exchange District, had some lunch in Chinatown, & finished up at a coffee shop in Greenwich Village, where we were pleasantly surprised, shortly after arriving, by being greeted by one of the most popular TV stars at the time – George Maharis, who was starring, along with Martin Milner, in a new show entitled Route 66. He was gracious enough to spend some time talking to us kids, and that made for a quite enjoyable New York experience.

From Karen C.:

I got to be a star in New York City.

Well, maybe not a star, but close, and it was a day I won’t forget. You see,  I’m not really an actress. Okay, maybe some plays in elementary school but I’m more of a behind the scenes kinda gal. I came across a casting notice looking for background actors for a new television show called Smash  I’d heard of Smash, of course, since I’m a big fan of Broadway. It was a show that I was really looking forward to watching.  So I thought,  background?  I can do that!  I can play a tourist in the city. Not thinking that anything would come of it, I nevertheless entered my information for the casting and went back to work. Not 10 minutes later I got a call. I was cast!

The day of the shoot I was up before dawn with my overnight duffle bag holding my two extra wardrobe choices, my passport for ID,  a water bottle and some snacks. I took the train to the city and found the church where extras were to be held until we were needed. After checking in I found a seat near some friendly faces. We spent most of the day chatting (we were scheduled for a 10 hour day), and I found that I was the only rookie in the group. We were eventually called to parade by the wardrobe people. My choices were analyzed and I was approved, but asked to carry my pink duffle bag for a pop of color. Then we were shuttled to makeup for their approval. No changes there, but I figured as background they would probably only care if there was something extraordinarily wrong or unusual. Then back to sitting.

After six hours or so my group was told to follow Joe and we quickly (very quickly) walked (kinda ran) to the middle of Times Square where a corner was set up with cameras and lots of tech equipment and people diverting the crowds around the area. Someone came and took our jackets. It was supposed to be set in spring but it was only 30 degrees that day. To my surprise,  director Michael Mayer himself came over to our group to tell us that we were part of the final scene of the pilot episode and what he expected. We were simply to walk from one end of the set to the other,  not look at the cameras, and go back to our places when they called cut. Easy.

After the second take he came to me and paired me with a nice guy and asked us to walk in a different direction – now toward the subway entrance where Katharine Mcphee would walk right by us. Fun.We were told we could talk; sound would be edited over later, and she would be singing a song from the show. After maybe 8 takes we were thanked and asked to go back to the holding area. That was it, less than a half hour of actual work.

It turns out that my little scene was one of the most iconic in the show. It’s the scene where Katharine and Megan first sing “Let Me Be Your Star.” That’s what Katharine was singing as she walked toward us.

So now I am a star.  Don’t try to spot me though, my own mother can’t pick me out, but I know I’m there. If I hit pause at just the right spot I can even pick my pink bag out of the blur.

From Serena C.:

A few years ago, I was riding the subway when a man decided to start inspecting his bag of wrapped gifts.

First he opened a small box & took out a medieval looking dagger. He held it up, waved it around a bit, then put it back. Next he pulled out an axe from a larger box & started swinging it. By then everyone in the vicinity had backed away, leaving a nice clear area around him. A few more dangerous looking items all came out of their respective boxes, and trust me, these were not plastic toys.

He finally removed a large sword & vigorously swung it around. The train was nearing my stop when someone said to him, “I’m glad I’m getting off now.” The man, who until then was oblivious to his audience, looked at him aggressively and responded, “what’s that supposed to mean?” I got off that train as fast as possible…

From Jennifer L.:

My New York story started when I was 13 years old. I was a healthy child and all that changed one day.

Right after my birthday on March 4, 1996 I had severe stomach pains. I went back and forth to different doctors and they told my parents there was nothing wrong. Finally after going to many doctors I ended up at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

They told me I was going to need to wait for a heart transplant. I was in the city, but not for pleasure. I was waiting for a second chance at life. It’s extremely hard to know that someone will pass away so you can live.

I couldn’t walk and was on bed rest, attached to different tubes and wires. In a situation like that, the days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months and you just wait. I had a wonderful view of the city but I wanted to live my life. I wanted to see what the city had to offer and be able to do simple tasks again. I actually missed a Broadway show my school was going too while waiting for a heart. You miss many things while staring at the same four walls everyday.

On July 4, they told my parents to get ready to say goodbye to their 13 year old little girl. I was dying, and without a life saving heart transplant I wouldn’t make it. I watched the fireworks, one of my favorite things to do, and waited.

On July 6, 1996 a miracle happened. I was going to receive a heart transplant. My happy ending was gonna be someone else’s tragedy. A young boy named Matthew passed away and saved my life.

I just celebrated my 20 year heart anniversary and I am so grateful for the gift Matthew gave me. I was able to meet Matthews mom for the first time two years ago. There is no gift I can give her to say thank you, but I would love to take her to the play with me. I love Broadway shows but don’t get to go a lot.

That is my New York story and every time I go to New York Presbyterian hospital for a check up I’m extremely grateful.

From D. Lawrence:

Growing up in the Bronx, I literally have thousands of stories to tell, all of them are positive. The Bronx meant everything to me. After losing touch with most of my friends from 30 years ago, I recently reached out to a few to say hello. We reconnected as if we met the day before. In the Bronx, we are friends for life.

While we didn’t grow up with any luxuries, it’s not like we missed out on anything either.
Chatting all night on the stoop, playing stickball against the wall, “hitching” in the snow, playing hide and seek in an apartment building, and hanging out in Orchard Beach didn’t cost anything. For two bucks at Belvedere Pizzeria (now closed) on Buhre Avenue, one could buy 2 slices, a small soda, and have 25 cents left over to play pinball. Today, we’d take a special trip to the Bronx just to go Louie’s and Ernie’s Pizza on Crosby avenue. In the day, Bleacher seats at Yankee stadium were 50 cents. The title of J Lo’s album “On the 6” is the train line that we took from the Bronx to downtown. All my friends referred to Manhattan as downtown. New York City is simply known as “The City.” If I’m outside of NY or even in a foreign country, I sometimes refer to NYC as The City, as if it is the only city in the world. I guess, to me, it’s the only city that matters. Oops.

In the Bronx, visiting the Christmas House on Pelham Parkway was a better and cheaper alternative to the Christmas show at Radio City. To us, we didn’t need Starbucks as deli, candy-store, or bodega coffee was just fine. Fire hydrants had a dual purpose. During those hot summer days, we’d have a ball playing in the street under the heavy of water provided by the hydrant. To me, the Bronx was bliss.

In the Bronx, neighborhoods are defined by street names or Park names. Most of my friends lived in Country Club (Road), Pelham Bay (Park), Castle Hill (Ave), or Woodlawn (Cemetary). Yankee Stadium’s neighborhood is referred to as the Concourse ( Grand Concourse is a major road in the boogie down).

So far, I haven’t told a specific story, but then again I’ll need another few pages to describe neighborhood called Arthur Avenue. Best Italian restaurants and salumerias bar none. I’m not sure if salumeria is a made up word. On Arthur Avenue and in the Bronx, a salumeria is an Italian store that sells meats, sausages, cheese, roasted peppers, olive oil, terra nova bread, etc.

My specific NYC story refers to A Bronx Tale.

In A Bronx Tale, there were two actors that played the role of DeNiro’s son, Cologero a.k.a. “C” to his friends. I went to school with the actor that played DeNiro’s son , “C” or Cologero, when he was in grade school. Coincidentally, my brother went to Mount St. Michael’s High school in the Bronx with Lillo Brancato, the actor that played the older version of “C.”

Legend has it that Lillo was discovered while performing the classic line, “Are you talking to me?” at Jones Beach on Long Island. Before his discovery, my friends and I would watch Lillo, doing the same DeNiro impersonation at Orchard Beach in the Bronx. Lillo looks a lot like a young DeNiro. That day on Orchard Beach, I said to my friend, that kid is going to play alongside DeNiro as his son. I was correct.

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