For the last week, Gothamist has been exploring the unexpected joys and under-explored corners within one of the most reviled—but perhaps misunderstood—neighborhoods in NYC. That included visits to authentic luncheonettes, hidden tennis clubs, bargain massage parlors, the Diamond District, and the Empire State Building, as well as essays on street photography, public space, the Midtown martini, and growing up in the city.
Like many of you, I entered this week a bitter Midtown skeptic who couldn't think of a single thing he enjoyed about the area. But I'm happy to say that after reading through many of the pieces, I have a newfound appreciation for the locals who grew up or made their home there, for the people who work in the area who have forged communities, found extracurricular activities, and discovered beauty within the chaos. It's not for everyone, but it has plenty to offer to anyone with an open mind and an ability to flawlessly sidle around tourists on the sidewalks.
To wrap up our coverage, we sent photographer Sai Mokhtari out to Midtown this week to ask REAL people what THEY loved about THE area.
For Michelle, Midtown is filled with memories. She grew up around the area, and likes the Times Square art installations like the snow globes currently on display: "They're fun and always changing." She says the area makes her happy.
Raffi, who was from visiting from Maine, said he sees Midtown as the "epicenter of one of the most innovative developments of the 21st-century...the concentration of commerce and culture, mix of corporate, commerce and the arts."
Jose, 15, lives in Astoria, but he and his friends like to hang out in Midtown and wander all around it "because of the views." He describes it as "overwhelming in a good way. Hypes you up." His friend Lesli agreed, and said she loves the lights of Times Square, and thinks it's beautiful at night. "You put your phone down to look around. So much happening. Everything is big."
Juliet says she loves the theatre district.
Jay lives and works in Midtown, and sees it as a melting pot. It has "so many sights—but that also brings tourists in. There's good and bad to all of it." While it isn't his favorite neighborhood in the city, he likes the older "mom and pop" shops that have been here forever.
Margot, who is French, was visiting her father who lives in the city. She said she likes the shopping in the area.
Evelyn, who was visiting from New Jersey, was in the area to take a class with her friends on "London, Paris & New York In The 20th Century." She tries to avoid Times Square and all the tourists, but she loves Bryant Park and the New York Public Library.
Francis, who lives in Coney Island, was also in the area to take that "Paris, London and New York in the 20th Century" class. Her favorite thing about Midtown is the energy. She also likes feeding the birds.
Lisa and Pablo (seen here with Coco the dog) said they appreciated the convenience of Midtown.
Nate lives in Brooklyn, but works in Midtown. “It feels like it’s the real New York. There's more city history here."
Ruth and Kim, who were visiting the city from Pennsylvania, said they enjoyed the sense of community in the neighborhood. "Midtown is the best. Bryant Park is amazing. The transformation is incredible. There are so few places in the city you can just enjoy people and people watch."
Victor has complicated feelings about Midtown: he tries to avoid Times Square because of the tourists and "bad food," but he loves the nearby parks and that "it's safe to walk around at night."
Blaze works in Midtown. Bryant Park is her favorite thing about the area, though there are "not enough restaurants out here."
Sebnem, who was with her daughter Eva, were at Bryant Park for the market. They live in the suburbs currently, but are hoping to move to Midtown next year, because they love everything about it, especially the people watching. Eva added that she likes the Bryant Park carousel.
Joe, Laura and Frank all live in Connecticut, but were in town "settling a Super Bowl bet." Joe had to buy Frank lunch at PJ Moran's Pub & Restaurant, which is their favorite bar in the city.
Jane said she loves how chaotic Midtown is, and all the socio-economic diversity. She noted that the food isn't great ("The food is uncharacteristically poor for NYC"), but her neighborhood faves are "Beyond Sushi" and "Hunan House."
Cleveland and his son Huntyr both work in Midtown. Their favorite thing is the convenience: "Everything is nearby!" The food isn't their favorite, but there are lots of happy hour spots. Huntyr also thinks that Hell's Kitchen has become the new "gayborhood."
Alex likes that it's "always open. Always active. Never asleep."
Margarita and Tracy, who are from New Jersey, were in town to see Waitress on Broadway. They love the Bryant Park market, and "the energy" of Midtown in general.
Maddy and Andy, who were visiting from LA, said their favorite things are the shops and all the lights.
Mara lives in Hamilton Heights, but was hanging out in Midtown with a friend from out of town. Her favorite thing in the area is Radio City Music Hall.
Stan and Esther's favorite part of Midtown is the ice skating: "This is pretty cool."
Ben said his favorite thing about Midtown is Dave & Buster's, which he calls the most wholesome date spot in NYC. He can be seen here hanging out in the giant claw machine, which he says makes him feel "safe."
And to conclude our weeklong Midtown journey, we posed a question on Twitter: do you like Midtown yet? You can check out the results below, but clearly, a lot of people have never been to Dave & Buster's...