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The Urban Suburban Basement

Slumber parties, Ping-Pong marathons, Seven Minutes in Heaven. The subterranean high jinks of your teenage years have migrated aboveground and into the city. Here’s how to take part as a grown-up.

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Penumbra Foundation  

Where to:
Use a Darkroom

Get back to pre-Instagram basics at the Bushwick Community Darkroom (1087 Flushing Ave., nr. Porter Ave, Unit 106, Bushwick; 718-218-4023). Show up during open hours (Tuesdays through Sundays noon to 9 p.m.; $12 an hour) to make use of the black-and-white or color darkrooms equipped with Omega and Beseler enlargers. Bring negatives, or have them developed in-house for $6 to $8 a roll. Lapsed Arbuses can take refresher classes in processing and chemistry (from $40), or keep their hands out of the stop bath altogether at the recently launched tintype-portrait studio at the Penumbra Foundation Center for Alternative Photography (36 E. 30th St., nr. Park Ave. S.; 917-288-0343). Sit for a nineteenth-century-style selfie, snapped using a period-authentic large-format camera and “printed” on a sheet of blackened aluminum dipped in silver nitrate. The process takes up to 45 minutes and costs $75 to $95, depending on the size of the keepsake. Book ahead online at capworkshops.org.


Where to:
Pump Vintage Iron

Before PX90, it was just you, a tape deck, and your grandfather’s free weights. Awaken that old Balboa gumption at 36-year-old Frenchie’s Gym (303 Broadway, nr. Marcy Ave., Williamsburg; 718-384-9461). The eponymous septuagenarian owner (né Santos Ramos) worked as a WWF ref in the seventies, but these days he holds court at the bare-bones facility, seeing to its bench presses, lat pull-downs, and timeworn dumbbells. For $30 a month, anyone can work out here and trade barbs with Frenchie, but amenities-seekers take note: There are no TVs or air conditioning.


Where to:
Throw Darts and Dominate Foosball

Some might say that dart tossing, like competitive eating, doesn’t deserve to be called a sport. But one look at Percy’s Tavern (210 Ave. A, nr. 13th St.; 212-473-7770) on a typical Monday or Tuesday—when it’s league night at the Irish pub—will silence all debate. With six wall-mounted boards, ten house teams, and a small supply shop selling flights and stems, the East Village bar is base camp for serious chuckers. (Less-studious throwers can practice their toss in peace Wednesday through Sunday.) Foosball nostalgics, meanwhile, have been gravitating to the newest location of espresso and coffee bar Sweetleaf (135 Kent Ave., at N. 6th St., Williamsburg; 347-725-4862), where owner Richard Nieto has installed a Dynamo Tornado table, presumably to give coffee-wired laptop warriors a creative diversion.


Where to:
Rule at Board Games

Strategists regularly square off at the Sackett (661 Sackett St., at Fourth Ave., Park Slope; 718-622-0437), where the game collection includes Scrabble, Bananagrams, Jenga, Connect 4, checkers, and dominoes. For more physical challenges, track down performance-artist duo HiChristina (hichristina.com). Their periodic Make New Friends party at Culturefix ($10 suggested donation; 9 Clinton St., nr. E. Houston St.; 646-863-7171) culminates in a game of nouveau Twister that subs out color commands for personal details about each of the players (“Right hand on guy who rode a fixed gear to get here”).

Pro Tip:
“Consider what we call ‘leaves’—what you leave on your rack after you’ve made your play but before you draw new tiles. If you’re not leaving behind letters that will promote a better next rack, look for an alternative play. It’s sometimes worth sacrificing points to save a better leave.” —Joe Edley, three-time national scrabble champion


Where to:
Play Ping-Pong

The 2009 opening of table-tennis megaclub SPiN reintroduced terms like penhold, shakehand, and speed drive to the urban gamer’s glossary—but its sexed-up trappings repelled more serious Ping-Pongers. Enter the nine-month-old King Pong Soho (30 Vandam St., nr. Varick St.; 212-255-0205), an ascetic’s table-tennis club with low-glitz and pro-level appointments: eight Joola tables, wood floors with a shoe-gripping finish, and bright lights to help keep one’s eye on the ball. Swing by on Wednesdays (7 to 8:30 p.m.) or Saturdays (12:30 to 2 p.m.) for $25 workshops led by an Olympic Ping-Pong hopeful or a Chinese table-tennis prodigy. Private coaching is $70 an hour.

Pro Tip:
“Hit to the right hip of a righty and the left hip of a lefty, and mix up your serves between fast and slow, long and short. Your opponent can’t prepare for a serve if he doesn’t know where it’s going.” —Marty Reisman, president of Table Tennis Nation


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