The city where a parking space is ‘worth more than gold’ – The Irish Times
Landed in New York at the beginning of the summer of 1994, the arrival of Sinead Naughton coincides with the start of the World Cup in the United States. When Ireland beat Italy at Giants Stadium, many parts of the city became a sea of green. “I remember the night we beat Italy and the madness of the 3rd Avenue pubs. It was such an amazing time to be in New York.
Originally from Loughrea, Naughton moved to New York on a Morrison visa, which she said was easy to obtain. “We just received them in the mail. Most of my college class went to New York that summer, but only three of us are still here.
After leaving Tuam boarding school in 1988, during which time she played camogie and won All-Ireland gold, Naughton studied English and history at UCG, now NUIG. “After finishing my BA I decided I wanted to be a teacher so I completed an HDip, also at UCG.”
Shortly after graduating, Naughton left for the Big Apple.
“Ireland was a very different place then. Opportunities weren’t as plentiful as they are now and there was an exodus. So like many others I went to the United States for the summer, with no work planned.
The city became a ghost town, people were working from home, the streets were empty
A chance meeting early on there landed her in a teaching job in the Bronx at the start of the school year. “It was funny because I didn’t have a summer job yet, but I quickly started serving tables and found a fabulous place to live on 110th Street on the Upper West Side. .”
Naughton worked as a history and English teacher at St Philip Neri School in the Bronx for four years, before taking a waitress job at Maloney and Porcelli’s restaurant and moving to the Lower East Side.
“After turning 30, my husband and I decided to travel the world. We were a little older than the average traveler, but we could afford a little more luxury, which was great.
The couple left India in September 2001, landing in Dublin a day before 9/11. “When we heard about the World Trade Center, my father insisted that we tour the territory for entertainment, but we couldn’t get over the horror of what we saw. It was numbing and incomprehensible.
Back in a changed city, Naughton has long avoided the city center, like many others. “I had no place to live, so I couchsurfed for a while, before taking up a teaching job at Vincent Ferrer Private School in Manhattan, where I stayed until 2009. ” Between 2009 and 2016, she taught world history at Trevor Day School. “In 2016, I gave up teaching, deciding to commit myself full-time to our advertising businesses.”
In 2011, she and her husband opened an English pub called Churchill Tavern on Park Avenue and Lexington, adding the Dog & Bone, also a British-inspired tavern with a small grocery store on Third Avenue, to their portfolio in 2017.
“The two pubs kept us busy until 2020, when the pandemic brought Manhattan’s hospitality industry to its knees.
“The city became a ghost town, people were working from home, the streets were empty. In fact, we ended up donating all of our food to people in the community. It was one of the few highlights of the pandemic, which allowed us to give back. But we went through very difficult times.
Just as business was picking up in 2021, the Omicron variant saw bookings cancel and footfall decline. “We are very lucky to be here and appreciate the fact that we are.
“Manhattan’s landscape has changed significantly since Covid-19. Working from home means there are fewer people in the city than before. A lot of people have completely moved out and this is having a huge impact on hospitality. The high cost of living and rents in the area make it impossible for people on low wages to survive, so there is a huge shortage of staff, like in many places.
Like many others, Naughton and her husband left town and moved to Vernon, New Jersey. “We drive into town, which takes about an hour and a half, but we also kept a studio and, most importantly, a parking space in Manhattan. It’s worth more than gold.
“We are opening a pub here in Vernon called the Glenwood. We will be offering American Mediterranean fare, theme nights, and a full bar with infused vodkas. It’s exciting to open something new, which we’ve been planning for a while.
Naughton says the area the couple bought a house in is idyllic. “It reminds me of Ireland. Vernon is home to Mountain Creek Ski Resort and offers incredible hiking and beautiful scenery. We are surrounded by lakes and mountains. Because there is no train connection to New York, you have to take a bus if you are not driving, so real estate is more affordable. It’s a great place to live and an antidote to the hustle and bustle of New York.
Despite recent tough times, Naughton is optimistic New York has room for everyone. “You feed off the success of others. If a new bar opens in the neighborhood, that’s a good thing. It means more people come. The competition is great. Americans thrive there.
Naughton says living outside of Manhattan a few days a week provides welcome respite and a slower pace of life. “But when you come to New York, the energy of the city is unmatched. It is such a powerful force. It’s an incredible city and I couldn’t leave it, despite a failed attempt.
Although he plans to return to Ireland, Naughton is fortunately settled in the United States.
“The Irish have a strong community here and there are great relationships to be built. The Irish network in New York is doing a fantastic job and there’s a lot going on right now. If you’re moving to New York and you’re Irish, I highly recommend hooking up with them. It’s the next best thing to being home.