New to the Neighborhood: The Old World Charms of the Financial District

“New to the Neighborhood” is a recurring series in which we profile New Yorkers who have recently relocated to a new (to them) part of the city to get the scoop on their new neighborhood’s hidden gems. For this installment we met Julie Ragolia, Fashion Director for Man of the World magazine, and her boyfriend Duncan McVerry, Finance Director For the Barbarian Group, for a tour of the Financial District. 

Julie Ragolia and Duncan McVerry

Julie Ragolia, Duncan McVerry and Ziggy in their apartment. Photo by Arman Dzidzovic

We met Julie Ragolia, her boyfriend Duncan McVerry and Julie’s French bulldog Ziggy on a beautiful Saturday morning at their FiDi apartment, where they’ve been living since September 2013. Before that Ragolia lived in Chinatown, while McVeery resided in Greenpoint in Brooklyn. It took us a moment or two to get our bearings wandering the narrow, winding streets, but the charms of the neighborhood were immediately obvious.

As we left their sunny apartment for a walk with Ziggy, McVerry and Ragolia explained they had decided on moving to the Financial District for a number of reasons: McVerry’s daughter goes to school nearby, his work was in TriBeCa and the location allowed Ragolia to get around Manhattan easily for work. The neighborhood was more than just convenient, however. As we walked down toward the Seaport Ragolia explained, “One of the things that is exciting for me down here is that I’m from this town, I’ve lived here all my life, but [FiDi] kind of feels like this Gotham environment, just like ‘Oh yeah, I’m in New York.”

Though the Financial District might be best known for towering skyscrapers and Wall Street clichés, there are charming apartments throughout as well. Some of the buildings they looked at, McVerry said, boasted custom apartments that were “anything but cookie cutter” (though they could be rather small). While one might expect the business-centric neighborhood to be a bit sleepy on the weekends, the weather had brought out parents, children and plenty of dogs, all enjoying the warmth of the sun after a particularly brutal winter.

“It was surprising,” Ragolia said. “I thought we’d have to leave the neighborhood a lot more in order to find what you’re used to in other areas, but up here at the seaport is an incredible sushi place, SUteiShi, and it’s phenomenal and there’s always a seat!”

Julie Ragolia

Julie Ragolia photo by Arman Dzidzovic

Down at the border of the Seaport, where paved roads gave way to cobblestones, McVerry paused to snap a photo of a poster for children’s movies being shown outdoors beginning Memorial Day Weekend — The Muppets, Wall-E, The Karate Kid  and other usual suspects. Ragolia explained that in the winter there was an ice skating rink set up, making for a particularly kid-friendly environment. We crossed the cobblestones to get to a small open-air coffee kiosk.

“Work takes me to so many places,” Ragolia explained while we waited for our coffees. She had just finished a stint freelancing for Brooks Brothers in addition to her work at Man of the World. “In my private life I like having that sense of grounding and just knowing where everything is.” Though she said she liked to think of herself as being adventurous, she admitted she and McVerry tended to favor the same restaurants and bars, though “Duncan never remembers anything [about where they went]!”

Nonetheless, having Ziggy to walk has helped them to explore the neighborhood more deeply than they might have otherwise.

“Very often, especially if I walk further south, I get lost,” Ragolia said, “And that’s when you end up finding some place [that makes you think] ‘Huh, what’s this Italian place?’ or ‘What’s this random bar?’”

We strolled further into the Seaport, careful to keep to the right (Ziggy always walks on Ragolia’s left). We passed The Salty Paw, a pet store where Ragolia had commissioned a bespoke coat for Ziggy. “They measured him and everything!” she says, befitting for a dog belonging to a menswear stylist. Ragolia pointed out Il Brigante, a restaurant she and McVerry liked, and both were delighted to walk past a café with an A-frame sign boasting “house-made donuts.”

“I think we may have found our local donut source,” Ragolia said. “My old apartment used to be very close to the donut plant, and it was sort of a ritual on the weekends [to go with McVerry].”

Eventually we came to a corner where McVerry and Ragolia ran into a friend of theirs walking his dog. After questioning McVerry about the cast on his wrist — an injury sustained from playing football at Chelsea Piers — he recommended Nelson Blue, a restaurant across the street serving New Zealand fare that until recently had been closed for repairs following Hurricane Sandy.

“He knows more about the neighborhood than we do!” Ragolia joked, as her friend also advised that they try the Bloody Marys at The Growler. Ziggy had laid down to bask in the sunlight, clearly unaware that he had more ground to cover – Ragolia and McVerry planned to walk to Chelsea to check out a few galleries later that day.

Before we parted, Ragolia and McVerry repaid their pal with a recommendation of their own, for a cocktail bar that they had recently discovered nearby.

“Don’t write about this one!” she said to us.  They wanted to keep a couple of their neighborhood secrets to themselves.

Photo by Arman Dzidzovic

Photo by Arman Dzidzovic

Douglas Elliman