In our latest contributor profile, get to know Nicole Saraniero, a staff writer for Untapped Cities and our Insider-in-Chief. A native New Yorker, Nicole manages our Untapped Cities Insiders program, crafting behind-the-scenes experiences for members with partners throughout the city, many of which she has written about, such as the New York Public Library, New-York Historical Society, and more!
Massapequa, New York
What’s your current gig?
Writing for Untapped Cities, creating our Insider experiences and studying historic preservation.
What’s your favorite “untapped” spot in the city?
Ever since starting to work for Untapped Cities, and especially on the Insiders program, this has become so hard to pick because I have so many more favorite Untapped spots now! The Museum of the American Indian is one of them. The fact that you could be completely unaware of a place like that amazes me. There are just so many grandiose buildings in New York City, and you don’t know what amazing things you are going to find inside.
What places are on your NYC bucket list?
I’ve never actually stepped onto Liberty Island. I’ve stopped there on the ferry on the way to Ellis Island and I’ve flown above it. Now, especially with the new museum, I want to visit the Statue of Liberty. I also want to get into all the fancy and historic private social clubs somehow.
Last trip taken:
Buffalo, New York and I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t get enough of the architecture. There are so many cool places that are being readapted, like their old grain silos. I stayed in a hotel that used to be the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, built almost 150 years ago. The building was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and the grounds were designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted so it was gorgeous, with a slight creepiness that only enhanced the experience for me. The official story is that there are no ghosts, but, come on. The complex was abandoned for almost fifty years and I got to go inside some of the un-renovated buildings. I was in my glory.
Where do you want to visit next?
I just booked trip to Chicago! I recently went to St. Louis, which was my introduction to the midwest, so I’m excited to see more of that region.
Favorite mode of transportation:
I love trains. I wrote about Amtrak’s last Great Dome Car for Untapped and really enjoyed getting to ride it. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I love the LIRR. It usually gets me where I need to go on time and I can read, I can sleep, eat, get work done, look out the window. It’s great.
What makes New York City great to you?
What makes New York City great to me is also the part that overwhelms me sometimes. It’s that there is so much to see and do all of the time. Like I mentioned before, about how many amazing buildings there are and so many places I would love to see the inside of. You can never see it all!
What would you change about New York City?
How dirty the subway stations are and the garbage on the street.
Favorite piece you’ve written for Untapped Cities:
I was really proud of the first piece I wrote, about a door in the World Trade Center subway station that is from the original 1970s station and has markings from 9/11 rescue missions, because it was one of my first “untapped” discoveries. I also really loved working on The Top 10 Secrets of the Masonic Grand Lodge, because I got to learn the secrets of the Masons!
Book you’re reading:
I’m juggling a few. One Summer by Bill Bryson which is a snapshot of America in the summer of 1927, Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, and an audiobook of Theodore Rex. After watching TNT’s The Alienist, in which Teddy Roosevelt as New York City’s police commissioner is a character, I’ve been going down a long term rabbit hole of learning more about Teddy Roosevelt.
Last movie or show you watched:
I’m about ten years too late here, but I just finished watching The Sopranos. My laptop died in the middle of the last scene, so I feel like I got the authentic experience anyway.
Tell us one surprising thing about yourself?
I do background work on movies and television shows sometimes. I started doing it in college as a way to make extra money and be on film sets, since I was a film major. One of my favorite gigs was being an extra on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I loved getting in costume and getting my hair done 1950s style.
If you could go back in time, which time period of New York City would you like to be in?
I would like to spend one week in New York City during the roaring twenties.
What is the last thing in New York City that stopped you in your tracks?
I just went to Harlem for our Insiders tour of Hamilton Grange and while I was up there I walked around the campus of City College. I’d seen pictures, but I never visited. I felt like I was in Europe, not New York City.
Favorite fun fact about New York City?
That the lions at the library are named Patience and Fortitude, but I just learned that they actually don’t have official names!
What’s the last thing you took a photo of?
I’m constantly taking random photographs of buildings that catch my attention, but the last photograph I took was of the Brooklyn Bridge on the way back from Governors Island. I got on the wrong ferry and took a detour to Brooklyn on my way back to Manhattan, but it just meant more time to enjoy the views.
You can follow Nicole’s travels @NicoleSaraniero on Instagram and read