Kerry Minchin moved to NYC from Adelaide when her husband Nick commenced as the Consul-General at the Australian Consulate in New York. She is also the Patron of our group Australian Women in New York. We sat down with Kerry recently to hear about her thoughts on life in the Big Apple.
How long have you been here? And how long will you be staying?
We are two years into a three-year term, and will leave mid-2017 sometime.
Where are you living?
Midtown east, on the East River above the UN Building. It’s a wonderful 1929 Art Deco apartment building that looks straight out on to Freedom Park on Rooosevelt Island.
What do you like/dislike about your area?
I love the East River traffic, everything from the daily working tugs and barges to the jetskiers circumnavigating Manhattan at the weekend to the floating gin palaces draped with beautiful people that pass by. Our building has a fun and interesting community, whom we mostly meet in the gym in the early morning! Midtown east itself is quiet, safe, and I suppose a little dull, by comparison with the rest of Manhattan! We are always heading up or down the island, but the West still feels like a foreign country.
As the C-G’s wife can you describe any specific responsibilities that you have?
My role is to support Nick in his tasks, which involve pretty much whatever the Australian community here – and those passing through – require! Yesterday, for example, we visited Aerofarms in Newark, where a young Australian is at the cutting edge of tomorrow’s agriculture (I’ve tasted the future! Look it up on Google), then checked out Liberty State Park for a possible exhibition match for an Australian sports team, then in the evening we went to a thinktank talk. So lots of visits, help as needed, receptions, lunches, dinners, pretty much whatever comes our way.
How is your life different in NYC to Adelaide?
Where do I start…! I had a teenage daughter still in school, a big garden full of fig and other fruit and nut trees and a veggie garden, which I loved but which took time; I refereed basketball and helped run Norwood Flames, Adelaide’s biggest basketball club. I also worked long and hard on getting support for building a new basketball stadium in the east of Adelaide constructed; in fact the ARC in Campbelltown opened this month, very satisfying to me. I do miss my basketball community.
What do you like about being part of AWNY?
I’m always struck by how capable our women are. They have come halfway across the world and are striking confidently out into all of these extraordinary niches that I usually have no idea even exist. There is always an interesting and exciting conversation to be had, discovering people’s stories and passions.
What’s a typical weekend for your family in NY?
It’s usually pretty quiet, because like most New Yorkers we do our going out and entertaining through the week. My daughter Anna and I might go shopping or visit friends on Saturday morning, then we’ll often head down to the Australian bar for rugby or footy, and I love going to St Bart’s church on Sunday mornings followed by brunch somewhere – the sacred music often runs through my head for days after.
What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NY and how do you overcome it?
First up, the blisters on my feet…. Then the matter of resisting the retail temptations of this most shoppable city, and there is no way I have overcome that!
Seriously, the real challenge for me was finding friends my own age. Most of the people Nick and I were meeting here were fabulous, but they were younger than we are. I remember Nick saying, after we’d been here a few months, that he felt like he’d met a thousand new people … once! It was dizzying, but you need to find friends, and you need a peer group. I was lucky enough to join a Club where I fell into a marvellous warm community of likeminded souls, whom I will miss to pieces when I leave.
What are your favorite ways to connect with Aussie culture in NY?
Nick’s consular work offers a privileged insight into what Australians are doing in NYC, and that covers literally every walk of life. I love hearing about all the new business ideas and the different things people are doing. So much that goes on here is cutting edge, that I often feel that I discover astonishing things practically every other day. For example, we recently met Professor David Sinclair, an Aussie scientist in Boston who has reversed ageing in mice, and who thinks there will be an effective anti-ageing supplement on the market in 3-5 years. His work is almost science fiction.
Anything you miss about Australia?
Apart from the people, the sport – I used to love watching the footy, the ANZ netball and basketball – and the plants. Is that weird? I enjoy this soft, wet and fertile northern hemisphere landscape, but I don’t know or understand it; at home I did. Luckily we have lots of visits from family and friends, and we have two of our 3 children living with us this year, which is heaven, although we both miss our oldest son, who is in Sydney.
What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NY?
The Oculus at the 9/11 site will be a fabulous site and shopping hub, run by Westfield, and it opens in August, do see it; plus the Morgan Library & Museum which most people don’t get to but which preserves the tycoon JP Morgan’s private rooms; and also, do some of the history walks. If you get the right guide, they will make the city come alive for you. If I may have a fourth, the Corning Museum of Glass upstate, which is basically the world centre for all aspects of glass, is one of the most inspiring places I have ever visited, and not as well known as it should be.
What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?
This is a hidden city, full of secret worlds. You will walk along dull grey streets, then someone opens a door and plunges you into an unexpected world of color and vitality that is invisible from the street; everything from the lux Baccarat Hotel to Club 21’s secret underground dining room to the Merchant’s House to the marvelous historic Clubs, this city is endlessly surprising.
Any advice for people moving to NY?
Join up, get out and about. This city has everything to offer, you just have to find it. And don’t expect to ever master the incredibly confusing tv system.
Who are some Aussie ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?
Julie Anne Quay of VFiles, she’s a dynamo and I don’t even begin to understand her business model – but it works!; philanthropist Lisa Fox, who knows everyone and has a passion for Aboriginal Australia where she is pulling together new and exciting ventures; Elizabeth Aris, whose baby is MOSH., a new social media platform for business that she is spearheading here; Georgie Duckworth, who juggles two little boys and does wonderful work for Australia’s wildlife; and Michelle Lee, who markets our wool industry here with Woolmark.
What things do you do to keep home sickness under control?
Having too much fun to be homesick!
Three words to describe New York
Dynamic, exciting, exhausting.
Hidden gem of the city
The MAD Museum at Columbus Circle. Do pull out the unmarked, easy-to-miss jewellery drawers on the First Floor (ie, the 2nd!) and see what you find. And the restaurant at the top has a marvelous view of Central Park.
If you didn’t live in NYC, you would stay the night at… somewhere in Japan. I’m a Japanophile. I love their sophisticated aesthetic, and plan to go walking there with friends soon.
When you need retail therapy, you run to… Ah, so many places! I read Racked and Lazarshopping to see what’s happening, and usually trawl Fifth Ave. There’s always something new and great turning up, like United Nude shoes which are my current passion, but the classics would be Tahari, Club Monaco, Massimo Dutti, Bloomingdale’s, some of the chains like J Crew and Ann Taylor, Uniqlo is a longterm favorite, and I’m a diehard fan of Issey Miyake, genius.
Favorite NYC cultural hotspots
Can’t beat the Museum strip with the Met, the Neue, (I adore the Adele Block-Bauer painting) and all the surrounding museums.
Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice
I’ve gone back to the classics, having had one too many overly sweet cocktails; my picks are pisco sours, caipairinhas and about once a year, a fabulous martini! And Bar Sixty-Five, close by at the Rock, gives you the skyline as well.
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