Jessica Ma

Journalist. Poet. Hopefully, city-bound.


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Catching Forty Winks in the City that Never Sleeps

The other morning, I woke up at 6:19 a.m., exact, to the sound of “morning mist” because that’s when my sleep tracking app sensed I would be in my “lightest sleep phase” and therefore most receptive to starting my day with a smile. I spent the next 11 minutes wishing I was asleep again, or maybe just dead*.

Like many millennials, I don’t get enough sleep. Ever. Even on weekends, I’m just catching up on the zzzs I haven’t gotten throughout the week — sleep debt, as it’s sometimes called (as if I weren’t in enough debt as it is). On a typical weekday morning, I wake up somewhere around 6:30, roll out of bed with much groaning 15 minutes later, attempt to make myself look like a put-together adult, then try to fall asleep on the hour-long bus ride around 7:40. It’s never a refreshing nap, nowhere close to a comfortable one, but it’s a little more sleep and it keeps strangers on the bus from making small talk with me when I’m barely functional.

But on this fateful morning, I did not get to drift off on the Garden State Parkway while jostling for control of the armrest with another commuter. No, instead, I had taken the bus in with my dad and found myself at Port Authority a full hour and 35 minutes before I had to be at work.

This is how I found myself taking a $12 nap in Midtown.

Nap York's Exterior

The entrance to Nap York, located on the corner of 36th St. and 7th Ave, featuring two New Yorkers who are probably well-rested enough for the day.

I don’t remember where I’d first heard of Nap York (probably the Internet), but I definitely remember being intrigued by the idea. A place in Manhattan where I could nap and frivolously spend money? Count this millennial in!

When I arrived, I was greeted with green: plants lining the windows, covering the walls, segmenting the space. I fought the urge to take a picture of some freshly-pressed juice in front of it all.

An attendant behind a small counter explained my sleep options: for 30 minutes, I could nap in “business” class for $10 or “first class” for $12. The business class pods — which are stacked one on top of the other like very snug bunk beds — reminded me too much of those mausoleums where people are stuffed in the walls like filing cabinets. So I splurged on a first class pod (also, when could I ever say that I could afford first class again?). The attendant gave me a buzzer, the same kind you’d get while waiting for a table at a restaurant, and sent me off to Slumber Land.

Up one flight of stairs was a small yoga studio, separated from the passageway to the nap pods by yet more plants. I was briefly startled by someone in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the lotus position; this was partly because I didn’t realize there are people who actually enjoy waking up early to exercise and partly because I didn’t have my glasses on, so what I thought was a nice Buddha statue was actually just some rare morning-person. (They’re rare, right? No one’s really functional before 11:00, right?)

Speaking of not having my glasses on, I highly recommend being able to see if you visit Nap York, or you may have some difficulty locating…

The Pods

Yoga floor

You’d think it’d be hard to miss that glaring sign among all the greenery, but keep in mind, these are some impressive plants.

Granted, in addition to being blind, I’m also not great with directions, so you can understand how I wound up a floor above where I was supposed to be.

On the building’s fourth floor are the business class pods which, in the dark, looked about as crypt-y as I imagined they might (though Nap York’s Instagram will try to convince you otherwise with good lighting). However, I did also stumble upon a laundry station; Nap York’s FAQ says the pods are cleaned after each use, so consider that fact checked and verified.

Seeing that these pods were labeled #11 and up, and using the education I paid over $130,000 for which was definitely not overpriced at all, I eventually figured out I was supposed to be one floor below and made my way to Pod #1.

To answer the question probably burning in your mind, yes, the pods seemed clean and bedbug-free. The mattress was covered in a bedbug-protective case (you’ll remember these bad boys from college if you were as terrified of bugs as I am). The pillow looked crisp white and the pod came with a towel which I later realized was probably for sleeping on and not to be used as a blanket.

Yes, I slept under a towel like some Dickensian wretch.

As I said, I didn’t have my glasses on, and those pods are dark. I realized at the end of my session the pods do come with very soft blankets, located in a pouch on the left wall of the pod. If anyone who works at Nap York happens to be reading this, here’s a real review: when you ask someone if it’s their first time napping in a pod, maybe consider explaining the amenities within the pod before they leave the counter. Yes, I could have searched around the pod a little before settling in, but I only had 30 minutes to nap. Time was of the essence.

Pod Photo Comparison

How I wanted my photo of the pod to turn out (from Nap York’s website) vs. how it actually turned out because dammit, a smartphone camera can only do so much in the dark.

And so, with a solid playlist, I settled in for my nap.

Napping somewhere that’s not a bedroom was both easier and harder than I expected.

Easier in that I did manage to fall asleep fairly quickly. In the interest of journalistic honesty, I have been known to fall asleep pretty much anywhere, any time: in a karaoke room while other people are jamming out to *NSYNC, after being in a car for five minutes, even sitting upright while working on a news broadcast at my college radio station.

But the pod also lends itself to a very calming atmosphere: the curtain at entrance to the pod effectively blocks out any light from beyond the thick wooden walls, a fan in the hallway provides white noise, and the ceiling of the pod even has twinkling lights to simulate sleeping under the stars. (Some grouches in other online reviews found this distracting because they hate fun; the lights are able to be turned off, if you also have a distaste for whimsy.)

But as much as I love to sleep, it was harder to conk out than I imagined, mostly because it just felt so weird. Here I was at 8:30 a.m. trying to go back to sleep, knowing that just outside, thousands of New Yorkers were yawning on the subway and sipping coffee on the sidewalk. I did my best to empty my mind; in the first five minutes or so, I became hyper aware of my legs. Were they always this heavy? What the hell do I normally do with my legs when I sleep? Falling asleep was almost a conscious choice I had to make.

I was pleasantly surprised with how long 30 minutes actually lasted. I found myself naturally waking up then drifting off again twice before the buzzer went off. When I pulled back the curtain, a different attendant was waiting outside the pod to gather my pillow, towel, and I guess not my blanket for cleaning, though they’re probably thorough enough to just grab it all.

I stepped back into the morning feeling refreshed.

Snapchat-1386334606

The author taking a selfie as she prepares to pass out, this goddamn millennial.

Though a 30-minute nap could never replace a full night’s sleep, I felt infinitely better than I typically did after my longer naps contorted in a Greyhound Bus seat. Now, at $10 to $12 per 30 minutes, I’m not planning to make Nap York a daily or even weekly pit stop. But it’s comforting to know that if I ever find myself in midtown desperately needing a nap, I’ll have better options than sneaking into the Macy’s bedroom displays.

Sleep tight, New York.

*To my parents and any non-millennials/Gen-Z-ers reading this: I don’t actually want to be dead. People my age and younger just like to JOKE about being dead; it’s our humor de rigueur to deal with an increasingly uncertain and terrifying future. And to deal with waking up at 6 a.m. on Mondays.

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Martins, Suozzi Face Off in AARP Debate for Senior Citizens Issues

Candidates for the 3rd Congressional District of New York Senator Jack Martins (R) and former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D) took to the stage in an AARP-sponsored debate to discuss senior citizens’ concerns on October 24, 2016 in Albertson, NY.


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Power Through Poetry

Hofstra’s spoken word group SP!T celebrates National Poetry Month with its second annual showcase, featuring a slam poem competition and an open mic session.

For some, poetry is a tool to promote activism or help cope with struggles they face. Three members of SP!T talk about how they see poetry as a means of empowerment.


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University Club Sports Keep Passions Alive

Jazmine Gonzalez has no doubts about her lacrosse skills. “I knew I wasn’t good enough for a D1 [Division 1] team,” she says. But that didn’t deter her.

The junior radio production major is a goalie for Hofstra University’s women’s club lacrosse team. In this video, she explains how her love for the sport couldn’t be stifled.


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SantaCon is Coming to Town

You may have heard of Comic Con or VidCon–conventions for comic book fans and YouTubers, respectively–but have you ever heard of SantaCon? Today marked the 16th annual SantaCon in New York, where thousands of people, dressed up as Santa and other Christmas-related people and/or beings, take over the city’s already-busy streets.

The New York Times describes the event as “a daylong bar crawl,” which has caused controversy in the neighborhoods the Santas walk through. Last year, SantaCon passed through Hell’s Kitchen; police lieutenant John Cocchi said the con-goers were responsible for “urinating, littering, vomiting and vandalizing.”

This year, in an effort to repair their tainted reputation, the organizers of SantaCon shared the route–which changes every year–with the authorities. According to the NY Times, the convention organizers have also gathered “‘helper elves’ to guide Santas who stumble off the path.”

Despite the bad press, SantaCon is trying to do some good. The bars which are part of this year’s route will donate a percentage of their profit’s during SantaCon to Toys for Tots, a charity which provides Christmas presents to underprivileged children.

Now, I’m always excited for a party, no matter the reason. In theory, SantaCon sounds great! People looking to spread Christmas cheer in the sometimes mean streets of New York; what’s not to love? However, as the article mentions, the drunken revelry poses a nuisance and potential danger to the neighborhoods. SantaCon ultimately winds up sounding like another excuse to drink excessively and then make bad decisions.

While I applaud SantaCon for its charitable efforts, its unruly reputation isn’t doing it any favors. Instead of spending an entire day drinking, perhaps each con-goer could bring one or two presents with them and spend the morning handing them out to shelters for families in underprivileged neighborhoods. After all, about 30,000 people attended SantaCon last year; combined with the proceeds from participating bars, this would greatly help out charities that seek to give underprivileged kids toys.

And isn’t giving–not drinking–what Christmas is all about?


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Warning: This Post is Not for the Faint of Heart

Map of abandoned mental asylums in greater New York Area.

A few weeks ago, I was on the popular humor website Cracked.com, reading an article about some of the creepiest places on Earth. I was surprised (and slightly terrified) to see Creedmoor Psychiatric Center and Kings Park Psychiatric Center on the list: my college campus is only 20 and 40 minutes from these institutions, respectively. However, it piqued my interest. If there were two mental institutions in Long Island alone, how many were there in the greater New York area?

This map has the location of seven abandoned mental institutions in Long Island, New Jersey, and part of New York state.

Now, a simple Google search of “abandoned mental institutions in New York/New Jersey” will reveal that there are definitely more than seven institutions in these two states. However, many of these buildings have been completely torn down, whereas I wanted to focus on asylums that are still at least partially standing.

A quick disclaimer: most of these locations are closed to the public and trespassing is illegal. If you choose to visit any of these sites, you do so at your own risk.

Happy exploring…