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Danny Meyer

Owner of Shake Shack, etc; hospitality king


Who are your favorite New Yorkers?
Danny Meyer: Jazz musicians, the parents at my kids’ school and restaurateurs—they make the city feel soulful, smaller, and more delicious.

What’s the biggest thing that’s happened in New York City in the last 13 years?
Danny Meyer: The election of Michael Bloomberg as mayor. His nonpolitical approach to running the city gave New York the gift of reaching much higher to its potential for the arts, for the landscape of the city, for the way we think about transportation, for eliminating smoke in restaurants and other public places and, of course, the consistent reduction in crime, which without nothing good can really happen.

What is your favorite place or thing in New York?
Danny Meyer: My favorite place is whichever sidewalk is beneath my feet because I am just constantly fascinated by walking, and looking and learning. If I’ve already walked a street five times, then the next five times I walk it looking up, and I learn something about the cornices. And if I’ve walked it five times looking at the cornices, then I look at the doors on the buildings. And if I’ve already done that, then I look at the people. It’s the surprise around every corner that never ceases to fascinate me. Outside of that, my favorite place is my own home.

What is your personal favorite moment in New York? Where were you, and what was happening?
Danny Meyer: That’s easy. My personal favorite moment was back in 1984. I’d just finished my last day of work at my first restaurant job, which was a seafood restaurant called Pesca on 22nd Street, where Bolo ended up. I’d had a crush on the woman who is now my wife, Audrey Meyer, who back then was Audrey Heffernan, who was an actress and waitress. We didn’t have our first date until my last night of work. The whole night was my favorite night, beginning with a drink at the Algonquin and then going to see Noises Off on Broadway and then getting drinks at two in the morning at Texarcana on 10th Street. But I think my favorite moment was at the Odeon that night, I completely ripped off a line from a Woody Allen movie I’d seen. It was something like: “I think we both know that eventually we were going to have our first kiss, so it may as well be right now.”

Smooth. What’s the future of New York? What are your hopes, and what needs to happen?
Danny Meyer: Number one is that crime has to continue to be on the decline. You couldn’t have had The Gates if Central Park were a dangerous place to be; you couldn’t have the kind of development that’s going on in Times Square, though some people think it’s too much development. I think that the cultural communities and parks need to continue to be fed. I think that parks are one of the few opportunities that New York has to build community, because we don’t have big piazzas, like they have in Italy. I think that theater and any kind of cultural art, the kinds of things that often get cut from city budgets, not only do the most to improve the quality of life, but I think do the most to attract the dynamic residents that you need to keep the city going. So those would be the three things that I would want to see happen: To keep reducing crime, invest more in parks, and invest more in art and theater.

If you could have a drink with anyone else on this Top 40 list, who would it be?
Danny Meyer: It’s between David Remnick and Joe Torre. I watched Joe play baseball when I was a kid in St. Louis. And then David Remnick I could learn about almost anything from. I think I’d go with David Remnick.…Actually, let me go with Joe Torre. When push comes to shove, baseball is one of my favorite things in the world. I feel like not knowing Joe Torre is a hole in my New York experience.

What does Time Out mean to you?
Danny Meyer: Instant gratification.

Complete this sentence: New York is…
Danny Meyer: …electric.

Next: Elizabeth Marvel >

The New York 40:

Adam Rapp
Amy Sedaris
Anderson Cooper
Basil Twist
Christine Quinn
Christopher Wheeldon
Danny Meyer
David Cross
David Remnick
Derek Jeter
Dick Zigun
Elizabeth LeCompte
Elizabeth Marvel
Eliot Spitzer
Gavin Brown
James Murphy
Joe Torre
John Zorn
Jonathan Lethem
Junot Díaz
Kelly Reichardt
Kiki & Herb
Liev Schreiber
Lisa Phillips
Michael Bloomberg
Nellie McKay
Pat Kiernan
Patti LuPone
Peter Gelb
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Richard Serra
Sarah Michelson
Stephen Colbert
Tim Gunn
Tina Fey
Tony Kushner
Upright Citizens Brigade
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