Deborah Heard is a familiar, smiling face around Hell’s Kitchen with her dogs Max and Princess — and often with an extra pup she’s dog sitting. Here’s her West Side Story…
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I was born and raised in New York City and grew up on the Lower East Side, Water Street and Montgomery. Growing up back then was so much different. We did things together in the projects. Rode our bikes at night to Central Park, the whole neighborhood. Played paddle ball, and the Budweiser Paddle ball Tournaments, went bowling at Bowlmore Lanes. So different! When the police said don’t do it, we didn’t do it. They would have us at our door in a minute, in front of our parents. We had barbecues and dances with the police. Those were the days! Then I moved to Brooklyn Heights, Jay and Tillary Street and resided there for 20 years. For 13 years I’ve lived in Hell’s Kitchen, first at Clinton Housing and now I’m seven years at Sky on W42nd Street.
What was your first job? What do you do now?
As a teenager, the summer youth program. For my first real job, I worked for the Department of Agriculture. I was a special enumerator for the 1978 Census. I was stationed on the Bowery, during the football playoffs. That didn’t turn out well — nobody wants to hear you talking during the playoffs! My next job was as an office aide in the emergency room at Bellevue Hospital. After two years, Bellevue Hospital sent me to respiratory school and I became a Respiratory Technician. They sent me back to school a second year to become a Respiratory Therapist, then I continued and became a Licensed Registered Respiratory Therapist. I went on to get my PhD. I worked Americorps at the same time as I worked for the City. Through Americorps, I worked educating people on domestic violence, in residential programs, homes and schools, together with Victim Services and the 19th Precinct in Brooklyn. I also did tutoring with Americorps for middle and high school students.
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
My favorite and funniest New York minute was playing tic tac toe against the United States Navy scuba diver in Times Square. He was in a tank and I was on the outside playing him. I told my friend Debbie, if I lost I would have to do pushups in the middle of Times Square. I don’t think so. So we all know he lost. Yes, I beat him. I love the different things you come across in Times Square. Another favorite moment while working at Bellevue Hospital, every year the doctors, nurses, administrators would play the FDNY at baseball in Jackson Park, East River, a baseball field located by the fireboat dock. We would have breakfast at the firehouse and then go off to play ball. And yes the FDNY cheated. Then we all would go out on the Fireboat up the East River as they sprayed the hose.
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
I love the people. I walk everywhere with my dogs. Max and Princess. He’s the noisy barking Jack Russell. I talk to everyone. Love the tourists. I remember growing up as a teenager, we would go to the arcade, the movie theaters, step out of the movie theaters and watch the ball drop on New Year’s.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
Bringing people and the community together. Advocating for our furry friends. Holding dog parties at Pier 84 Dog Park. It’s such a joy to see people have so much fun. I think the dog owners have more fun than the fur babies! What’s so awesome is everyone participates. Kaneka, Diana and her daughter decorate, Miki puts the bags together. Everyone does something — that’s what makes it so great.
My superpower is bringing people together. The best way is in a dog park. I love it. I also have a great sense of humor and love to make people laugh. Yes, I’m a clown!
What else should we know about you?
I’m a friendly person and love helping people. On holidays I cook and take food to people who don’t cook or just to make sure a person ate, especially holiday time. I get along with everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from. This is why I like having dog parties at Pier 84 Dog Park. I thank Hudson River Park Trustees for allowing me to do it. Also, I get to advertise for the businesses in Hell’s Kitchen. One of the greatest dog parties was at Halloween, it was awesome to have a very dear friend of mine, Ron B, from the cable show No Boundaries, attend with his wonderful staff. It’s always a pleasure to have Councilman Erik Bottcher at our event. I think he is so awesome. I’m an outgoing person, I walk and dog sit Oliver, a little dog who thinks he’s a Rottweiler, and Georgie, who says don’t touch me. I get all the dogs with personality! I love animals — I’ve been a member of the United States Humane Society for many years. I also advocate for the carriage horses.
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Deborah’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
Sticky’s Finger Joint —598 9th Avenue (bw W42/43rd St)
My nephew Brandon, got me stuck on Sticky’s. I love the 16-piece poppers and the Cajun Fries. Can’t forget the honey sauce.
King Crab legs, shrimps, baked potatoes and salad. Oh wait, can’t forget the cheddar cheese biscuits. Sometimes we all get together and go for lunch. Catching up on old times is fun, especially when you haven’t seen each other in years.
McQuaids — 589 11th Avenue (bw 11th/12th Ave)
Great Chicken wings and fish fries. I’m a corn beef and cabbage person. Great atmosphere.
Ollie’s Sichuan — 411 W42nd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
They make a great Mongolian beef. It’s delicious.
Yes everyone, I went there. I love my McDonald’s. Sausage egg McMuffin, Big Mac, chicken nuggets and fries. Dessert apple pie and chocolate milkshake. Super size it. And yes, Justin they still super size it.
Broadway Deli and Cafe — 515 W42nd Street (bw 10th/11th Ave)
Love the cheese burgers, raw onions, ketchup and mayo with french fries. Nice atmosphere.
Obao — 647 9th Avenue (bw W45/46th St)
The place for honey tamarind glazed spare ribs.
Yum Yum Too — 662 9th Avenue (bw W46/47th St)
Like the food here.
China Gourmet — 877 8th Avenue (bw W52/53rd St)
My favorites here are vegetable fried dumplings and Beef with Oyster sauce. Roast pork egg foo yung is also great.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I love the dog parks Pier 84 Dog Park and Astro’s Community Dog Park. The people are awesome. Dog parks bring the community together. It’s sad to see so much violence. The violence has to stop, because all lives matter.
You can follow Deborah on Instagram @heard_debbie. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself) please fill in this form — w42st.info/WSSnominations
You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.