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Diana Kusko is an advisor on senior living who moved to the neighborhood 12 years ago — “it just feels right,” she says. Diana is W42ST’s former dating columnist and a keen scuba diver. This is her West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I’m born and raised in East bumble F@%k, Long Island and moved around about a dozen times growing up, eventually inching my way west and settling into Hell’s Kitchen.
What was your first job? What do you do now?
My first job was Auntie Anne’s Pretzels in Smith Haven Mall after a complete server fail across the way at the Italian restaurant. It is my first job because I quit the Italian restaurant after two days and so I became the mall pretzel girl, eventually working my way up to running the pretzel cart in the middle of the mall, lol. My career is in senior living, meeting with amazing older urban adults and helping them navigate the next chapter in their lives via community living in Hudson Yards.
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
The moment that first comes to mind is moving into Manhattan and crossing over the Queensboro Bridge in a van with all of my worldly possessions, and my late kitty Diva on my lap. It must have been around 13 or 14 years ago, in my late 20s and newly divorced. I remember how beautiful the skyline was and feeling nervous and excited about this new chapter in my life in the city, and then Diva peed on me midway over the bridge. She was just as excited as I was!
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
Hell’s Kitchen is the first time I’ve felt like I have a home. I have been in the neighborhood for 12 years and whenever I come back from a trip or from work it just feels right — like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I have a couple of very good friends who have also been in the neighborhood for a very long time and they have become family to me. Specifically my neighbor, Tommy, who is like the big brother I’ve never had. He always looks out for me.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
I can touch my tongue to my nose and breathe underwater! Well, underwater via scuba! I actually got PADI certified 10 years ago at Pan Aqua Diving on 43/10th. I can also make doggie bowties.
What else should we know about you?
I run the NYC Half Marathon every year for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Having lost my dad to depression, sister to an accidental fentanyl overdose, and recently my mother, I’m a proponent for mental health awareness and therapy services. I have an 11-year-old rescue dog, Valentino, with crazy black hair who thinks he owns the block with all of his might at 14lbs! Dogs are the best! They never judge and are always happy to see you. I’m the former dating columnist for W42ST — also single and looking for the avocado to my toast!
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Diana’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
On the Rocks — 696 10th Avenue (bw W48/49th St)
My first apartment in HK was four floors above On the Rocks and I love seeing Howie in the window.
Hold Fast —364 W 46th Street (bw W8th/9th Ave)
HF is just an awesome neighborhood place and they make a great martini. #TheMartiniPhiles.
Hudson River Pier 86 — W46th Street at the Intrepid
I love taking Val (Valentino) for walks here and also running down the West Side Highway when training for the half. West side is the best side! It is a great place to simply clear your head.
Friedmans — 450 10th Avenue (bw W35/36th St)
Great for a bite after work. I usually sit at the small bar area.
Manhattan Aquariums — 522 W37th Street W36/37th St)
They set up my beautiful aquarium about four months ago and my fish are still alive. Visiting the store is like going to a mini-aquarium in the middle of the city. I’m a nerd when it comes to anything under the sea and water.
Calo Studio Hair Salon — 324 W47th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
I’ve been going to the owner Carlos for 10 years. He is a hair artist!
Dutch Freds — 307 W47th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Another great neighborhood place. I love the after-work people watching.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
While HK is home, I work hard so I can enjoy escaping the island every now and then. I recently got back from a trip to Dubai and have been to over 25 countries. My jam is scuba diving, so I try and book trips close to a body of water so I can get in a couple of dives. I imagine scuba is what walking on the moon feels like and it’s an amazing escape from reality.
You can follow Diana on Instagram @marygenavnyc. 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.
Yay, my sweet friend! We are due for cocktails in Hell soon.
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