On-air television meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is a familiar face on TV — and as a Hell’s Kitchen resident, you might have spotted her around the neighborhood too. While some of us were vegging around in sweatpants during the pandemic lockdown, she was writing a book, Taking the Heat — which focuses on climate change and its affects on our mental health and is out today. Here’s Bonnie’s West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I am a native New Yorker, born in Rockaway. I grew up on Long Island. After I graduated from Boston University, I lived all over the US, moving from small towns to big cities to advance my career as an on-air television meteorologist. I moved back to NYC from Atlanta right at the start of 2017.
How did you end up in Hell’s Kitchen?
It was all about location at first. The neighborhood was within walking distance from where I worked. I liked that it was busy and lively all of the time. And as a runner, the proximity of both Central Park and the Hudson River waterfront was also part of the initial appeal.
What’s your favorite thing about Hell’s Kitchen?
Now that I’ve lived here five years, I’ve gotten to know and appreciate the neighborhood for more than just its convenient location. For example, Hell’s Kitchen has a fascinating history! (Check out to one of my favorite NYC podcasts, “The Bowery Boys'” episode, “Hell’s Kitchen: New York’s Wild West.”)
Hell’s Kitchen is a diverse neighborhood with all types of restaurants and interesting shops for gifts. It’s a fun area to explore. From the distinctive architecture to the quaint parks — there always seems to be something I never noticed before that catches my eye.
More West Side Stories
And what’s your Hell’s Kitchen pet peeve?
That Stiles Market is no longer on West 52nd. I still go to their other location further south on 9th Avenue, but I loved when they were just around the corner.
Did you stay put when the pandemic hit or did you find an escape for some of the time?
I was here the whole time. I think, like most people, I didn’t expect it to go on so long. In those early months of the pandemic in 2020, I remember how quiet the city was when everything shut down.
When I watched the USNS Comfort dock along the Hudson River, I recall feeling a glimmer of hope. The nightly cheers at 7 pm every evening for the first responders and medical workers offered a way to show solidarity during such uncertainty.
And late at night, when things seemed especially bleak, I looked out my window and saw buildings with lights illuminated in the shape of a heart. It was an expression of love and support for those ravaged by this disease, as it infected people by the thousands each day.
Later that spring, I was inspired to create a video series focusing on examining environmental factors that might influence Covid-19 spread and exploring science-based suggestions from experts for coping with the mental health impacts of the pandemic.
What did you do for work pre-COVID? What are you doing now?
In late 2019, I was a speaker at the Manova Health Summit, a conference in Minneapolis attended by over 1,500 global leaders in health, medicine, and technology focused on identifying game-changers in healthcare. My presentation explored the connections between weather, climate change, and health.
As a freelance on-air meteorologist for MSNBC and NBC News, I filled in on the Early Today show. On those days, I had to be at work at 1:30 am! In February 2020, my agent submitted my non-fiction book proposal to publishers. Then everything shut down in March. Shortly after that, I am proud to share that Simon & Schuster acquired my book. Taking the Heat: How Climate Change is Affecting Your Mind, Body, and Spirit and What You Can Do About It comes out today (1/25/22). It is part of the 2022 inaugural list of Simon Element, a new imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Throughout the pandemic, I researched and wrote Taking the Heat from my Hell’s Kitchen apartment. I interviewed doctors and scientists from around the world to approach the impacts of the climate crisis from a different angle — how it affects our mental and physical wellbeing. My book outlines these often hidden health hazards and, most importantly, provides helpful science-based strategies to help readers.
Among the subjects covered are coping with “eco-anxiety” and other fears for our planet’s future; health hazards caused by extreme heat and air pollution that disproportionally affect low-income and minority communities; how allergy season has gotten longer and stronger; and the increased threat of dangerous pathogens lurking in unexpected places and why we may face future pandemics.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Well, I learned that I could write a book and create a website (weatherandwellness.com) in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment and during a stressful time. On a personal note, an interesting skill I acquired was the ability to color my own hair! However, I would like to add that despite all the YouTube videos I watched on the subject, it’s probably best to leave this process to the professionals.
What’s the most serendipitous (random/obscure/ insane) experience that’s happened to you in Hell’s Kitchen?
Sometime during the fall of 2020, I was walking up Ninth Avenue, and I noticed that there seemed to be more people on the street for the first time in months. Then I saw someone dressed all in silver on rollerblades dancing on a corner to the theme from Flashdance that was blasting on nearby speakers. It was a small expression of joy that I might not have paid attention to before the pandemic, but after so many somber months, it was a welcome sight that made me smile.
Which people inspire you the most?
Brave people inspire me. I admire those who are consistent in their efforts to reach a goal and remain resilient, despite setbacks and disappointments.
What’s your closest brush with world fame and celebrity?
When I was in my twenties working at one of my first TV jobs, I had the opportunity to interview Billy Joel in Sag Harbor on Long Island. I remember I called so many times to get this interview. They kept turning me down. But I kept asking. Like many people my age, I grew up a fan of his music. Finally, his publicist said yes, he has 15 minutes… This was very exciting! I remember how nervous I was to meet him. When my photographer and I walked up to him, he said something like, “Hi, I’m Bill,” to which I quickly said “I know!” or something silly like that. And he said. “I know you too. I watch the marine forecast on the weather.” Everyone laughed. Billy Joel was generous with his time. He spent hours with us out on the water. I asked him every question I could think of and then questions I imagined my friends from high school might ask too. We ended up turning the piece into a half-hour special and it won an Associated Press award.
What’s your superpower?
Tenacity and belief in myself. I’m grateful to have a loving family and supportive friends.
What song do you sing at the top of your voice in the shower?
I should sing but my mind is always going with new ideas.
Do you love Times Square? Why, or why not?
When I first moved here five years ago, I used to take a lot of pictures there. I loved the lights and the energy. I have not been there since the pandemic started.
Do you love Hudson Yards? Why, or why not?
I do! It’s been a great destination to serve as a meeting point when coordinating with friends who live downtown or are coming from the suburbs. Hudson Yards is scenic, and it offers direct access to the High Line. If you can’t escape the city during a heatwave, it’s also a good place to have lunch inside and walk around in air conditioning. I have not done this since the pandemic, though.
Add your shameless plug or personal profile?
My website: weatherandwellness.com
Bonnie’s Hell’s Kitchen Happy Places
44&X: I love this restaurant. Not only is the food consistently good (my favorite is the halibut), but the outside seating is lovely. And the wait staff, dressed in shirts that say “Heaven” on the front and “in Hell” on the back, are so nice and friendly. I think 44&X is one of the first places I went back to when restaurants re-opened during the pandemic.
Clinton Community Garden: When I walk by the garden during the day, and if I have time to stop for a few moments, it’s a peaceful respite that’s filled with beautiful flowers. I didn’t know the history behind the garden until recently. It was created in 1978 by Hell’s Kitchen residents who cleared out the rubble from a long-vacant lot and began planting it with flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Their website, clintongarden.org, says Hell’s Kitchen neighbors “spotted some wild tomato plants growing out of the rubble and saw a chance for something else.”
Clinton Cove + Pier 96 at Hudson River Park: When the weather is warm enough, I love walking or running along the Hudson. Typically, I enjoy venturing south past Chelsea Piers for exercise. But if I’m going for a walk in the neighborhood, it doesn’t take long to reach the green space of Clinton Cove. It’s a picturesque spot where the river gleams in the distance. Pier 95 allows you to get even closer to the water. It’s so pretty and calming. During the pandemic, I went down there more often.
Becco: Restaurant Row on West 46th is another high point of Hell’s Kitchen. There are lots of choices, but my favorite place is Becco. Lidia Bastianich and her son, Joe, opened Becco in 1993. I am sure my family in New York has been going there since then! Everyone loves Becco — the pasta is delicious, and the service is excellent. My advice is if you go there, come hungry. The food is that good.
Eve Beauty Source: This store may be located just on the edge of Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown on the east side of 8th Avenue, between 47th and 48th Street, but I’m including it because it makes me happy. I love browsing their endless aisles of products for your hair, skin, and nails. Plus all the make-up. I hardly wore make-up during the pandemic — but it’s still fun to look! 🙂
Nams Nail Spa: This is the best nail place in HK. And they even give you a banana on your way out.
Alfie’s: It’s one of my favorite brunch places for its avocado toast.
Añejo: Another brunch favorite, especially in the summer. It’s so fun and relaxing. I like the walk down W47th Street to get there too.