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Volume 24 No. 112
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Weekend Plans With Big East's Val Ackerman: College Hoops, Dining Out, Sunday Night TV

For Big East Commissioner VAL ACKERMAN, the focus of this weekend is -- not surprisingly -- college basketball. Madison Square Garden is hosting the men’s East Regional tournament games, and while the Big East does not have a team remaining, Ackerman will still be very involved in organizing, networking and handling media requests. In addition, her alma mater -- the Univ. of Virginia -- plays at MSG on Friday, so that will be a must-see game. Ackerman also will keep her eye on the DePaul Univ. women’s basketball team, which will be competing in the Lincoln Regional on Saturday. But for the rare moments she is not attending or watching hoops this weekend, Ackerman will be hitting the streets of N.Y. and indulging at some of her favorite restaurants.

EMPIRE STATE OF MIND: The Big East offices are currently housed at 42nd and 8th Avenue, so we’re in the Times Square neighborhood, and my home is in a neighborhood called Tribeca, which is in lower Manhattan. It’s very convenient for me -- it takes me about 20 minutes to get to work. I take the subway, which is a block from my home and then my subway stop is right under the building that I work at. I have lived in New York City for a long time, since 1985 when I graduated from UCLA law school. I grew up in New Jersey and came back to the East Coast after law school and starting working here in 1985. I’ve wound up staying here largely because of work -- I’ve had job opportunities that have kept me here. I also have family in central New Jersey, about an hour and a half from New York City, so it is reasonably close to home.

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY: Besides work, the energy of New York has been addictive. I grew up in a small town so I never dreamed I’d last in New York City because it’s a very different environment than the one I grew up in, but I’ve really become very addicted to the pace and the energy and the wide range of activities here. You can just go to a neighborhood and explore and see things you’ve never seen before. It’s always changing, there’s always a new corner to turn -- you see a new building or a new store or a new restaurant or new site. That’s one of the benefits of living here -- there’s never an end to a new experience.
FAMILY MATTERS: My husband and I raised our two daughters here in New York City, they’re both in college now but they are creatures of the city. They tell my husband and I how happy they are that they were raised here. We did consider moving out of the city when they were small, but largely because of work -- my husband was a Wall Street lawyer for 33 years in Midtown Manhattan -- and our unwillingness to endure long commutes, we wound up staying in the city and that just became our way of life. My oldest (daughter) now is a senior at Yale and my younger daughter is a freshman at Wesleyan which is in Middletown, Conn. So they’re both reasonably close by and they do get home fairly often.

BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS: I tend to be early to bed and early to rise. On weekends I’ll sleep in later than I do during the week, but I’m kind of a high energy person so I wouldn’t sleep in much past 8:30am ET on a weekend. When I’m home, I generally use the weekend time to catch up on errands -- paying bills, doing paperwork, I may do some shopping and I’m also a compulsive cleaner. I may have breakfast at Bubby’s, which is a favorite restaurant of mine in lower Manhattan. I sometimes just go for a morning cup of coffee and pancakes -- I love pancakes. My other indulgence is an appetizing store down in lower Manhattan called Russ & Daughters. It’s a neighborhood store that sells the world’s best smoked fish. We love bagels and lox and smoked fish. They’ve been there for many, many years and it’s a family run operation.

FLAVORS TO SAVOR: We’re New Yorkers, so our recipe file is largely take-out menus. My husband and I love ethnic food, and we live two blocks from Chinatown, so it’s easy to go over and we can get everything there: we can get Chinese, Asian, Thai. It’s all amazing food. It’s just so flavorful. We also have a favorite Japanese place, a favorite Indian place. There’s Italian places, and pizza of course. I try not to eat as much of that but I love pasta. We have a Whole Foods in our neighborhood so that’s also one of my haunts. I spend many a shopping trip there. We sometimes cook. My husband likes seafood so we often have seafood if we do cook.

BREAKING A SWEAT: If a certain period of time goes by where I don’t work out I’m really off-kilter. I need to sweat and stretch and get my heart rate up. That to me is a must-do. I belong to a health club down in my neighborhood so I try and get there as much as I can. Sometimes I bike. Along the west side of Manhattan now they have built out bike paths and in warm weather I get out on the bike. I’ve biked as far as the George Washington Bridge, which is about 11 miles from where I live in downtown Manhattan and back. ... Or I sometimes just walk. New York is a great pedestrian city. One of my favorite neighborhoods is the High Line District, it’s an urban park that’s been constructed on the west side of Manhattan. I like to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, which is not far from where I live.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT SUNDAYS: Sunday sometimes means reading the New York Times and getting caught up on magazines. I don’t read as much as I should, which is really a function of time, but if I have time to get my nose in a book, I try to do that. Sunday night is a big TV night. We’re fans of “HOMELAND” and “DOWNTON ABBEY” and “GIRLS.” LENA DUNHAM is the creator of “Girls,” and her younger sister is one of my older daughter’s best friends. So we know the Dunhams, we know Lena, and it’s been very exciting to see her being catapulted into the stratosphere. I don’t watch many shows, but those are my favorite. That makes for some relaxation on a Sunday night.