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Stay home or go out, but spend New Year’s in boro

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Now, what to do for New Year's? You know, of course, not to go to Times Square. It's not only crowded but half the people in the crowd are drunk, some of them are pickpockets, and you're probably not going to get to see The Ball drop anyway. Besides, the subway's crowded at 1 in the morning even on a normal night, so why risk the enhanced madness of New Year's Eve?

And, it's freezing cold.

You're better off staying in the borough. There's a lot to do, as our guide to New Year's events and restaurant guide in this Qguide show.

Of course, if you don't want to venture outside your door at all, there are many ways to have a nice New Year's Eve right at home. You can ring in the new millennium (2001 is the real beginning of it, chronologists kept reminding us last year) in the company of friends and the more tolerable of your family.

You will need champagne for this, and this is how you drink it. First, forget about those shallow "champagne" glasses; they cause the bubbly to go flat quickly. Get a bunch of elegant flute/tulip-shaped glasses from (crateandbarrel.com is one way to get them online).

Since warm champagne is about as fun as flat champagne, you will have kept the bottle in the fridge all day until it's the right temperature. Now take the bottle out, peel off the foil, take off the wire, wrap the bottle's neck in a dishtowel. Now angle the bottle away from your guests, and twist the cork gently with the towel. As you make progress you'll want to stop twisting the cork and twist the bottle itself until the cork pops out. Of course, if you've shaken the bottle or pulled out the cork violently you'll get a geyser of foam, which is unfortunate because if you went for a Dom Perignon you've probably shelled out a hundred bucks for the stuff and now half of it is on the floor. Anyway, with the bottle neck wrapped up in the towel, tilt the flute glasses slightly and pour the champagne down the side of the glass till it's three quarters full.

Good champagnes are Bollinger, Kong, Moet & Chandon, Mumm, Piper-Heidsieck and the aforementioned Dom Perignon. If you want to be less pricey there are California vintages and non-vintages you can get for about $15 to $40 a bottle.

Once you've poured the champagne you will want a traditional meal to accompany it. Here in the Jamaica section, we eat "hoppin' John" - black-eyed peas, often eaten in the South to welcome the new year, and rice. Here's the recipe:

1 lb. dried black eyed peas

A bit of salt pork

1 quart water

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups long grain rice

3 cups hot water

Pick over the black eyed peas to get rid of grit. Soak them in water all day. Fry the salt pork until crisp in a big pot, add the black eyed peas, the quart of water, the bay leaf, and salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat for an hour. Adjust the seasonings and then cook until the peas are tender -- they'll be mushy looking. Add the rice. Cover with the hot water and cook until the water's absorbed and the rice is tender. (If you prefer, this will all work fine without the pork). Serves four to six.

Also, make sure on New Year's Day that the first person to walk into your home is a man -- it's supposed to bring good luck for the rest of the year (Don't ask me, I have no idea why).

When you wake up the next morning you will have a headache, either from the hoppin' John, the bubbly, or both. Have a bottle of Gatorade by your bed and drink it immediately -- this will rehydrate you and replenish your electrolytes. Drink water without ceasing, eat a light breakfast and take an aspirin.

Later on in the day when all is calm again you may wish to engage in some quiet activity. The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning is presenting the works of Japanese artist Kenta Furusho until Jan. 27. The gallery's at 161-04 Jamaica Ave. and admission is free.

The Alliance of Queens Artists in Forest Hills has the exhibit "Good Things in Small Packages" through Jan. 6, where cute little tchotkes will be sold for those who really like to celebrate the full 12 days of Christmas. Call 520-9842. The New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is featuring "Sport," which explores the science of athletics 'til Jan. 7. Call 699-0005 for info.

Of course, if you're a stalwart type and don't mind the cold, bundle up and take a hike around the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on Broad Channel. It's open from sunrise to sunset and is quite peaceful. Call 318-4340 for more information.

Happy New Year!

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