New York

July 16, 2014

Last week I made my first trip ever to New York. Although mainly a trip for work, I managed to see some local friends and relatives, and took as much opportunity as I could manage to visit the city.

After getting the subway system figured out, I approximated a solution to the traveling salesman problem and managed to get out and see many of NY’s major landmarks:

  • Central Park (and a free performance from the New York Philharmonic orchestra therein).
  • The High Line.
  • Washington Square Park.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • The Fifth Avenue Apple “Cube”.
  • The World Trade Center Memorial (and the new Freedom Tower).
  • The New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street.
  • Times Square.
  • Grand Central Station.
  • The New York Public Library.
  • The Rockefeller Center.
  • The Empire State Building.
  • The Statue of Liberty (from a distance).
  • Queens.
  • Brooklyn.

A few random observations about the city:

  • New York’s best attributes are its parks; Central Park, the High Line, and Washington Square Park would all rank amongst my top suggestions of things to see there.
  • The High Line in particular may be the greatest municipal salvage projects of all time. The only contender which I know of is Tempelhof in Berlin.
  • Central Park makes for a great inner city running track. I measured the circuit around its pedestrian-friendly road system at just over 12 km, with almost no stops.
  • Between its pay-to-play chess masters, puppeteers, jazz performers, and community ambience, Washington Square Park may be the most successful park I’ve ever visited. After seeing it in person, it strikes you as even more absurd at how long and hard activists like Jane Jacobs and Shirley Hayes had to fight to create this small haven from automobile traffic.
  • The New York Stock Exchange is a tourist trap on a monumental scale. I had no idea.
  • The World Trade Center memorial, two enormous fountains sunk into the earth, is breathtaking.
  • Although New York is the originator of fairly forward thinking traffic concepts like “don’t block the box” and no honking laws, in practice these are not enforced and infracted regularly. Despite large numbers of walkers, pedestrian intimidation at crosswalks (largely by taxis) is very common.
  • New York’s relatively long light rotations heavily favor vehicular traffic, so jaywalking is extremely common, and I daresay required to make good time on foot.
  • Especially in popular areas, traffic on the sidewalks is so heavy that a form of “pedestrian gridlock” actually slows walking speed significantly.
  • Access to a large variety of merchants open 24 hours is very convenient. This healthy all-hour ecosystem presumably becomes possible as population density approaches four times that of SF.
  • My favorite establishment was a speakeasy called Angel’s Share. I’d been warned that it was hard to find, but if I handed received precise instructions to climb a set of stairs, ignore the rundown Japanese restaurant at the top, and enter the first door on my left (completely unmarked and nondescript), I never would have found the exceptional cocktail bar therein.

New York was published on July 16, 2014.

Find me on Twitter at @brandur.

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