I spent some time walking High Line Park yesterday and couldn’t resist the opportunity to shoot a video.
During my recent trip down to New York City I decided to check out the progress on the new Freedom Tower that will replace the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. It has taken a long time to make progress but I’m happy to report that excellent progress is being made. At this point it looks like the main tower is at least as tall as any of the buildings in the area. I heard from a friend that the exterior of the tower should be completed early next year. This building is a very welcome addition to the Lower Manhattan skyline and will surely be one of the major city attractions once it is completed.
Please enjoy a few of the photos I took when I was in the area.
Last weekend my wife and I were walking down Stanton Street on the Lower East Side when we were stopped by a group of French speaking people who were looking for a restaurant recommendation. Specifically they were looking to eat at an American steakhouse. I immediately thought of and recommended Peter Luger Steakhouse in Williamsburg which is also very close to the Lower East Side.
Peter Luger is perhaps the most well known steakhouse in New York. It has been around forever. Many celebrities go there. The scene is also quite unique with sawdust on the floors and gruff German waiters who do the ordering for you. Some might argue about whether it’s the “best” steakhouse or not. I think that most people would agree it’s worth the trip if you’re a visitor to the city who doesn’t mind spending a bit of money on good steak.
I thought my mission of helping was accomplished but one of the women in the group then asked if they could walk there. While Williamsburg is just a walk across the bridge it was probably more walking than they were looking for so I had to think again.
A few different steakhouses ran through my mind. There’s Del Frisco’s which is up on 6th Avenue and 49th Street. And just a couple of days before I had dinner at The Old Homestead Steakhouse at 9th Avenue and 14th Street. I have been to both of those places more than once and would definitely recommend them. Unfortunately neither of those places was in walking distance. Then an idea came to me.
A good friend of mine used to work at a place on Chrystie Street (near Delancey Street) called Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse. I have never eaten there but I have been inside at dinner hour to witness the live music, large family-style tables and frozen vodka…along with the steaks of course. Sammy’s is a place that is perfect for a group and also not very fancy or pretentious. Since there were a few people in the group and they were dressed in a casual manner I went with Sammy’s as the recommendation pointed the group west down Stanton Street to Chrystie Street.
At that point we went our separate ways. My wife and I had a nice dinner at a place called Antibes Bistro and then headed back towards Chrystie Street on our way to the Bowery Ballroom for a music show. It just so happened that we walked right by Sammy’s so we decided to peek in the window to see if the group we had sent over was there. The live music was playing, people were dancing, and we could see steaks and bottles of vodka on the tables. And sure enough our group was there. Some were seated at a large round table and a couple of others were dancing. It felt good to know that we had pointed some strangers to a good meal and a good time.
There’s a bit of irony of this scenario. Although the people asked to be guided to an “American” steakhouse they ended up at a Roumanian steakhouse that just happens to be in America. My first choice, Peter Luger, I consider to be more German than American in the style of the food, drink and the decor. The Old Homestead and Del Frisco’s are definitely more American-style steakhouses. That’s part of the beauty of New York though. You will often find many variations on a particular theme. Exploring all of those variations is a big part of the fun of the city.
The family and I recently took a trip to the boardwalk at Coney Island. We had a very nice time while there. I hadn’t been down there in years so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The main attractions include the beach, the New York Aquarium, the rides, and the activity on the boardwalk. There is a new kids amusement park called Luna Park that offers modern rides for kids of all ages. At the new Luna Park they have more modern ticketing technology. You purchase a card with credits on it that is scanned at the ride. One thing that they did at Luna Park and the at Wonder Wheel Park that I liked was that they let parents ride with small children without charging for the parents.
For food and drink we consumed the standard greasy (but fun) boardwalk food including pizza, fried shrimp and onion rings. You can get seafood and a beer at places like Ruby’s and Cha Cha’s. The kids had some cotton candy. Sadly there was no one actually making cotton candy so all of the vendors were selling cotton candy in pre-made bags. You can’t win ’em all! There are other newer attractions in the area especially the Mets baseball minor league affiliate the Brooklyn Cyclones. The Cyclones play at a stadium that is right next to the boardwalk.
Unfortunately some of the places I have mentioned may not be around next year. Recent stories have indicated that the new owners of the boardwalk buildings may not renew certain leases. The new businesses might be more family friendly and help to improve the overall image of the area. While that would be a good thing, folks nostalgic for old New York are certain to be disappointed.
Coney Island is accessible via car by taking the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to the Belt Parkway East if you are coming from north or west of Coney Island. Beware of afternoon and weekend traffic in both directions! You can take public transportation as well. The D, N, F and Q subway lines go to the Stillwell Avenue station in Coney Island which is very close to the boardwalk.
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So I spent a nice weekend in the city with my family recently and I realized how much smart phone apps can change the experience of finding your way around New York. When we visit I usually go to many of my old favorite spots but I’m always interested in new places as well. One night we decided to go to a restaurant and I knew it would be someplace new. Unfortunately I didn’t have too much time to do some research about where to go.
Fast forward to around 8:30 PM that evening. I’m standing on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 6th Street with my wife. I asked her, “What type of food are you interested in?” She answered, “Mexican would be fun.” At that point I opened up the Urbanspoon application on my iPhone and searched for Mexican food “near me”. At the top of the list was a place called Mayahuel which I could quickly see had 6 of 6 “likes” which translated to a 100% rating. I checked a couple of review snippets that called the place “hidden” and mentioned “come for the drinks”. It sounded good so we crossed the street and realized that the restaurant was right there on the other side of the street. We almost passed it up (it really is sort of hidden) but we found the door and were quickly whisked by a helpful employee through a cozy bar to a small table on the second floor of a brownstone. The time from, “What type of food…” to seating was less than five minutes.
I thought that the whole process was pretty amazing. It really was the first time I had experienced such “in the moment” synergy with a mobile application. When I started this site I hoped to bring my experiences and opinions about New York City to a wide audience. Back then (in 2005) we didn’t have the iPhone, Android or app stores. I think blogs and podcasts still have a strong role to play in helping people to prepare for (or perhaps reminisce after) trips. But these new mobile applications play an important part in creating enjoyable experiences too. Apps like Urbanspoon are location savvy, which is wonderful. They offer access to the “crowd” right in your pocket or pocketbook. Twitter and Facebook also offer the possibility of near real-time feedback from your social connections too. In fact, after “checking in” using Facebook places at Coney Island I found out that an old friend had been there just before I was. Had I checked in sooner we might have met up. It’s all really great and something to consider before you travel to New York.
So you might be wondering how the restaurant was. It was good. We had a nice tortilla appetizer with salsa, salsa verde and guacamole. My wife had tacos and I had a nice plate of paella for an entrée. The drinks were definitely a highlight as mentioned in the review that I read on Urbanspoon. I even shot a photo prior to consuming the Blanco tequila flight that I ordered shortly after sitting down.
We recently took a trip to the American Museum of Natural History where we got to see some great exhibits including Lizards & Snakes: Alive! and The Butterfly Conservatory. A little bit of both of those can be seen in the video along with the Hall of Ocean Life. It’s a highly recommended destination for the family when you are in New York City. There is parking right beneath the building (unfortunately it’s expensive) but if you don’t need to drive the museum is convenient to public transportation including the A subway line which stops at 81st Street.
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A spot under the Manhattan Bridge is probably one of the more unlikely places for a relaxing afternoon but please don’t knock it til you try it. For years I have heard about the neighborhood called DUMBO. It’s not a Disney movie. It’s Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. DUMBO is a neighborhood with eclectic shops, some restaurants and bars. At the edge of the neighborhood right on the East River there is a small park that has a childrens playground, and a large patch of grass for relaxing. It’s a great place to spend some time with the kids, the dog or just your thoughts and a camera. You’ve got Lower Manhattan to your west, the Brooklyn Bridge just to your south and the Manhattan Bridge right above your head.
We got their by car taking the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) to Tillary Street and then turning down Jay Street. You can also get there by taking the F train to York Street. If you’re feeling so inclined you can also walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to get there.
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It was recently reported that New York taxi riders have been ripped off by drivers to the tune of $8 million dollars. The New York Post reported as follows.
Cabbies have illegally scammed unsuspecting riders out of a staggering $8.3 million by manually switching the meter to rates that only apply when they are driving outside the city, officials said.
In a bomshell report issued by the Taxi and Limousine Commission this afternoon, the agency said it uncovered that drivers illegally overcharged passengers by switching the meter from Rate Code 1 (the default setting used for trips inside the five boroughs) to Rate Code 4 (a higher rate only used for travel in Westchester or Nassau counties when cabs leave the city).
Oh my. How disappointing. After all these years of improvements to the taxi system in the city there are still drivers looking to make a quick buck off of unsuspecting riders. The thing is, this kind of fraud likely affects locals as well as tourists. I’ll admit that I never pay much attention to the numbers on the meter if I’m in a cab. I pay even less attention if the trip is a short one. But something like this can easily turn a $4 trip into an $8 trip. It may not be a lot of money but stealing is stealing. And it likely affects the amount of money you would spend elsewhere. What’s a taxi rider to do? Keep an eye on that meter!
In the photo above you can see the number 1 on the far left side of the meter. That means you’re being charged the “within city limits” fare. If you’re in any of the five boroughs of New York that’s what you should see. If you’re in the city and see a number 4 there then you are getting ripped off. If you notice something like that you should alert the driver and ask him to change the fare code. If the driver refuses or gives you a hard time tell them to stop the cab but only after you’ve captured the info from their license which should be displayed on the dashboard. You can dial 311, which is the city’s all purpose information and problem reporting hotline, to report the rip off.
As great a place as New York is you always have to be aware when spending your money. I must also state that these sorts of things go on all over the world. I remember being in Prague and having to tell the taxi driver, “Taximeter prosim,” so he would run the meter instead of overcharging me a flat rate for my trip. After all what’s fare is fare. [Pun intended ;-)]
I was going through some of my video archives recently and thought, “Why not throw together a quick video?” So I did it. I’ve got scenes in there from Bryant Park, the 9th Avenue Food Festival, Bleecker Street, a Rock Concert and the Queen Mary II departing the city via the Hudson River. Enjoy!