Review of "New York City"
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Just as the older generation remember where they were and what they were doing when Kennedy was shot, the younger lot all recall what they were doing when the Twin Towers were hit. I had been travelling in America just a year before with a bird and was living with her in Brighton the following year. I got home from work and she was in ashen faced in front of the TV. I was oblivious to what had happened in America that day and the first thing I saw on the box was the replay of the World Trace Centre collapsing. The first thing your brain registers is how is it possible that seemingly indestructible objects like the twin towers that you were standing on top of just one year ago with a beautiful girl were crumbling away in front of your eyes? No one will ever forget that day, especially people who have been to New York and seen the two behemoths that were the New York skyline in the cities glory days. The cities two front teeth were well and truly knocked out on September 11 and the city today – visually - half the place it was when I was there.Manhattan Island, what people think of as New York City, is like being in a wholesale warehouse for skyscrapers, tall shiny expensive ones stacked up in rows and grids next to old and smaller brick coloured ones, the little yellow cabs like shoppers pushing their carts down the aisles, the beautiful Empire State Building the new queen of New York now the rougher sentinels have fallen. The long awaited Freedom Towers are finally going up on the old WTC site but sure to struggle to sell office space like most of Manhattan skyscrapers do today, only being built out of bloody-mindedness, if you ask me. How can you not think of those jumpers when you buy office space there now? Some bankers even have parachutes issued to them in the Empire State Building as part of the perks packages. But as mighty a financial powerhouse symbol the Twin towers were they were half empty and a white elephant when they were destroyed. One aspect of the conspiracy theories over September 11 was raised when it transpired that both towers were re-insured to the tune of six billion dollars (with terrorist cover!) just two months before 911. These capitalist two fingers to the third world were losing lots and lots of money guys and so their collapse suspiciously convenient.
Skyscrapers aside there really isn’t much more to New York than the skyline, as wondrous and overpowering as the buildings are, the Big Apple more moneyed than glamorous. The first time you see the skyscrapers and walk amongst them you are in awe as you stare up in amazement, like when you first look over the edge of the Grand Canyon, but an hour or so later one is soon thinking is this it?The city is dirty and full of cops, there but to drive the criminals north of Harlem to protect the bankers and tourists. If you jump your metro fare in New York you could get six months they are that tough. Most of the litter that blows around Manhattan is hotdog wraps from those chubby cops. The drains do indeed steam away all day and the cops do indeed tap their truncheons menacingly in the palm of their hands like in the movies. The city is very noisy below in those great concrete and glass canyons night and day but I found it hard to find the nightlife there as all the best bars and clubs tend to be hidden away in basements and word-of-mouth affairs to be in the right places and there is no real party area in the city other than Chelsea/Soho, which is mostly the gay scene. The restaurants are plentiful and ethnic and the museums big and bold like London’s or any other major city although it feels more like a local’s city rather than a tourist’s city. In fact in New York the locals have no choice but to embrace the tourists and so you feel they don’t tell us where to go to party so they can keep away from them in the neon lit night.
Central Park is the beating heart of Manhattan and an escape from the New Yorkers that honk and screech like the traffic at you, the parkland stretching nearly four miles up midtown Manhattan, a unique site from above. It’s fun and playful in the day but not safe at night, the place you are most likely to get mugged if you are not careful. One of the most bizarre sites of my trip there was when I was walking in the park at lunchtime on a sunny day and some half naked gay men were cavorting in some bushes, with tourists and New Yorkers wandering past, presumably their version of cottaging. But most of the people who wander around in the park are tiny old Jewish ladies or their dog walkers.You can escape the skyscrapers to see the Statue of Liberty although if you want to touch the old lady you have to pay to get out to the island and then pay again to climb up it to the viewing platform in the crown. Or you can be a cheapskate like me and take the free Staten Island ferry that growls past it within 50 yards, 12 times a day, so you can take photos. You can also chose to amble out of New York with a walk over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, giving you a great elevated view of the city. For me Brooklyn has a more eclectic and accessible night life and the accommodation is cheaper and so perhaps best to base yourself off the island for more amiable hotels.
The public transport is excellent and so no real excuses not to stay in Brooklyn or Queens, for example. It’s best not to stay too far north in Manhattan as you get near the black areas just past Harlem called the Bronx and that is very rough. The streets are much quieter north of say 140th street at night and that’s when you are vulnerable. I remember coming out of Madison’s Square Gardens souvenir shop just before it closed around 8pm and even there it was deserted on Broadway this far up Manhattan. Broadway is one of the world’s longest straight roads so they say.Airports wise we flew in from London on Continental to New Jersey, Newark Airport that particular airlines hub. Its very busy airport and on at least three occasions with that airline I envisaged disaster. But it’s cheaper to fly in there from Europe than JFK and the tube is much safer from Newark. The A Train to John F Kennedy International is somewhat hairy as it twists’ through some eclectic and colourful boroughs. You could fly into Washington DC or Boston and do New York that way although New York tends to be cheaper from London for the East Coast. I would definitely recommend taking in DC as it is a surprisingly interesting and exciting place to be.
Product Information : New York City
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Listed on Ciao since: 25/06/2000