Insight Guides: Experience New York City - Insight Guides (2016)
AIRPORTS AND ARRIVAL
New York’s two major airports, John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia, are respectively 15 and 8 miles (24 and 13km) from Manhattan. Driving time to the airports is just under one hour, but heavy traffic can easily double this. The metropolitan area’s third major airport, Newark Liberty International, is actually in New Jersey, but for many New Yorkers it can be more convenient than either JFK or LaGuardia.
The New York Airport Service (tel: 212-875-8200) operates buses to and from Manhattan, JFK, and LaGuardia. Pick up and drop-off points include: the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, and Grand Central Terminal.
New Jersey Transit (tel: 973-275-5555) and Coach USA (tel: 877-8-NEWARK) operate express buses between Newark Airport and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal, and Lower Manhattan. A minibus service from all three airports to many Manhattan hotels is provided by Super Shuttle Blue Vans (tel: 800-258-3826), offering door-to-door transportation.
AirTrain is a rail system connecting JFK and Newark airports with the subway and railway network. AirTrain JFK information: tel: 877-535-2478; www.airtrainjfk.com. AirTrain Newark: tel: 888-397 4636; www.panynj.gov/airports/ewr-airtrain.html.
New York City has four distinct seasons and is at its best in spring and fall. Summer temperatures hover in the upper 70s to upper 80s°F (24-29°C), but temperatures in excess of 90°F (32°C) are not uncommon. Expect uncomfortable humidity in July and August. September and October sometimes usher in a balmy, dry ‘Indian summer’ that fills parks and office plazas with sun worshippers. Winter temperatures often drop below freezing and, with the wind chill factor, can feel .3much colder. The average temperature in January is 32°F (0°C). Heavy snowfall occasionally snarls traffic, although snow-removal crews are relatively efficient. Average annual rainfall is 44in (112cm); average snowfall is 29in (74cm). Raincoats and umbrellas are a good idea year-round.
Disabled travelers can obtain information about rights and special facilities from the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (tel: 212-788-2830; www.nyc.gov/mopd).
Standard American electric current is 110 volts. An adapter is necessary for European appliances, which run on 220-240 volts.
EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES
Australian Consulate-General, 150 East 42nd Street, tel: 212-351-6500.
British Consulate-General, 845 Third Avenue, tel: 212-745-0200.
Canadian Consulate-General, 1251 Sixth Avenue, tel: 212-596-1783.
Consulate General of Ireland, 345 Park Avenue, tel: 212-319-2555.
New Zealand Consulate, 222 East 41st Street, tel: 212-832-4038
Consulate of South Africa, 333 East 38th Street, tel: 212-213-4880.
Police, fire, ambulance, tel: 911.
Dental emergency, tel: 212-486-9458.
Sex Crimes Report Line, tel: 212-267-7273.
Due to increased security, the precise regulations for entry to the United States change often, and vary for citizens of different countries. It’s a good idea to check on the current situation before you travel, on http:// travel.state.gov or via a US Embassy or Consulate in your home country. And remember the US has strict rules on liquids in carry-on luggage, so check with your airline before you fly.
GAY AND LESBIAN
Historically, the epicenter of New York’s gay community has been Greenwich Village; the West Village in particular, but in recent years, however, the community’s center of gravity has shifted north to neighboring Chelsea. Eight Avenue in particular, between 14th and 23rd streets, is lined with bars catering to a gay clientele.
Gay and Lesbian Hotline, tel: 212-989-0999; Mon-Fri 4pm-midnight, Sat noon-5pm. Provides information about all aspects of gay life in New York, including recommendations for bars, restaurants, legal counseling, etc.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, 208 West 13th Street (at Seventh Avenue); tel: 212-620-7310; www.gaycenter.org; Mon−Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 9am−9pm. This large and helpful organization offers a wide range of services and events, ranging from educational conferences, and political action to dances and parties.
Gay City News, http://gaycitynews.nyc. A newspaper covering local, national, and international news and events.
HEALTH AND MEDICAL CARE
Medical services are extremely expensive. Purchase comprehensive travel insurance to cover any emergencies. New York House Call Physicians, tel: 212-532-9206, www.doctorinthefamily.com, for non-emergency house calls. To find a local pharmacy, go to www.cvs.com or www.duanereade.com. Both drugstores have many locations throughout the city, with varying hours.
Hospitals with emergency rooms
Bellevue Hospital, 462 First Avenue and East 27th Street; tel: 212-562-4141.
Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, First Avenue at 16th Street; tel: 212-420-2840.
NYU Medical Center, 550 First Avenue at 33rd Street; tel: 212-263-7300.
Mount Sinai West, 1000 10th Avenue; tel: 212-523-4000.
Columbia University Medical Center, 630 West 168th Street; tel: 212-305-2500.
Lenox Hill Hospital, 100, East 77th Street at Park Avenue; tel: 212-434-2000.
Mount Sinai Hospital, Fifth Avenue and 100th Street; tel: 212-241-6500.
New York Presbyterian Hospital, 525 East 68th Street; tel: 212-746-5454.
Free Wi-Fi internet access is available in thousands of hotspots across the city including hotels, cafes, city parks and train stations. For the latest update check out www.wififreespot.com. Email can be sent from most branches of FedEx-Kinko’s copy shops or from branches of the New York Public Library, including the Science, Industry, and Business Library, 188 Madison Ave at 34th St, tel: 212-592-7000.
The chances of retrieving lost property are not high, but the occasional civic-minded individual may turn items in to the nearest police precinct.
To inquire about items left on public transportation (subway and bus), tel: 212-712-4500, open Mon, Tue, Fri 8am-noon, Wed, Thu 11am-6.45pm. Or call 311.
Lost or stolen credit cards
American Express, tel: 1-800-528 4800.
Diners Club, tel: 1-800-234 6377.
MasterCard, tel: 1-800-826 2181.
Visa, tel: 1-800-847 2911.
All 1-800 calls are free of charge.
NYC & Co has good maps at their visitor center (810 Seventh Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets) and online at www.nycgo.com. Subway and bus maps are available at subway station booths, or from the New York City Transit Authority booth in Grand Central Terminal and the Long Island Rail Road information booth in Penn Station, as well as the MTA booth at the Times Square Visitors Center. You can also download them from www.mta.info. The most detailed street map is a book called Manhattan Block by Block, published by Tauranac Maps.
Generally, in midtown and uptown Manhattan, avenues run north to south; streets run east to west. Even-numbered streets tend to have one-way eastbound traffic; odd-numbered streets, westbound traffic. There are notable exceptions such as 14th and 23rd streets, which have two-way traffic. Most avenues are one-way, either north or south, the major exception being Park Avenue which has two-way traffic north of 44th Street.
The picture is more confusing in Greenwich Village and other downtown neighborhoods, where most of the streets have names instead of numbers and run at all angles.
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are both regarded as papers of national significance, and they are also strong on local issues. The Times’ bulky Sunday edition has extensive coverage of local arts and entertainment.
Two papers compete for the tabloid market: the New York Post and the Daily News. There are two ‘commuter’ dailies distributed free in the mornings: AM New York and Metro. The free alternative weekly Village Voice has comprehensive listings and classified ads, as does The New York Observer and the New York Press. Local magazines with extensive event listings include New York and Time Out New York (see also websites for good sources of local news and listings information).
There are more than 70 radio stations in New York City. Some of the better stations with local news include:
The three major networks - all with New York headquarters - are ABC (77 West 66th Street; tel: 212-456-7777), CBS (51 West 52nd Street; tel: 212-975-4321), and NBC (30 Rockefeller Plaza; tel: 212-664-4444). Fox News has a national office at 1211 Sixth Avenue (tel: 212-556-2500), and CNN has offices at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) can be found on channels 13 and 21 on the VHF band (for those without cable). The other three local stations are affiliated with the Fox (5), UPN (9), and WB (11) networks. These channels broadcast nationally aired shows as well as local programming. In addition, half a dozen UHF stations broadcast in Spanish and other languages.
Various cable companies offer 50 or more basic cable and movie channels, although the number varies depending on the service provider.
Most ATMs will charge a fee for withdrawing cash. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in the city, although not all cards are accepted at all places.
There are numerous outlets for exchanging currency and cashing traveler’s checks in New York.
Travelex, tel: 800-287-7362; 1590 Broadway at 48th Street, tel: 212-265-6063; 1271 Broadway at 32nd Street, tel: 212-679-4877; and 511 Madison Avenue at 53rd Street, tel: 212-753-0117.
There are numerous American Express offices around town, including 374 Park Avenue, tel: 212-421 8240; 111 Broadway, tel: 212-693-1100; 3 World Financial Center, tel: 212-640-5130; and 151 West 34th Street, tel: 212-695-8075. There is also an automated self-change kiosk at the Times Square Information Center at 1560 Broadway (between 46th and 47th streets).
Citibank offers exchange facilities at most of its 200 or so branches around the five boroughs. Tel: 800-285-3000.
Department stores usually allow you to return merchandise up to 30 days after purchase for full credit. Boutiques are less accommodating; some allow store credit only, and no returns or exchanges after seven days.
MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES
Visitors will find that pretty much everywhere and every attraction in New York charges an entrance fee. Some of these are surprisingly expensive, especially the major galleries: MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Met are $25 each; the Guggenheim and the Whitney cost $22. The Museum of Natural History has a suggested donation of $22.
As with restaurants, stores, and clubs, galleries spring up overnight and disappear just as quickly. Consult the listings magazines, as well as the art section of The New York Times on Friday and Sunday. A free monthly M magazine can be picked up at various arty locations. Or look up what’s on where at www.artinfo.com/galleryguide. Note that most galleries are closed on Mondays.
Manhattan’s main post office is on Eighth Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets; it is open 24 hours a day. To locate post offices elsewhere in the five boroughs, call 800-275-8777 or go to www.usps.com.
The US has shifted most public holidays to the Monday closest to the actual dates, thereby creating a number of three-day weekends. Holidays that are observed no matter the day on which they fall are:
January 1 New Year’s Day
July 4 Independence Day
November 11 Veterans’ Day
December 25 Christmas Day
Other holidays are:
Martin Luther King Jr Day third Mon in Jan.
President’s Day third Mon in Feb.
Memorial Day last Mon in May.
Labor Day first Mon in Sep.
Columbus Day second Mon in Oct.
Election Day first Tue in Nov, every four years.
Thanksgiving fourth Thu in Nov.
Taxis, all metered, cruise the streets and must be hailed, although there are designated taxi stands at places like Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station. Be sure to flag down an official yellow cab, not an unlicensed gypsy cab. The flat rate for a taxi between JFK and Manhattan is $45 plus tolls.
One fare covers up to four passengers (five in some larger cabs). There is a small surcharge on all taxi rides from 4pm to 8pm on weekdays.
New York Water Taxis provide ferry service on the Hudson and East rivers. In addition to daily commuter service between Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, water taxis offer scenic tours, birdwatching tours and sunset cruises with live music. See www.nywatertaxi.com for information.
Most Manhattan locations have a 212 area code. Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Bronx numbers are prefixed by 718 (or the newer 347 or 917). Regardless of the number you are calling from, the area code of the number being called must now be used and preceded by 1.
Toll-free calls are prefixed by 800, 888, or 877; remember to dial 1 first when calling these numbers.
Telephones accepting credit cards can be found in various centers, including Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station. Hotels also usually add a hefty surcharge. Telephone dialing cards, available widely in convenience stores and elsewhere, are an inexpensive way to make calls.
If you are a foreign traveler and your cell phone plan doesn’t include international service, consider purchasing a prepaid cell phone or SIM card, available at most electronic stores.
International calls, dial 011 (the international access code), then the country code, city code, and local number.
Directory help, dial 555-1212 preceded by the area code you are calling from, or 411.
Emergencies, dial 911.
New York has a three-digit number to be dialed for information and non-emergency services. Calls to 311 are answered by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and services are provided in over 170 languages. Operators are prepared to respond to a wide range of calls, including tourist inquiries, complaints about noise, queries about public transportation, and information about lost items.
New York observes Eastern Standard Time (EST). This is five hours behind London, one hour ahead of Chicago, and three hours ahead of California.
Most New Yorkers in the service industries regard tips as a God-given right, not just a pleasant gratuity. The fact is, many people rely on tips to make up for what are often poor hourly salaries. Therefore, unless service is truly horrendous, you can figure on tipping everyone from bellmen and porters (usually $1 a bag; or $2 if only one bag); to hotel doormen ($2 if they hail you a cab); hotel maids ($2 a day, left in your room when you check out), rest room attendants (at least 50¢), and room-service waiters (approximately 15 percent of the bill unless already added on). In restaurants, the best way to figure out the tip is to double the tax (which adds up to a little more than 16 percent; add or subtract a dollar or two depending on how the service was). In taxis, tip 15 percent of the total fare, with a $2 minimum.
There is an NYC & Company Visitors Information Center in Macy’s Herald Square (151 W 34th St; www.nycgo.com; Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 11am-7pm. The center offers brochures, maps, and information about hotel packages and attraction discounts. An information kiosk is at Broadway and Park Row at City Hall Park.
Subways and Buses
Subways and buses run 24 hours a day, less frequently after midnight, with the fare payable by exact change as well as by MetroCard pass (available at subway ticket booths), which allows free transfers within two hours of use. Unlimited-ride passes good for seven or 30 days are also available, as is a day pass sold at newsstands, hotels, and electronic kiosks in some subway stations.
Buses run on most avenues (except Park Avenue between 40th and 120th streets) as well as on the following cross-streets: Houston, 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th, 66th, 86th, 116th, and 125th.
Subway trains cross town at 14th, 42nd, and 53rd streets. There is no north-south line east of Lexington Avenue or west of Eighth Avenue and Broadway above 59th Street.
For general bus and subway information, check www.mta.info or tel: 718-330-1234; for details about MetroCard and other passes, call 212-METROCARD.
PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) trains run under the Hudson River from six stations in Manhattan to Hoboken, Jersey City, and Newark in New Jersey. For more information check www.panynj.gov, tel: 800-234-7284.
Rail and Bus Stations
Long-distance and commuter trains arrive and depart from Manhattan’s two railroad terminals: Grand Central Terminal at Park Avenue and 42nd Street, and Pennsylvania Station at Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street. For Amtrak information, tel: 800-872-7245.
The city’s main bus terminal is the Port Authority (Eighth Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets). The station sits atop two subway lines and is serviced by long-distance bus companies (including Greyhound, tel: 800-231-2222) and local commuter lines. City buses stop outside.
www.newyork.citysearch.com for listings and reviews of current arts and entertainment events, as well as restaurants and shopping. It’s excellent for links to every conceivable aspect of New York City.
www.nyc.gov is the official site of the City of New York. It contains news items, mayoral updates, city agency information, and details of parking regulations.
www.nycgo.com is the New York City tourism website, with information on accommodations, restaurants, shopping, upcoming events, and promotional deals.
www.centralparknyc.org has a calendar of events, maps, and other information about Central Park.
www.nypl.org is for everything you ever wanted to know about the New York Public Library.