Lower Manhattan from Liberty State Park in NJ:
We just got back from a second visit to the New York area. We also spent several days in Boston. First off, the energy in the city was something that I found very inspiring. We walked quite a bit through several parts of Manhattan, and the “city that never sleeps” was so evident. People were moving everywhere, constantly. The pace was pretty fast. This was in the touristy areas, the business areas, and the residential areas. People were moving constantly. Even the conversations by people standing on the sidewalk seemed to be in motion.
We visited Central Park twice. It was amazing to find such a lovely green space in the middle of the bustling city. There were places there where the everpresent honk of horns and zoom of motors wasn’t in earshot. Plenty of trees that blocked out the view of the tall buildings. Except, that frenetic energy was still there in the park. Ian and I spent a couple hours walking around the parks various locations. We have a pretty darn fast pace, yet more often than I would have expected, we would find ourselves being passed by individuals and groups. Lots of walking talking going on. Now, this is not to say that everyone was booking along; there were plenty of people that were out on the lawns, in the shade or the sunshine. The big lawns had various games going on, soccer, catch, ultimate frisbee (we stopped and watch that for a while), volleyball, and the like.
We walked Times Square and marveled at the people, the venue, the street performers, the smells (mainly the street food vendors), and again, that energy!
There were a lot of very well put together people there. Which is to say, it was the rare overweight person. I called Bozeman, MT, the City of Great Legs, and that would apply to Manhattan as well. Ian and I talked it over, and it is clear that the low number of car drivers, with the typical walking that engenders, results directly in better exercise rates. I saw a lot of people, both genders, in the parks eating yogurts, small sandwiches, and the like for lunch. This is probably a cost issue as well.
Speaking of food… the cost to eat in NYC is roughly twice what it costs to eat in OKC, or for that matter, most other parts of the country. The costs for the outlying areas of NJ and CT were not twice the OKC cost, but probably a third higher. The food we had there was pretty good, but not twice as good.
And then there is the traffic. One word overview: INSANE. I’ve never been in such a high stress driving environment, and I’ve driven extensively in London, Paris, and Milan. In each of those cases, the traffic was dense and fast paced, but it was linear and fairly orderly. Not so in NYC – those people just ignore the lane markers, and there is a significant amount of random-looking lane changes as people jockey for position. I saw my first true gridlock this trip. People from cross streets would just pull into the intersection as long as they had the light (and for some, that wasn’t even an issue!), and then sit there blocking the main road. When that happened, the main road drivers would pull right out, to withing a foot of the cars in front of them, and the automatic system that connects to the horns would start up. Nobody lets anyone in, and when it’s time to change lanes (that random thing), I observed at one point that NYC must have a law that turn signals be disconnected lest they be inadvertently used.
Parking is expensive. In business districts, all road parking is reserved for commercial vehicles. In residential districts, parking is typically limited to one hour (we saw a couple three-hour zones), but for the most part, you have to park in garages, which costs between $40-$60 per day.
Couple fun facts: the workday population of Manhattan goes from 1.6M to 2.2M people. There are about 161K cars on the island, and another 144K cars come in each day with SINGLE drivers! Fortunately, that is only about 24% of the extra daily workers. The rest use public transportation. The number of commercial trucks are equally amazing.
I will say this about Manhattan: my time visiting there is at an end. I’ve seen the things I wanted to see there. It was an amazing experience. I love the energy in the place. Most of the people we interacted with were not the hard-boiled types, but just as nice as elsewhere. The architecture of the buildings was varied and ranged from plain brick to carved to modern. The museums were amazing. I think everyone should have the opportunity to visit.