NYC transfers

 

 

Wherever you’re staying in New York City, you usually have four options for transfers between JFK airport and NYC hotels; taxi, shuttle bus, train and subway. Choose your transport according to the number of people in your party and the amount of luggage you have, and you could save yourself plenty of both time and money. 

Your options (assuming you're transferring to Manhattan; info for other boroughs is below)

- Taking a yellow cab from outside the terminal means a fixed rate to Manhattan of $45 plus tolls (plus a tip), so $50 to $55 in total. A ride into central Manhattan usually takes 40 to 60 minutes; sometimes longer if expressway traffic is gnarly. 


Tip: if anybody in the terminal building asks if you need a taxi, ignore them – they’re an illegal (and therefore uninsured) cab driver. Follow the signs and head for the yellow cab rank outside.

- A shuttle bus can be arranged before you fly and usually costs about $20 per person. Transfer time depends on where the other bus passengers are staying; it can take over 90 minutes to reach your destination.
 

- There’s no subway service at the airport but there is 
the JFK Airtrain which links all the airport terminals to both Jamaica and Howard Beach stations. The Airtrain costs $5 per person and you pay at the end of the ride. The subway is currently $2.50 per ride (there are no zones on the NYC subway) but if you're intending to buy an unlimited subway pass for your trip, you can use it immediately - you’ll therefore only pay the $5 Airtrain fare. The Airtrain takes under 20 minutes to reach the subway, then it’s around 35 - 45 minutes into Manhattan, so can still beat a cab if traffic is bad.

- The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) also runs from Jamaica station to Penn Station in Manhattan's Midtown. It takes just 20 - 25 minutes for the LIRR to reach NYC. These services are very regular (you can check LIRR timetables 
here) though unless you're stopping in Midtown Manhattan, it may be impractical. This is a good option when returning to JFK since you can plan when you set off from Penn Station. 

Tip: tickets are cheap - $6.75 off-peak / $8.25 peak - but always buy them from the machines in the station; they can be bought on board but you'll pay nearly double.

With both the subway and LIRR, you're still likely to end up several blocks from your final destination. There'll be no danger if you want to walk, or you could hail a cab once you reach NYC and spend a few dollars; cab fares are reasonable so it’ll still be cheaper than the other options.

Which option is right for you?
 

Yellow cab
 
Best for: Groups of 3/4 people with checked luggage, families, couples on their first visit (the first view of the city through the cab windows is magical)
Pros: Door-to-door service
Cons: Expensive for single travellers or couples, not necessarily the fastest for transfers

Shuttle bus
 
Best for: Single travellers with checked luggage
Pros: Door-to-door service
Cons: Usually the longest transfer time of all options

Airtrain / Subway
Best for: The frugally minded, travellers with cabin luggage only
Pros: Cheapest option available, can be quicker than a cab
Cons: Usually means a walk / cab after reaching the city

Airtrain / LIRR
Best for: Affordable transfers from NYC to JFK, travellers with cabin luggage
Pros: Very cheap, can be quicker than a cab
Cons: Only suitable for transfer to addresses in Midtown Manhattan

Transfers from JFK to Brooklyn / Queens / Bronx / Staten Island

If you're staying in Brooklyn, you can expect to pay between $30 and $40 for a cab; from JFK to Queens it's likely to cost $20 to $25 (the airport is also in Queens, but it's a pretty big borough). If you're alone and travelling light then the Airtrain / subway option is a no-brainer. It probably won't be faster than a cab, but it'll be much cheaper.

Transfers to the Bronx (to the North of Manhattan) take an age by anything other than cab, which will cost between $40 and $55 depending on your destination. Connecting to the subway once you reach Manhattan is a possibility but it's painfully slow. It may be worth checking Metro-North maps and timetables since several train routes run through the borough; these depart from Grand Central Terminal. 

If you're one of the rare breed choosing to stay on Staten Island, a cab from JFK will cost at least $50. The cheaper alternative is to take the Airtrain to the LIRR, transfer to the 1 line on the subway from Penn Station to South Ferry station and hop on the Staten Island ferry (free, runs every half hour) and finally take a bus/cab if required. If you're travelling light, it's a serene and picturesque route once you reach the ferry but it'll take you at least two hours.

 

   
"Twitchhiker – How One Man Travelled the World by Twitter" is Paul's book about his social media adventure around the world, published by Summersdale and available on Amazon.
 
Paul's next book, "Tales from the Edge of America" will be published in Spring 2012. You can subscribe to the book's mailing list to find out more.

 

Brooklyn Markets

 

Car boot sales inevitably mean boxes of VHS videos and unwanted crapola spilling over a series of uneven pasting tables erected in the car parks of local rugby clubs; a mob of hoarders prepared to haggle over pennies; broiled burgers and the onset of hypothermia. Brooklyn's flea markets are similar, but with less risk of hypothermia, a more eclectic line in randorama and trinkets, and much better food.


Brooklyn Flea are the organisers of hugely popular events in the borough, drawing in visitors and residents from across the city. At one time their fleas could be found under the Brooklyn Bridge, but now there are two venues and events every weekend. One takes place every Saturday in Fort Greene at at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, and another every Sunday in Williamsburg by the East River - the later is definitely worth a visit, if not for the stalls then for the grandstanding views of Manhattan. The nearby East River State Park is nothing to write home about, sadly.

What will you find when you arrive? Local artists display and sell their latest work (a series of pen drawings on Post-It notes, anyone?), hipsters lounge about with their too-cool-for-school clothing lines and boxes of dollar records, but my favourite stalls are those dealing in pure Americana; elderly subway and street signs; the man with dozens of transistor radios in pristine condition. My best find on a recent trip were the guys selling antique signage and fairground games from Coney Island. Pure and unique nostalgia, but with a price tag to suit, of course. There's also a third event on Saturdays at the Williamsburg location - Smorgasburg - with over 100 food vendors serving up street food and ingredients, kitchenware and other paraphernalia. 


There are plenty of other independent fleas in the borough. If you're heading to Williamsburg, stop by the 
Artists and Fleas Indoor Market on North 7th Street. It's open every weekend and crammed full of stalls showcasing work by local artists, photographers and jewelry makers. Careful as you make your way round, though - the aisles are claustrophobic when it's busy and it's a little too easy to trip over a stall. Bedford Avenue, the main thorough of Williamsburg, is littered with second hand stores too - this neighbourhood is a mecca for lovers of bric-a-brac as well as damned good-looking hipsters.

Further afield, there's the more down-to-earth 
PS321 flea market every weekend in Brooklyn's Park Slope and several seasonal flea markets across Brooklyn. Bensonhurst is a neighbourhood far from the minds of tourists and most NYC residents, but during the warmer months you'll find the Church of the Holy Spirit flea market open for business and bargains from an altogether more local crowd. Still no broiled burgers though, which can only be a good thing.

 

 

   
"Twitchhiker – How One Man Travelled the World by Twitter" is Paul's book about his social media adventure around the world, published by Summersdale and available on Amazon.
 
Paul's next book, "Tales from the Edge of America" will be published in Spring 2012. You can subscribe to the book's mailing list to find out more.

 

NYC walk

 

David Whitley puts his guidebook away and prepares for a sensual bombardment as he ambles through the parks and streets of Manhattan.

 

There are many cities where attempting to drive is an extremely bad idea. And, providing that the public transport is vaguely decent, the usual advice will be to stick to the buses and the train network.

 

This is especially the case with New York. You’d have to be a complete mentalist to think about getting behind the wheel here, and the Subway system is both generally excellent and available 24 hours a day. But is it the best way to get around? Heck no – providing you’ve got a bit of time on your hands and don’t mind waiting at the odd pedestrian crossing on a fairly regular basis, by far the best way to explore New York is on foot.

 

With a rigid grid system, it is virtually impossible to get lost in Manhattan. And, if you’ve got the free time, you’d be well advised to stick your guidebook/ map/ iPhone app in your bag and just see where you end up. There’s so much going on here that it doesn’t really matter if you skirt within ten blocks of a popular sight – you’ll spot plenty that intrigues or makes you try to suppress a belly laugh.

 

Central Park is a fabulous place to start, as it is rammed to the gills with New York stereotypes. Joggers really do pound around the Reservoir, people continually try to sell you hot dawgs from shabby-looking carts and there’s a crazy man who seems to think he’s Michael Jackson and likes dancing in the road. The park really is something special – the skyscrapers ring it, but it seems far removed. Squirrels scamper about, people pootle around the lake in boats and self-parodic personal trainers make middle-aged women leap about like kangaroos with flailing arms. Interestingly, there are also signs warning people to leave the wildlife alone. Apparently a few Central Park raccoons have been diagnosed with rabies. I think the Michael Jackson man has been consorting with the raccoons.

 

Once the relative peace of the park has been abandoned, it’s time to embrace the madness. Personally, I could happily spend hours looking up, cooing at skyscrapers, although I do concede that this would probably lead to me being called an “asshole” by a taxi driver. Yes, that stereotype’s true. And there is a deli on just about every corner too. Most of them sell bagels. And their owners probably like Woody Allen films.

 

Encounters range from the poignant – the gaping hole where the World Trade Center once stood, now filled with all manner of construction vehicles – to the comic. Within a period of twenty minutes, I managed to walk past a vociferous man selling ‘Barack Obama’ condoms, a busker trying to earn money by hammering away on a drum kit next to a deserted car park and a shop staffed entirely by men wearing just jeans and no shirts.

 

A particular highlight was watching a chap clad in streetwear finally conceding defeat. His trousers were hanging so low beneath his arse (at least 85% of boxer shorts on display) that he had to pull them up because he was tripping over. At last, a victory for moral rectitude and common sense. 

 

It’s a non-stop bombardment in which the little details (ice cream stands with calorie counts displayed as prominently as the prices) hit home as much as the stirring set-pieces (armies of suits pouring across Broadway as rush hour strikes). And it’s a reel or memories that you’ll not get by shutting yourself away for quick flits between sights on the Subway.

 

 

Disclosure: David was a guest of Nycgo.com. He stayed at the Hilton Gardens Staten Island (Hiltongardeninn.Hilton.com) and the Affinia Dumont (Affinia.com) in Manhattan.

 

 

 

Highline

 

 


New York City has seen every walk of life in its short history - pros, pushers, poets and pirates; Mad Men, rappers, beatniks and punks. Then there's the cowboys. 2,000 miles from the outlands of Texas and New Mexico, they didn't wrestle heads of cattle and weren't too hot with a lasso.

 

The West Side Cowboys first moseyed into town in the mid-nineteenth century. They were railway employees that rode horseback in front of the street-level freight trains on Manhattan's 10th Avenue, clearing the way of pedestrians. Manhattan’s West Side was the city’s largest industrial neighbourhood, and freight trains were a necessity in transporting heavy goods in and out. Many New Yorkers lost their lives to the relentless engines that powered through the streets – to the point where locals cheerily referred to the thoroughfare as 'Death Avenue'. 

In the early 20th century the city announced a raft of improvements to the West Side, which included the construction of an elevated freight system, known today as The High Line. The rail track was built through the centre of city blocks rather than above and along the avenues, allowing factories and warehouses to load goods directly onto the trains. But as road infrastructure improved and heavy industry petered out in New York, so did the need for a dedicated freight line. The service ended in the 1980s and the tracks were left to rust, wild grasses and graffiti ran its length. 

It was the last of Manhattan’s elevated train lines, however, and felt by the immediate community to be of historic significance. The Friends of the High Line came together, and slowly found support within the City Council for the line to be saved rather than scrapped - over a dozen blocks of track had already been demolished in the 1960s. A decade later, the High Line reopened – not as a railway, but as the city’s most original and splendid park.

Above the sidewalks and horns of the city, the wooden decks replace rusted steel amid blooms and shrubs, with views rolling out across the west of broken piers drowning in the Hudson River, and the chatter of Chelsea to the east. Visitors sprawl over loungers and enjoy the calm as the High Line gently ducks and swerves around buildings and under hotels, curls and cups its brick brethren. 

The traffic below and azure above, stretching from the Meatpacking District to Hell's Kitchen, the High Line is a pathway of urban tranquility borne out of cowboys and freight trains, and a true must-visit destination when visiting the city. So unique. So very New York.

 

 

 

   
"Twitchhiker – How One Man Travelled the World by Twitter" is Paul's book about his social media adventure around the world, published by Summersdale and available on Amazon.
 
Paul's next book, "Tales from the Edge of America" will be published in November 2012. You can subscribe to the book's mailing list to find out more.

 

Manhattan Parks

 

10 Manhattan Parks You've Never Visited

Name a park in New York. No, not that one. Central Park makes its way onto the itineraries of most visitors, and rightly so. It offers wide-eyed scale and diversity - glacial outcrops, fountains, statues, lakes and lost trails - and that quietly surreal juxtaposition of calm open fields framed by the metropolis beyond.
 

If you're on a second or third visit to the city and want to explore other green spaces, then take your pick of these ten Manhattan parks:


Columbus Park, Chinatown 

A favourite spot of mine for so many reasons. A century ago this was the territory of the Dead Rabbits; the southern end of the park marks where the infamous Five Points neighbourhood was located. Now you're in the heart of Chinatown, so you'll see countless games of Mahjong and elderly ladies singing singing Chinese opera. Fried Dumpling is on Mosco Street (five freshly-cooked dumplings in hot sauce for a dollar) and the location is a great springboard to explore the restaurants of Chinatown. If you're here in the evening, check whether Winnie's Bar is open at the park's northern end, a dive well known among locals for its karaoke. 

Septuagesimo Uno, Upper West Side 
From Central Park, the largest in Manhattan, it's only a couple of blocks west to the smallest. Septuagesimo Uno is a 'pocket park' squeezed between buildings on 71st St, between Broadway and West End Avenue.

Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island 

Most New Yorkers have never visited this neighbourhood in the swells of the East River; fewer still have even heard of Southpoint Park. It only opened in August 2011, so don't be surprised to find yourself alone with postcard views of Midtown Manhattan. There's more to come, too; the FDR Four Freedoms Park opens just beyond Southpoint Park in 2012. While you're there, you can explore Roosevelt Island's other sights.

Lighthouse Park,
 Roosevelt Island 
Sticking with Roosevelt Island, head to its northern tip to find Lighthouse Park, with cracking views of Manhattan's Upper East Side and the gothic Blackwell Island Lighthouse.

Highbridge Park, Washington Heights

Manhattan is over 13 miles long; most tourists travel less than seven miles along that length, from Battery Park to Central Park. You'll have to venture a little further to find Highbridge Park. The main point of interest is New York's oldest bridge, the High Bridge (not The High Line, which is a park in its own right). It's a footbridge across the Harlem River that links Manhattan and the Bronx. Although closed in the 1970s, there are plans to open it again in 2013.

Gramercy Park
 
Plenty of people have seen this immaculate park tucked away behind Park Avenue, but only through the iron rails that surrounds it. Gramercy Park is the most exclusive, and only private park in Manhattan, with keys to the gates held by residents. The only realistic way for a visitor to gain access is to book a night at the Gramercy Park Hotel for $500. Historically the hotel has always held 12 keys, and 'key to private park' is listed as standard when booking a room - but then some say your face has to 'fit' too.

John Jay Park, Upper East Side

As you pick your way through the herds of tourists, it's easy to forget that parks are built and maintained for the communities around them, not for camera-packing foreigners. So here's a neighbourhood park adored by the locals during the summer months - on account of its full-length outdoor swimming pool. 

Inwood Hill Park, Inwood 
One of the more surreal experiences I've had in New York City involved emerging from the subway at 207th and Broadway to be surrounded by the expected traffic, horns and hubbub of the city - to then walk two blocks west and discover a wall of rock ten storeys high. 

Inwood Hill Park is one of my favourite places in Manhattan. Before the Dutch arrived in the 17th Century, Manhattan was all swamps and forests, rivers and marshland. The park is a time capsule preserving that chapter of island life; a low cut meadow looks out across Spuyten Duyvil Creek at the northern point of Manhattan Island, sweeping up into the last its forests; a natural wilderness of marshes, valleys and woodland. 


Robert F Wagner Jr Park, Battery Park City 
If the packs of tourists at Battery Park are too much, this is another sprawling park on the riverfront just around the corner, offering views across to the Statue of Liberty but without the crowds.

Carl Schurz Park, Upper East Side 
The Upper East Side is poorly served by the subway, meaning Carl Schurz Park is still 15 minutes walk from the nearest station at 86 Street and Lexington Avenue. It's worth the wear on your soles because you'll find Gracie Mansion, a Federal-style home built in the embers of the 18th century. It's the official residence of the city's mayor (although current mayor Michael Bloomberg lives elsewhere in the Upper East Side) and there's a tour and a museum for visitors.

 

 

   
"Twitchhiker – How One Man Travelled the World by Twitter" is Paul's book about his social media adventure around the world, published by Summersdale and available on Amazon.
 
Paul's next book, "Tales from the Edge of America" will be published in Spring 2012. You can subscribe to the book's mailing list to find out more.