by Laura Matiz
A new year represents an opportunity for new adventures. Armed with an umbrella for the rainy Monday after New Year's Day, my husband and I walked to the newly opened 72nd Street stop of the Second Avenue subway. The new line had started running the day before with Governor Cuomo leading the ceremonial first trip.
A first impression one gets is how much deeper underground this line is than the Lexington Avenue trains. It is a long escalator ride down. After a quick turn off the escalators, the upper level of the station is on the other side of the turnstiles. That upper level is a well-lit space with high ceilings. There are stairs and escalators to track level along the center. The upper levels have been the talk of the opening because of the public art installations.
The mosaics on the 72nd Street station are a treat. In fact, many of the people at the station were looping around viewing the mosaics as if at a museum. Vik Muniz, the artist behind the mosaics at 72nd, features New Yorkers in whimsical poses as if waiting or running for the train, including a self-portrait with the artist running after papers spilling from his briefcase.
After stopping at two other stations, 96th Street and 86th Street, we exited with a sense of joy and pride. Like many curious New Yorkers, we took many pictures, some shared here. We congratulated a number of MTA employees that were on hand with information and pamphlets. We felt a need to give someone credit for the undertaking and the accomplishment, for the opening of a new subway line is a once-in-a-lifetime event notwithstanding that it had been in the works for more than a lifetime.
— 12/28/2014: NYC Underground: New Transit Projects
by Laura Matiz
About a year ago, I wrote about the 2015 expansion plans for Citi Bike, NYC's bike sharing service. Recently, Citi Bike announced that it is starting another big expansion project – growing from 8,000 to 10,000 bikes in 2016. This most recent expansion will place stations up to 110th street on the Upper East Side & Upper West Side in Manhattan. Stations will also be added to Jersey City and new Brooklyn neighborhoods. See Citi Bike's 2016 expansion page for neighborhood maps with the new stations.
If you are considering signing up with the Citi Bike program, the annual fee is $155, but discounts are often offered and you can always get 10% off if you pay with a Citi Card. If you do join up, make sure you take a look at the Bike Smart pamphlet from the NYC Department of Transportation. It offers many riding tips and summarizes the rules of the road to help you ride safely.
by Laura Matiz
[Original post 1/11/2015: revised May 28, 2016 with updated details and Governors Island info.]
Historic lower Manhattan has so many things to see and do. Knowing how to get around for free makes it even more fun. Many parts of lower Manhattan have transformed from commercial to a heavily residential area. Buildings that once housed large banks and corporations now feature unique apartments that take advantage of the tall ceilings and impressive lobbies. New construction has added units to the market as well, including the Frank Gehry-designed building on the east side of island, one of the tallest residential buildings in the world. Visitors to this area can benefit from knowing about these free transit options — on land and on the water.
Staten Island Ferry
Commuters and tourists know the Staten Island Ferry is one of the best ways to experience the imposing New York City harbor. The 25-minute trip to Staten Island, which has been free since 1997, skirts the Statue of Liberty offering frugal tourists a cheaper and faster alternative for getting a photo of this famous landmark. A round trip from Manhattan does require passengers to disembark on Staten Island before getting on the next ferry back. During this rush maneuver, one can miss the amazing aquarium tanks at the Staten Island terminal featuring exotic fish so mesmerizing that you might miss the next boat back.
Starting in 2017, tourist and visitors might not rush back to Manhattan given the planned opening of the New York Wheel. Like its brethren, the London Eye, the NY Wheel is sure to draw plenty of visitors and offer stunning views of the New York skyline.
The magic is on the return trip as the boat approaches the majestic view of lower Manhattan. Get a good spot on the outdoor decks to get the best photos. Stay on the east side decks to avoid the crush of tourists getting pictures of Lady Liberty. Another hint: take the ferry in the late afternoon when the skyscrapers absorb that warm glow of the sun. The ferries run frequently and on time. On weekends, they run every 30 minutes during the day, but check the schedules to plan your trip. Bicycles can be brought on board, but cars have not been allowed on the ferry since 9/11. Free WiFi service is now available in the terminals and on all the ferries. Both the Manhattan and Staten Island terminals are renovated and clean with lots of security personnel.
IKEA Express Shuttle to Red Hook
The NY Water Taxi's IKEA water taxi shuttle is another great way to see the New York harbor. The 25-minute trip starts on Pier 11, Slip A in the east side of lower Manhattan and cruises along the Brooklyn coastline. The shuttle is free on weekends with reasonable weekday fares. Riders can choose to disembark at one of two stops in Brooklyn, the Red Hook Dock on Van Brundt Street and the IKEA dock. The trip can be quite refreshing in the summer time when New York is sweltering and the marine breeze feels so much cooler. When reaching the Brooklyn stops, the Verrazano Bridge becomes an imposing view as it stands tall at the edge of the bay, a gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. A great photo opportunity.
Of course, riders can immediately take the ferry back, but Red Hook offers many spots worth investigating. Museums, restaurants and bars, art galleries are within walking distance and anchored by the IKEA superstore, which features a large cafeteria-style restaurant featuring – could it be anything else? – Swedish meatballs. For a cheap-eat, try the delicious BBQ baby back ribs with corn bread, when available. For a detailed overview of other places to visit in Red Hook, Michael Hsu's thirteen-part Must-See Red Hook is an excellent guide.
Downtown Connect Bus Service
The Downtown Connect shuttle loops around lower Manhattan making 37 stops in a U-shape route. This services is relatively unknown to most New Yorkers, but offers an excellent way to tour lower Manhattan and all for free. Service is available seven days a week, except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day starting at at 10 AM and a final run at 7:30 PM. Buses arrive at 10-minute intervals on weekdays and at 15-minute intervals on weekends, but electronic signs provide approximate wait times. Tracking information is also available on the web and mobile devices, such as the live route and bus tracking shown below from Nextbus. This screenshot below shows the route: red dots represent stops and selecting a stop will provide approximate wait times.
Governors Island Ferry
Governors Island is a 172-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor. Minutes away from lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, it's accessible by ferry and open to the public during the summer. The weekend ferry is free in the mornings, other times is costs $2 per round trip. There is no additional charge for bicycles. The island offers many outdoor activities and is fun for the whole family.
I enjoy getting to know this fabulous city and I hope these free public transit services make the exploration of lower Manhattan and the harbor equally enjoyable for you.
by Laura Matiz
There are two infrastructure projects underway on the Upper East Side. One of them is quite obvious on Second Avenue. (See: NYC Underground: New Transit Projects.) There, the new subway line installation requires massive equipment. A high level of street-side disruption is clear. Sidewalks, crosswalks, and businesses along the thoroughfare are greatly affected.
Along Third Avenue is the second infrastructure project. It is so unobtrusive that most people are unaware that it is already active and running. Of course, I am writing about the ambitious LinkNYC Public Wi-Fi program.
The LinkNYC web site explains that in 2014, the mayor's office announced a competitive request-for-proposals to reuse the ubiquitous pay-phone infrastructure to offer New Yorkers free Wi-Fi and phone calls. The city awarded CityBridge, a consortium of technology, media, user experience and connectivity companies, a 12-year franchise. LinkNYC offers super fast Wi-Fi — a hundred times faster than average public Wi-Fi — across New York City connecting about 7,500 kiosks. The free service will be supported with advertising.
LinkNYC has also been rolled out along Eight Avenue and will continue to expand in Manhattan before heading out to the other boroughs. A LinkNYC map provides information on kiosk locations. Connecting is quite simple and anecdotally, speeds have been impressive. See the video below explaining how to connect to LinkNYC. Happy surfing.
by Laura Matiz
The Real Deal recently ran an article on this map of New York. The map, from around the turn of the 20th Century, is exquisitely detailed by the illustrator, Josef Klemm. His map is a bird's-eye view of the city before the rise of the skyscrapers. The map is meticulous enough that one can spend hours focusing on the details. Below is a screen grab of Central Park and surroundings.
Maps like these are enjoyable to explore and many such maps are accessible from the expansive David Rumsey Map Collection. Map enthusiasts are likely to be aware of this source, but if you are not, it is worth checking out. The online collection houses over 150,000 maps.
For example, doing a quick search for New York City maps, I found this map from 1926 by Charles Farrow titled, "A Map of the Wondrous Isle of Manhattan."
Below, I share some highlights. First, the map's medallion has such nice touches, including the warning, "The scale is all askew," which is true. An elevated train circles the medallion's top border and a subway is below ground on the bottom border. The couples from the Roaring Twenties add to a feeling of the Jazz Age. This is the kind of map that could be used as the background for an opening sequence for a movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Another detail is the northwest corner showing the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Columbia University. It also shows the infamous S (for Suicide) Curve of the Ninth Avenue El (see photo).
The map's border also caught my attention. The strip of antique cars and pedestrians is energized and active. You can see why the pedestrians need to move out of the way—fast. The whimsical drawing reminds me of the illustrations in old Monopoly sets.
I hope you take some time to look around these two maps and the full Rumsey collection, just make sure you have a few hours.
by Laura Matiz
In June, construction crews were quite active along 86th Street installing kiosks and signage in preparation for the rollout of a new M86 Select Bus Service. According to the MTA, the M86 crosstown line is the busiest route per mile serving 24,000 riders daily. The Select Bus Service aims to improve travel times by having riders pre-pay before boarding. Using a Metrocard, riders obtain a paper ticket at kiosks located at the bus stops. Time savings occur because all three doors on the bus can be used to let riders on. So, how successful has the July13 rollout been? Here are some anecdotal observations after a few weeks of use.
by Laura Matiz
Citi Bike has announced a massive expansion of the bike-sharing program with Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bedford Stuyvesant starting in August 2015 and the Upper East Side and West Side in the fall. Forty-eight bike stations will be installed on both sides of Central Park, 27 on the UES and 21 on the West Side. The stations will be installed between 59th Street and 86th Street. Eventually, the Citi Bike system will double in size by 2017, with 6,000 additional bikes and over 375 new stations. (See expansion map below.)
by Laura Matiz
In December 2014, I wrote about transit developments in "NYC Underground: New Transit Projects." There, I highlighted the 7 Line West Side Extension that will reach the Jacob Javitz Convention Center. The extension will also serve the new Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, "the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States and the largest development in New York City since Rockefeller Center." This project is bound to open up and change Manhattan's far West Side.