nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Bureaucratic tendencies

I am frustrated. I thought I had learnt to brush off the rude side of New York, that I could cope with no one saying thank you and yet constantly asking me how I am, but it appears not.

First, there is 311, which according to nyc.gov is:

“New York City’s main source of government information and non-emergency services. Whether you’re a resident, business owner, or visitor, help is just a click, text, or call away.”

On Saturday I rang 311, inspired by R’s tale of getting back the scooter and lunch box he had left in the boot (err trunk) of the taxi when he was with E last week. He had rung them and they had traced the taxi driver using his credit card information, used to pay for the ride, and the taxi driver had come back to our building to return our things. I was very impressed.

But when I rang them I got quite a different experience. I had walked by a Range Rover with both of its front windows smashed in and glass all over the pavement and road. I was with J but thought I would ring 311 to tell them so that they could alert the police and owner. Battling my way with the voice recognition software of 311 which clearly wasn’t trained to understand a British accent, it finally gives in and sends me off to a real human. She then palms me off on 911 – the police – probably because she couldn’t understand me either.

And this is where it gets really painful. I explain to the lady on 911 that I have seen the car, it’s not my  car (yes, I tell her this three times) but I just want to do the right thing and report it. No, the person who did it is not there, as if they would hang around while I made the call.

She asks me for my details as the officer will want to speak to me. Why? Because there has to be someone for them to talk to. I wonder if this is loneliness on their part? Surely just knowing the address and looking at the car will give them all they clues they need to work out what happened?  They don’t need me. At this point I say to her that I have a roaming toddler, I’m on my way somewhere, I don’t want to hang around. So she refuses to take the street information from me. End of conversation. Well done, NYPD!

I walked by the next day and the car was covered in black plastic and tape, but the glass was still all over the place.

And today it didn’t get much better as the lady at the post office refused to take the lovingly sorted coins of our piggy bank (elephant shaped) telling me in no uncertain terms “I ain’t takin’ no quarters. I don’t want all your coins!” And sends me off with my tail firmly between my legs. Blimey. What fabulous service.

The bank was the same, you have to provide the coins in paper rolls. Really? My piggy bank doesn’t offer that service. So here I am stuck with tonnes of coins and nowhere to change them. Looks like I’ll be taking them all to CVS and their self service tills, that’ll irritate the locals!


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Creepy guy

I took J to a different playground in Central Park today. It’s quite normal for an early morning playground to be pretty empty with just a few nannies and even less mummies. So when a middle aged man decides to come into the playground without a child and sit on a bench with his mobile phone it’s no surprise that I was a bit suspicious.

I kept my eye on him for ten minutes and as we naturally went near him, I asked him what he was doing there and pointed out the regulations nearby that say adults must be accompanied by children under 12. He was not happy at being asked and said ‘ooo, creepy’.

Then he starts getting all offended, saying he was waiting for friend who has a child. I said OK, but it is unusual for a man to be on his own in the playground. At which point, I expected him to be entirely understanding and for the conversation to end. But no, he gets up in a huff and says that he will wait outside. He is affronted that I confronted him. He then continues to mutter loudly, but I am too far away and cannot hear, but it’s clearly directed at me.

He’s offended. Really? Is he completely unaware? Did he not see every woman in the playground giving him a concerned look as they kept their kids away?

Interesting that when we left to go to another playground about 20 minutes later, he was still outside the playground having animated conversations (presumably with someone) on his mobile phone. No friend with child  in sight. An ordinary guy with a tardy friend or something more sinister? You decide, but for me, leaving that playground was the best thing to do. Creepy guy indeed.

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Not a Ewing in sight

I have recently returned from a 3 day, child free trip to Dallas. I can confirm:

  1. it is phenomenally hot there, with a peak of 38 degrees, it is a searing, dry heat pretty much unbearable;
  2. there is no one on the pavements because of 1 above;
  3. every building is air conditioned so severely that you need to carry a jumper so as not freeze in side, this is bizarre;
  4. some men actually wear Stetsons. Honest. It’s true. No irony. Nothing.
  5. that you will hum the Dallas theme tune when arriving from the airport because you can’t help it;
  6. the buildings do not appear in panels of 3 as per the Dallas opening credits, although they probably should to make them more interesting;
  7. there is the most amazing herd of life size bronze steers (cows with horns) running down a hillside next to City Hall that are being herded by a cowboy. It’s a great piece of public art;
  8. there’s a Henry Moore piece outside City Hall which is huge and so smooth you have to touch it;
  9. the Dallas Museum of Art is lovely, has a wonderful Edward Hopper painting and is open late on a Thursday; and,
  10. that to walk around Downtown Dallas safely, don’t walk around after dark, walk quickly and don’t show your phone or valuables, there’s an edge to it and a lot odd people hanging around.

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The $1.4 billion garbage bill

I’ve often wondered where all the rubbish goes in New York. On Saturday mornings, the streets around here are lined with rubbish bags and waste waiting to be picked up. The streets smell really bad until the ‘garbage’ trucks turn up. I usually go for my run then and I have to breathe through my mouth the whole way to avoid the smell. Friday night detritus is everywhere, pizza boxes galore along with some less salubrious leftovers.

To be fair to the DSNY (the New York City Department of Sanitation) they seem to take pretty much anything. People leave all sorts of crap out and it’s gone within hours. Each week the Department picks up 50,000 tonnes of curbside rubbish. I did try to find out where it all goes, but it was a long and complex explanation, suffice to say Manhattan is an island so it trundles off by boat from Marine Waste Transfer Stations. Where it goes from there, who knows!

I did find out that there are 6,000 uniformed workers and a vast array of vehicles:

  • 2,230 collection trucks
  • 450 mechanical street sweepers
  • 275 specialized collection trucks
  • 365 salt/sand spreaders
  • 298 front end loaders, and
  • 2,360 various other support vehicles

The New York Times did a great article yesterday, providing an insight into the life of a garbage truck worker and the training they have to go through. And I was stunned to see the cost of it: $1.4 billion. Wow. It’s well worth a read.

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$4.25 for a doughnut?

Surely not. But yes, today I was walking down East 78th street between 1st and 2nd Avenue and found a new (to me) bakery called Orwashers. Sitting in their window was the biggest, fattest doughnut ever. Is that a jelly (err, jam) doughnut I ask? Why yes, but you can choose what flavour you want inside. And there on the blackboard was a list of jam flavours and some enormous syringes.

Curious I said I’d have one (and because I love doughnuts) and she proceeded to stab the fat doughnut with a large pair of scissors before injecting the doughnut with a vast amount of jam. Oh my.

I carried it home very carefully, cut it into four and shared with J and E (R will have to wait, if he’s lucky, his quarter will survive in the fridge until this evening). The verdict? It was lovely. E liked it so much she licked the plate clean (urgh). Not enough though. Given you can get an entire jam doughnut from Dunkin’ for a dollar, it’s a bit expensive but for an extravagant treat I may return and I won’t be sharing it.

Check it out below:

donut 1








donut 2








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What you need to know about Fire Island

  1. Confirm that it is indeed an island, but it is not on fire.
  2. Prepare for your journey using Google Maps which says it is supposed to be 1 hour and 15 minutes by car from the Upper East Side. That is a lie, it is at least 2 hours (see below for exception).
  3. Choose one of the many beaches (Robert Moses Beach); you have to park in a ‘Field’, which has no grass and is actually a car park.
  4. Accept that it is unbelievably busy on a Sunday in August but at 28 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, you just don’t care.
  5. Queue for a very long time to get a cold drink to supplement your fabulous home made picnic lunch and wonder at the woman in front of you who returns soon after receiving her fries and chicken wings to complain they are so salty, they are inedible.
  6. Remember quite quickly that taking a nearly 3 year old to the beach is hard work and quite frankly the risk of losing him is pretty high, so dress him in the brightest rash top possible and hope for the best.
  7. Marvel at the water which is lovely and almost warm, but becomes a bit full on later in the day as the tide changes.
  8. Fail to find your Zip Car because it is black and nondescript and you haven’t remembered to find a reference point in the enormous car park, so wander for quite a while trying to manhandle your toddler before he ends up under a car.
  9. Locate the car and exit with half the beach in the boot (err, trunk), drive off in search of pizza at the other end of the island having smugly looked up on Yelp and other sites for the best pizza. Grind to a halt as there is an accident on the only bridge to and from the island and sit there for an hour waiting for the emergency services to leave.
  10. Drive gleefully in the opposite direction to the hideous amounts of traffic that have built up since the crash on the bridge and then find that the road on Google Maps stops half way and you can’t go any further because there’s some kind of nature reserve or whatever and the ROAD DOES NOT EXIST.
  11. Glumly join the end of the traffic that you could have avoided and spend the next hour waiting to get back on that bridge and drive home.
  12. Count the number of men peeing into the bushes on the side of the road because the traffic jam lasted so long.
  13. Attack what’s left of that fabulous picnic, because there’s nowhere to eat dinner and everyone’s starving.
  14. Arrive home nearly 4 hours after leaving the beach. Humph.

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NW3 in NYC?

view from Brooklyn


Yes, it’s all about the B boroughs at the moment. Today we went to Brooklyn to Pier 6 to use its amazing water park and playgrounds. The photo above is taken from pier in Brooklyn looking over the East River to the tip of Manhattan. You can see One World Trade Center poking out high in the middle.

It’s a beautiful day today, around 31 degrees and perfect for a water park. Whoever is developing Brooklyn’s water line is doing a good job, this is the best kids water area I’ve seen so far and it’s completely free. But of course with free comes crowds. So many kids all having a fabulous time. Overall everyone is very well behaved and even the locusts from the camps are doing OK. J and E both enjoy it enormously in their own ways. I seek out shade and keep a watchful eye on the ever adventurous J. We only linger briefly in the slide playground as it’s just too hot and the slides are roasting. Check out the pictures on the Brooklyn Bridge Park website.

We pack a picnic and eat that watching the waterline: the Staten Island Ferry making its orange way across the water; the helicopters whirring around like wasps as they visit the Statue of Liberty; and the footballers playing in the midday sun on Pier 5.

And the greatest revelation was the walk from the subway. We get out at Borough Hall, the first stop in Brooklyn on the 4 and 5 line and walk down Joralemon Street. I was expecting industrial, faceless boring buildings. But no. It was beautiful. A quiet, sometimes even cobbled street, with tall townhouses in immaculate condition. Colourful flowers in pots everywhere and even a babbling pond with a frog! I was not expecting to find some fake NW3 in this part of NYC. It’s just lovely.