nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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Wailing on Wall Street

This is what I was doing earlier tonight as I got out of the subway at Wall Street. In the dark it’s very hard to read street signs and there’s no logic to the street layout down town – the logic of the grid system is far north from here. I was squinting like a very old lady and looking as bemused. In a bid to not get mugged, I huddled to look at my phone and work out where I was but that was hopeless too as it was too hard to see such small print. I am getting very old, I must update my contact lenses.

I then stumbled across the New York Stock Exchange building which looked amazing all lit up at night.

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So I have decided that the episode of Sex in the City where Carrie gets on the subway because there are no cabs and where she emerges at Wall Street station (not sure which line, but let’s say it’s the 4 5 line) is completely unrealistic. I don’t see how she could have oriented herself and got herself the the Stock Exchange Building to ring the bell in rush hour in her enormous Laboutin or Blahnik heels. No way. I was wearing fur lined Camper boots and I had no idea.

It’s so cold again, that being on the street that marks the original wall of Manhattan where in the 1660s New Amsterdam originally ended, just reminds me of Game of Thrones. But that’s another terrible TV reference that R says I should stop doing. But I can’t; it makes me laugh. Better than wailing.

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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.


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Yes, yes, he’s right!

At last, someone who agrees with me that the alarmed doors on subway stations are pointless. I have complained here before about the noise the doors make when I have to use them to get my buggy on to the platform and how I feel like a fare dodger for using them. Turns out other people hate them too! In an opinion piece in today’s New York Times, which is accompanied by a short 2 minute 26 second video, a writer called Ken Webb shows how awful these doors are. And he’s almost on my side when he talks about the volume of the alarm affecting babies being pushed through the doors – at 85 decibels, this seems pretty loud to me. He even shows someone pushing a buggy through, but doesn’t show what I experience every time, which is the physical origami I perform as I try to hold the door open and wheel the damn thing through without the door slamming in my face and the alarm deafening me. Yes! He’s right. Someone at the MTA should take note of this man.

 

 


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A trip down Canal

Off to Chinatown today. I’m searching out exotic ingredients for a special Valentine curry. Yes, I know, romantic stuff. I like Chinatown, I like that Canal subway station has a lift and when you pop out on to Canal (the street) it’s like being in another world. It’s a Wednesday lunchtime, so not busy and there are only a few tourists around. There’s a calm about the place, with locals shopping, eating and walking with a purpose in the bitter cold. I am heartened by the great people in the Bangkok Center Grocery store on Mosco (yep, no w in Chinatown) Street and the masterful way they took my recipe and found almost everything I needed. I am brave and go into two Chinese bakeries and buy random nice looking cakes and buns with the hope of liking something new (and I do – I like Taro buns!).

And after a lovely trip out, I come across these t-shirts hanging from a tourist shop. Who would wear these?

Tourist t-shirts


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Searching for Avonte

Avonte Oquendo is a 14 year old autistic boy who has been missing since 4 October. The reason I know about him is because his face is plastered all over New York (see the snap of the poster on the subway below). It is all over the subways in particular because he has a fascination with trains. He disappeared from his school in Long Island City and hasn’t been seen since. The MTA who run the subways have regular announcements over the tannoy about him; the dot matrix boards interrupt messages about imminent train arrivals with more messages about him. I think by now everyone knows about Avonte and yet he is still missing. I have never seen such an effort on the London Underground and am impressed with this. I see from today’s New York Post that the reward for his safe return has risen to $85,000. I hope it works.

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1000 steps to Queens

That may be a slight exaggeration, but not much. I bravely ventured out with J and E to the New York Hall of Science. This rather grandly named attraction is based way out in the Flushing Meadows area of Queens. Practically at the end of the 7 train line, this is a world away from our part of Manhattan. And when you are doing this with a heavy toddler in a buggy in the hot, humid weather of NYC it’s hard work. Not one person helped with the steps all the way there and there are a lot.

The Hall of Science is based in a converted 1960s building that was originally built as a pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair. It’s a great hands on space for young kids to learn about science and has an excellent playground, which is great for 7 year olds and hopeless for toddlers. Just hope they are asleep so they don’t get jealous.

Next door to the Hall of Science is Flushing Meadows Corona Park, an oasis of greenery and calm in the heart of Queens and home to the Queens Zoo, sister to its more famous sibling in Central Park. It’s lovely. Small, but lovely with a rather impressive elk with the biggest antlers I’ve ever seen. There’s an old fashioned carousel and a petting zoo with some very friendly goats who love to be stroked. And in the middle is the most peculiar building called Terrace on the Park.

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I have just looked at the website for it and it appears to be much flasher in its Internet form than in real life. From the outside it looks really run down, a bit unloved and frankly a bit of a concrete monster. It completely dominates the park, looming over the zoo. Not sure I’d fancy getting married there, but I suppose the views must be good.

Oh, and on the way back I managed to look pathetic enough to get help with the buggy up all those blasted stairs all the way home. Just don’t be on the subway past 4.30 in the afternoon as it’s as packed as the London underground and deeply unpleasant.


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Not sure what to think

I follow lots of New York media via Twitter, it’s a great way to get a broad flavour of what’s happening in the city without trawling through websites or buying the papers every day. Yesterday I saw a tweet from the New York Post saying “Never pee on the third rail”. I was intrigued. The tweet took me to the full story on the New York Post website. I’d assumed that someone had been electrocuted whilst actually in the act of peeing, which can never be a good thing. But on closer inspection it was that he had got down onto the track to pee, stumbled when he’d heard a train coming, tried to get off the track and fell on the third electrified rail. It just shows that the 140 character limit of Twitter can create an impression that something has happened in order to send traffic to a website but it’s really not quite the truth when you get there. I see from the Post website today that the story had re-tweeted 47 times, but had appeared on other media Twitter feeds so there were many more re-tweets. More ghoulishly, 209 people ‘liked’ the story as it appeared on the Post website. I wonder if they really thought about that: the fact that this poor 30 year old man died in a freak accident and they ‘liked’ it. Maybe I’m just as bad, as I am blogging about it too.


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Unwanted conduct

Heard on the subway earlier today “Ladies and gentlemen. A crowded subway is no defence to unlawful sexual conduct. If you believe that you have been the victim of a crime, or witness to a crime, notify an MTA employee or police officer.” That’s a new one on me, but I looked it up and it’s been around since 2011, part of the MTA’s “If you see something, say something,” campaign. Not sure I’ve ever heard anything similar on the London Underground.


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Blast off to a new subway

The Upper East Side of New York is not well served by the subway. Everyone treks to the Lexington Line to get a 6 (slow) or a 4/5 (express) train down town. I don’t commute, but R does and is no fan. Unsurprisingly it is crowded and generally unpleasant for commuters and marginally better for people like me who use it off peak and occasionally.

The first phase of the 2nd Avenue subway is due for completion in December 2016. This has been a very long project for the MTA (Mass Transit Authority) here in New York, which started decades ago, halted due to the city’s failing finances in the 1970s and re-started in 2007 after a vast and long consultation. A new T line will be constructed in four phases and  run from 125th Street in Harlem almost to the bottom of Manhattan to Hanover Square. 16 new stations will be built, with the 86th Street station the most significant in the Upper East Side.

E’s class is doing a project on the subway this semester. They even had a trip to the construction site – dismissed by E as incredibly boring, but I would have loved to have gone. Despite her lack of interest, she came home with a great way to remember how to spell subway (not sure what the proper term for this is):

Superfast

Uptown or downtown

Big and Fast

Where it’s traffic-less

And underground

Yes, it’s great!

I was in the apartment of one of E’s school friends, who lives on 2nd Avenue. Her mother said that the blasts from the construction were so bad sometimes that light fittings fell from the wall. She said that each building has sensors that monitor the impact of the blasting and that there are limits within which the buildings are supposed to move. According to the MTA’s 2nd Avenue March Newsletter, there have been 407 controlled blasts in the area and the cavern beneath is 61 per cent excavated. Blasting can take place any time between 8am and 8pm. I can hear the blasts and I’m at least an avenue away and high up. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be on top of it. Literally. Residents are assured that the blasting will cease by the end of the summer, when no doubt there will be huge sighs of relief equally measurable.

When we went apartment hunting last year we avoided 2nd Avenue like the plague. One realtor tried to reassure us that the construction works going on outside her property just off 2nd Avenue wouldn’t go on forever. I am so glad we didn’t listen as I walk by it regularly and it’s a terrible road with constant noise and terrible pollution. It would take a brave soul to buy on 2nd Avenue at the moment, someone willing to put up with the inconvenience now will of course gain in the long term. Not having to walk to the Lexington line will be a huge advantage for those nearer the East River so maybe an apartment on 2nd Avenue won’t be so bad – in 2017.