nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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And it all grinds to a halt

Oh dear, New York was not a happy place yesterday. The snow started falling from about 9am and didn’t stop for a long time. I watched it from our apartment, 35 floors up, and it was mesmerizing. I emerged late morning to pick J up from pre-school and it was 2 inches thick, a powdery loose snow that swirled up into the air. It was minus 7 degrees C. Our avenue was chock full of cars, taxis, buses and trucks warily edging their way up the road. People were angry: they clearly hadn’t read the forecast and were beeping and shouting, at what, I don’t know. All a bit pointless really.

I had to take J with me to the orthodontist to get my new aligners to finish off my Invisalign treatment and he was in heaven stomping in the fresh virgin snow. It took us 40 minutes to sort of walk 3 and a bit avenues. And then we got caught by the funeral of ex Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, which was taking place at a church on Park Avenue. TV cameras and crews everywhere, blocking the traffic even more. Had a nice chat with and bored looking NYPD officer nearby which made J’s day (and mine, I suppose), so something good can happen in sub zero temperatures in New York.

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The appeal of Peel

There is a relatively new Commissioner of the NYPD – the last one, Raymond Kelly, went when Bloomberg left office on 1 January this year. His name is William J Bratton. He tried to become the head of the London Metropolitan Police a few years back but is now Commissioner here in New York for the second time.

He has a bit of a thing about the UK and invokes the spirit of Robert Peel in his approach to police work. He even carries round piece of paper with the nine principles of policing developed by Peel in the 19th Century. Peel of course famously founding the London Metropolitan Police during his stint as Home Secretary. He went on to be the British Prime Minister twice in the 1830s and 1840s.

Commissioner’s Corner on the NYPD website provides Bratton with the perfect forum to expound his love of Peel. Even the title sounds like some cosy 1970s afternoon show on the BBC. A true Anglophile.

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Ah, so that’s why

There are NYPD cops all over the place around 4pm this afternoon and there are railings the length of Park Avenue. This is the Upper East Side, what is going on?

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One cop tells us that the President ‘may be coming down here soon, but we don’t know’. I overhear another cop tell a lady that there’s a film shoot going on, so they’re shutting down the streets. I tend to believe the former as I read in the New York Times that the President is in town to visit schools in Brooklyn and that they shut down Prospect Park because of it. Blimey. Well, I was on a train back from Washington last night, he could have sat next to me and kipped on our sofa bed. Much cheaper.

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New York, Paris, Peckham

This may be a theme, being reminded of old UK TV shows whilst living in New York, but the image of Del Boy and his faithful yellow Robin Reliant bearing the words New York, Paris, Peckham comes to mind every time I see the three wheeler NYPD cars that litter the streets of New York. As far as I can tell they are for the Traffic Enforcement Agents (that’s parking wardens to us), which are part of NYPD. To me the New York police is NYPD Blue. I was a big fan of NYPD Blue, with the handsome Jimmy Smits playing Detective Bobby Simone alongside the not so handsome Detective Andy Sipowitz played by Dennis Franz. It stopped in the mid 90s with Jimmy Smits popping up more recently in an implausible plotline in Dexter. Every time I see an NYPD cop on the street I think about the show. I’m sure the novelty will wear off soon, I certainly didn’t think of the now defunct ITV series The Bill when I walked around London and saw the Met police! In New York, NYPD officers rather dangerously stand in the middle of avenues, directing traffic (even though there seem to be perfectly good traffic lights working) wearing masks over their mouths to protect them from the exhaust fumes. They tell you to cross when the pedestrian lights don’t agree. Here, when the orange hand is still it means ‘no, don’t cross, you may die” and when it flashes it means ‘maybe you can cross, but you could get run over and still die’. When it changes to the white lit outline of a person of indeterminate sex it means ‘walk, but if a car wants to cross the crossing, turning left or right, it will and mostly ignore you, so watch out’. The safest place seems to be the three wheelers where the agents spend their time drinking coffee and keeping warm watching the traffic go by.