NYC Observations | Bleader

NYC Observations


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Just returned from my first trip to New York City. Light posting as I get my act together, but I had a couple city- and urban-planning-related thoughts.

* New Yorkers jaywalk like nothing I've ever seen, but you probably already know this, and I did too, going in. I assumed this was because they are rude and in a hurry, but now that I've been there I don't think that's the case. First, the streets are really narrow, which encourages jaywalking by making it safer and easier.

But I have a more compelling theory. I didn't test it scientifically, but I believe it to be true: the pause between a street light turning red and the walk sign changing from "stop" to "go" is long, or at least longer than it is in Chicago. It seems barely within the realm of being noticeable, but I found myself timing my crossings with red lights, stepping into the street, and then pausing until the light turned green, until I realized what the deal was. I don't think I'm crazy, at least when it comes to this.

* New York drivers seem more tolerant of jaywalking than Chicago drivers. I suspect this is a corollary to the theory that more bikes makes streets safer for bikes because the more you see the more you're going to instinctively take them into account when driving.

* Then again, I'd be terrified of biking in Manhattan, because of the narrow streets. I thought I noticed fewer non-messengers in Manhattan than I see in downtown Chicago, but my sample size was pretty small.

* I was expecting the Brooklyn bar scene to be an overwhelming hellscape of overbearing scenesters, but the Pacific Standard is one of the most pleasantly homey establishments I've ever been to, especially the vintage Pier 1 couches in the back. It's like having a living room with people who will sell you West Coast microbrews at perfectly reasonable prices. Highly recommended. On the other hand, it's probably notable that, when being told a bar was a tolerable place to spend an evening, my friends tended to describe them as "sort of like a Chicago bar," and I suspect that I was intentionally directed to places like that. We did venture into one that has indoor bocce, which is a great idea and actually more space-efficient than pool tables, but it was an overwhelming hellscape, so we went somewhere quieter. Perhaps my next career will involve importing indoor bar bocce to Chicago; it's more civilized than cornhole, at least.

* The thing about New York that made me the most envious, at least as someone who works in the food void that is River North, is having food vendors downtown. That's why I fully support efforts to make selling food on the street easier here.

* A friend of mine who moved from Chicago to New York a couple years ago describes the El system, in comparison to the New York subway, as "a toy." He's got a point - the NYC subway system is actually a marvel of speed, mostly because having multiple trains to different neighborhoods running within moments of each other on the same tracks is just a good way to organize things. On the other hand, no trains run to LaGuardia or JFK, which is perverse.

* The only famous person I saw was George F. Will, who is about as disappointing a celebrity sighting as exists in America.

* No matter where I was, there was a street nearby that reminded me of Maxwell Street. I especially liked the guys in midtown Manhattan who were hustling haircuts.

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