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How Can I Help My Brother?
August 23, 2010 2:13 PM   Subscribe

My brother is moving to New York soon. What would be a good, useful gift for him? More after the fold.

He is 22 and is hoping to continue his comedy career there. He's living in Brooklyn, and will be coming from a mid-sized city (Cincinnati).

I will see him next week and I'd like to give him something memorable and helpful. Yes, I will already be getting him a membership with Metafilter.

Thanks for your help - I'll be keeping an eye on responses so I can answer any questions you have.
posted by glaucon to Shopping (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
A Not for Tourists guide, a solid umbrella and a metrocard.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 2:19 PM on August 23, 2010


Unlimited Metrocard.

Restaurant.com sometimes has really awesome deals for my neighborhood. Plug his address in and find out.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:22 PM on August 23, 2010


Transit cards. Get him a few of the 30-day unlimited ride sort. Also, consider a membership to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden or another similar institution.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:24 PM on August 23, 2010


Get him a few of the 30-day unlimited ride sort.

Get him one 30-day Unlimited and buy him a new one at the end of the month if you want to get him several. Buying them at the same time doesn't work.

2nding the NFT guide. Also, one of those wallet-sized train maps. I don't know where to buy one, but banks give them out on the street all the time. I'd go easy on memberships to musems and such until he gets his shit together. He's probably not going to have enough time to enjoy them his first year or so here.

A big favor you can do him is start asking your favorite bars/restaurants if they need barbacks/busboys. Comedy doesn't pay the bills, at least not from the get-go. Working as a barback can get him a bartending job which will lead to a lot of connections on the NYC comedy circuit.
posted by griphus at 2:29 PM on August 23, 2010


Buying them at the same time doesn't work.

Sure it does. They expire about 13 months after you buy them. As long as he doesn't swipe it until he needs the next one, it's fine.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:31 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Does he have an iPhone? This may sound silly, but I'd have loved it if someone else had paid for all of my helpful getting-around-New-York apps!
posted by pineappleheart at 2:38 PM on August 23, 2010


Bed-bug mattress cover. I'm not being snarky -- it's a great piece of mind if he's moving around a little at first and something he may be unlikely to buy himself because they're expensive!
posted by Juicy Avenger at 2:58 PM on August 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


subscription to Time Out New York.
posted by Maias at 3:26 PM on August 23, 2010


Gift certificate for shoes with good support.
posted by ridogi at 3:35 PM on August 23, 2010


I loved this map when I moved to NYC (9 years ago, pre-smartphone). The pop-out design is really clever and useable.
posted by mayhap at 5:04 PM on August 23, 2010


Nthing an unlimited Metrocard.
posted by SisterHavana at 5:43 PM on August 23, 2010


These are all awesome ideas. Especially the TONY subscription. If he is into theatre/performance at all, a membership to TDF would be better than any museum ever. It gets you fabulous discounts to theatre at all levels, from tiny shows begging for somebody to show up all the way up to Broadway.

I would not buy a subway map of any kind unless your brother is exceptionally clueless. They are free from any subway station. Also, every station has multiple maps prominently displayed, as does every subway car. If you can't find a map to look at to figure out how to get where you're going, you need much more serious help than you can slip in your wallet.

If you get him a map, go with the NFT guide or maybe a super amazing street atlas of some kind. Most NYC street maps are of Manhattan, and specifically the parts of Manhattan that are actually quite difficult to get lost in. A good Brooklyn street map would probably be more useful, as Brooklyn is not built on a grid and can actually be sort of confusing.
posted by Sara C. at 6:38 PM on August 23, 2010


Unlimited Metrocards are fantastic!

Pocket-sized folding streetmaps of the city can be super-handy -- particularly one of Brooklyn, which can be hard to get around until you're used to it. If you get one of Manhattan, make sure it covers the whole island and not just downtown.

If he has an iPhone, Exit Strategy and KickMap are essential. The former takes a while in the city to really get used to, but I personally use it nearly every time I ride the subway.

If you think he'll use it, a Fresh Direct account (specifically, a subscription to their unlimited free delivery service) can be a lifesaver. The quality of groceries is very high and it saves a ton of time.

If he doesn't have a good pair of walking shoes/sneakers already, he'll need one.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:46 PM on August 23, 2010


If your bro is going to be working an entry level or service industry wage, I wouldn't bother with Fresh Direct. Their prices aren't too expensive, but the great thing about Fresh Direct is that it's a huge time saver. Chances are someone moving to NYC is going to have all the time in the world on his hands. He will be able to get groceries both cheaper and easier at any supermarket.

Unless they have credits or gift cards nowadays? THAT would be a great gift!
posted by Sara C. at 6:50 PM on August 23, 2010


- Restaurant gift certificate: Restaurant.com has poor coverage of NYC's restaurant scene. If you want to get him a gift certificate for a restaurant, try Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group which includes a range of restaurants at different price points: Eleven Madison Park, Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Tabla, Blue Smoke & Jazz Standard, Shake Shack, The Modern, Cafe 2 at MoMA, Terrace 5 at MoMA, and Maialino.

The USHG gift card is accepted at all of his restaurants so he can treat a friend to a nice meal or spend it all on burgers.

- I'd also consider a gift certificate to Ikea; Bed, Bath, and Beyond; or the Container Store. Most likely, he's not going to be close to a Target (unless it's the downtown Brooklyn one) or a Wal-Mart.

- Maps/guides: I heartily second the NFT guide with the caveat that if he has an iPhone, the iPhone applications may be handier after the first few months. There's also a Moleskine notebook with NYC maps, but I like the NFT commentary. You can get a free subway map from booth attendants...if you can find one.

- I regularly use Yelp, OpenTable, Menupages, and Exit Strategy ($3.99 for the subway system map, maps of where the exits are for each station, area map around each station, no connectivity required). The others I mentioned are free.

- Non-flimsy umbrella: second this idea, perhaps one with a lifetime guarantee like a Davek. It's heavy and sturdy. Perhaps two, one to leave at the office (in case of getting caught in an unanticipated storm) and one for home?

- MetroCards: An unlimited MetroCards is activated upon the first swipe and can be used until midnight on the thirtieth day, but may not be cost effective if he doesn't have a Monday-Friday twice-a-day commute.

Regular fare for a subway or local bus ride is $2.25. However, if you add $8 or more to a pay-per-ride card, there is a bonus of 15%, resulting in odd amounts. I always add $15.65 to cards for a bonus of $2.35 and a total of $18.00 (8 rides).

So if you purchased $89 worth of fares via pay-per-ride you would get $102.35 of actual credit on your MetroCards. That is, a little bit more than what 45 rides would cost. Therefore, the monthly unlimited MetroCard is only worth it if you take more than 45 rides per month.

- Messenger bag: all the things you used to leave in the parked car, you need to bring with you all of the time: umbrella, pens, notebook, NFT guide, hat, gloves, scarves, sunglasses, etc.

- Other practical items: rolling cart for heavy items/groceries, laundry bags, quarters for the laundromat, pocket-sized hand sanitizer (for subway poles and taxi cab touchscreens), small pocket compass (figuring out uptown/downtown when you exit the subway can be disorienting).

- In the future, he may also want a Zip Car membership, but I agree with everybody else in that the first year is spend settling in, so a lot of membership gifts (like a museum) might go to waste.

- Hannibal Buress for hosts comedy at the Knitting Factory, every Sunday for free, so not exactly a gift you can buy, but good to start networking. Also keep an eye on Eugene Mirman's Comedy Festival, from September 16th - September 19th and will be at The Bell House, The Rock Shop, and Union Hall, as it might be nice to grab some tickets for him. Reggie Watts will be performing in Fort Greene Park on Tuesday, September 14th with Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens which I believe is free.

- Aziz Ansari, Louis CK, Tracy Morgan all have shows coming in NYC that are not cheap and would be a nice gift. I think the Aziz shows are all sold out though.

I would not buy a subway map of any kind unless your brother is exceptionally clueless. They are free from any subway station. Also, every station has multiple maps prominently displayed, as does every subway car. If you can't find a map to look at to figure out how to get where you're going, you need much more serious help than you can slip in your wallet.

I disagree. While I wouldn't buy something that was a paper map (and only a paper map), I also wouldn't rely solely on the MTA. Since the MTA has been doing away with attended booths, it's been harder to get the free foldable paper maps. Every station has multiple maps prominently displayed but I've noticed the ones that aren't behind glass already have stations rubbed off (and these are the new maps, WTF). Sometimes, too, the car is too crowded and you'd rather have a map in your hand to look at, discretely. It's about being able to figure out your route before you get down into the station, or remind yourself where to transfer (without having to get up from your seat), or deal with service changes on the fly.
posted by kathryn at 6:54 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I also wouldn't rely solely on the MTA. Since the MTA has been doing away with attended booths, it's been harder to get the free foldable paper maps. Every station has multiple maps prominently displayed but I've noticed the ones that aren't behind glass already have stations rubbed off (and these are the new maps, WTF). Sometimes, too, the car is too crowded and you'd rather have a map in your hand to look at, discretely

I actually live here. Granted I've been here a while, but I just moved to a new neighborhood and started a new job, both on subway lines I'd never relied on before. I get by exclusively on HopStop, the station maps, and the car maps and do not miss a paper map (haven't used one since approximately the month after I moved here). And it's stupid to pay for something that is free. As someone who actually lives here, I see booth attendants often enough to nab one if I really wanted it. I don't want to reduce the thread to bickering, but SRSLY, if one is going to spend $10 or less on a gift for a family member moving to NYC, for serious, anything subway map related is a waste of money. The city spends plenty of our tax dollars making sure that anyone intellectually north of Rain Man can get around the transit system.
posted by Sara C. at 7:06 PM on August 23, 2010


I said:

While I wouldn't buy something that was a paper map (and only a paper map), I also wouldn't rely solely on the MTA.

In other words, get something like a guidebook (NFT) or use an application (Exit Strategy) that includes a version of the system maps.

(I also live in NYC.)
posted by kathryn at 8:52 PM on August 23, 2010


Manhattan Block by Block: A Street Atlas by John Tauranac is the best of its kind.
posted by mlis at 9:26 PM on August 23, 2010


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