New York, the final frontier. Help me understand the geographic lingo.
May 28, 2009 12:04 PM   Subscribe

New Yorkers seem to have an incredibly detailed implicit and explicit knowledge of their city. I want to know more.

New York has burrows, streets, neighborhoods, mass transit, parks and all the rest of it. New Yorkers seem to have all of this knowledge deeply ingrained in their psyche. You always see statements on AskMe like:
"oh, there is a ridiculously tiny shop that does that exact thing on broadway at fifth" (just making that intersection up, I don't even know that it exists)
"You are going to have a hard time getting an apartment at that price in that part of town below 53rd"
"Oh yeah, just take the orange train to 6th, then transfer to the M line southbound, hop on the #562 bus, and get off exactly 2 minutes and 45 seconds after the stop by that excellent bagel shop."

1: How does this knowledge become so ingrained? Do people really just answer questions about the parts of town that they travel through everyday or is it that New Yorkers all use he same basic language to communicate geography?

2: How (or where online) would I learn about the neighborhoods/areas of New York without actually going there? To a New Yorker, it means something if you say "I live on the Upper West Side, on 10th". I have no idea what that means. Does that mean they are rich or does that mean that they live in a roach infested half-condemned hovel? Is there any sort of reference for this kind of "meta" information? Like which neighborhoods are safe to go out at night, which neighborhoods mean that you are an i-banker or executive?

3: Which areas are where for that matter? For example, the Upper east side, where is that? When someone says they live in Queens and commute to Manhattan, how could I get an idea about what their commute is like, how long it takes, what areas they go through, and whether that is a popular route for that kind of person to make or if it is a very atypical arrangement of work and home?

Generally speaking, when someone uses any of the top ten or so geographic locations in NY, where are they referring to, and what are the connotations associated with that location?

References would be excellent, personal opinions and listing would also be perfect. Help me understand the lingo better.
posted by milqman to Society & Culture (75 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's boroughs, also spelled boros. (We have five: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Staten Island.)

If you mentioned some neighborhood in your city, out-of-towners would have no idea what you meant.
It also has to do with the particular character of New Yorkers: we are such city people, and we are loudmouths, and we love to share info and show off what we know, and so many of us are passionately in love with our city that we naturally talk about it all the time. We don't drive, as a rule, so we are far more connected to the streets and public transport lines.

Here is a clickable map with guides to some of the best known neighborhoods in the city, and a character run down of each.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:16 PM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

You can find plenty of maps of New York neighborhoods by Googling, and of course every neighborhood's history, demographics, and personality are covered pretty well by Wikipedia. Both Google and Hopstop can tell you commute times.

But yeah, you pick up things just by being around it all the time. There's also a lot of pressure amongst certain sets (all of them) to be savvy about it all. When really uptight people lash out when you get a neighborhood wrong by a few blocks, you don't tend to forget.
posted by aswego at 12:16 PM on May 28, 2009

Manhattan is physically pretty small. Most of the questions asked on here are about Manhattan or Brooklyn (where many people live), Its sample bias

Take the earlier question about Staten Island - no answers - why? I'm guessing most NYC base members only exposure is the trip from one bridge to another on their way to the Jersey Turnpike. I'm from around here and have probably driven through SI 100 times in my life - and I can only name 2 nabes there- St George because of the Wu-Tang Clan and Todt Hill because its where Paul Castellano lived (and I have no idea why I know that)
posted by JPD at 12:17 PM on May 28, 2009

When you live in a place, you are learning something about it every time you travel through it. I was going to ask whether you know the geographic details of your city with equal depth, but I realized that New York is different from a lot of other US cities in a certain regard. It's only become apparent to me after living in St. Louis for a few years (after being in New York), but there's a tendency for neighborhoods here to be isolated from each other and therefore more self-sufficient in terms of amenities. New York's public transportation makes disparate neighborhoods a lot more accessible, and so people are more likely to take advantage of the fact that other neighborhoods offer things theirs does not. I think this contributes to your impression that New Yorkers have a universal knowledge about their city's physical and human geography.

As for gaining that knowledge on your own, well, ignoring questions of how much value that actually has for you, I can't offer too many tips other than looking at transit maps and reading the Wikipedia pages for the individual neighborhoods (example – scroll to the bottom for a listing of other neighborhoods in the borough, and links to other boroughs).
posted by invitapriore at 12:19 PM on May 28, 2009

Not a New Yorker, but spend inordinate amounts of time there, and lots of my family are. A few things:

- New Yorkers are constantly seeing their city reflected back to them in pop culture (movies, TV, books, songs), which reinforces and enriches their first-hand knowledge of the city.
- Most New Yorkers don't own cars, so they need to learn the streets and the subway system well.
- Because of the difficult nature of NYC real estate, most New Yorkers have shoebox-sized apartments and thus spend most of their free time out and about, rather than socializing or just hanging out at home.
- Also because of real estate costs, lots and lots of New Yorkers rent rather than own. This makes them more mobile, which means they have probably lived in several different neighborhoods.

If you want to learn NYC, the best way is just to go there and spend a week getting on and off subways, finding your way around. Some good web resources:

Bridge and Tunnel Club Big Map pictoral guides to many NYC neighborhoods
Curbed, real estate blog
New York Magazine, The New York Times and Gawker are good for understanding NYC cultural stuff, ie, what it means if someone is a classic Upper West Side type, or which neighborhoods are the best for specific types of cuisines.
posted by lunasol at 12:21 PM on May 28, 2009 [16 favorites]

Here's a more detailed map of Manhattan neighborhoods, minus the descriptions.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:22 PM on May 28, 2009

NY has burrows .
posted by Pollomacho at 12:24 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I grew up near but not in NYC, but I always got the impression that the fact many New Yorkers walk or take mass transit to where they are going (as opposed to driving everywhere and being insulated from the details of the neighborhood) had a lot to do with it. Also, there are a lot of distinctive landmarks and parks that orient people better than the streets and mundane buildings in smaller cities.

I'll leave it to the actual New Yorkers to answer the rest.
posted by aught at 12:26 PM on May 28, 2009

Yeah, I'd chalk a lot of it up to mass transit knowledge. Everyone has horror stories of ending up at some God forsaken stop on the G train at 3 in the morning on a Sunday. Thus, you look around.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:31 PM on May 28, 2009

Oh, and as for directions: Manhattan is (mostly) laid out in a grid, so if you tell someone 10th and 45th, they will immediately know that you mean 10th Ave and 45th St (they'll know this because there is no 45th Ave).

Oh, and yes, if someone says they live on the Upper West Side, it probably means they are either wealthy or got a great deal. But the Upper West Side also has all these older connotations of being a sort of intellectual haven, where lots of literary editors, etc lived. Lots of middle-class or wealthy Jewish families, too. Think Woody Allen, and that's sort of the cliche idea of the Upper West Side. Now it's basically an area for affluent families with young children.
posted by lunasol at 12:33 PM on May 28, 2009

That's a ...tall order.

I'll give number 1 a shot: it's from living here for years and because of the grid system. Above 14th street, the streets are laid out in a (fairly) reasonable grid. The street numbers go up as you move north (23rd st is just below 24th street) and the avenues go up as you head west (1st, 2nd, 3rd, ect). Broadway cuts across the middle of Manhattan and divides streets into East and West (of Broadway) and divides building numbers as well. So if you wanted to know how to get to Broadway from say, 200 East 23rd street, you'd know it's close by (cause the building number is pretty low) and cause it's E. 23rd you'd know to head west, in the direction of the decreasing building numbers and you'd know which way is west because of the avenue numbers decrease as you east and the building numbers go up. (although this is a bad example cause on the East side, Madison, Park, and Lexington interrupt the numbering system, so that's just something you have to remember.)

The grid keeps you aware of your cardinal directions, so you're always more or less oriented. The older parts of Manhattan are arranged more haphazardly (and they have NAMES for streets, uck) and I always end up getting lost when I'm down near city hall. Same thing for areas of Brooklyn/Queens. far uptown, like near Fort Tyron, break the grid up as well, but that's just something you'd get used to if you lived near there (plus it makes for entertaining discoveries, like the entire cloistered neighborhood on the hillside there)
posted by The Whelk at 12:34 PM on May 28, 2009

NY has burrows .

Sorry, I didn't mean to hit post without saying that it takes time, just like learning any new community. I've never lived in NY. I've never lived anywhere near NY, but I've read, I've seen a lot of media that comes out of there, I stared at numerous maps both current and historical, I've visited many many times and through all that I have a rough idea what people are talking about. If you lived there a while you would start to pick it up pretty quickly just as if you were learning Paris or French. I read a breif history of the city not long ago that really helped put things perspective. I'm trying to dredge it up now.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:34 PM on May 28, 2009

How well did you know the neighbourhood or town you grew up in? Did you have a different kind of knowledge of the parts you biked or were driven through?

It's the same for New Yorkers. Manhattan is small, and NYC is a very on-foot city. You develop an intimate knowledge of neighbourhoods you walk consistantly. Distance between subway stops sort of mandates this. The neighbourhoods you consistantly travel to (or even skip over) give you a good knowledge of transportation.

I grew up in NYC and I learned a lot about the city from Time and Again, and another awesome book I can't recall the name of - something like The Big Book of NYC - that had cool stuff like why Vandam Street is called Vandam Street and the math trick thing for figuring out the cross street of addresses. I'm sure MeFi could help you find this book; it's for kids but it lays out a lot of the stuff in which you seem to be interested.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:40 PM on May 28, 2009

Best answer: If you're in New York and looking for practical advice ("how do I better navigate the city?" "what's the difference between the east and west side?" "the bowery, wtf?") I recommend getting a good map, getting off the subway in unfamiliar neighborhoods, and just walking around. Much of Manhattan above 14th street is a grid, and getting off at an unfamiliar subway stop and walking from point A to point B will be really useful way to familiarize yourself.

As for, "why are they like that?" -- New Yorkers tend to spend a lot of time on foot / using public transportaiton, which may account for a more "intuitive" geography sense, but it's really no different from living anywhere else (in that you're familiar with the areas you frequent). But mostly, it's a combination of local knowledge plus familiarity with the city map (which everyone has, if they use public transportatation) -- which translates to slightly better spatial logic. Add to the mix a generalized fascination with real estate, and you get a pretty solid cultural short-hand for what is located where, and why you might want to be there.

For instance: "I live on the Upper West Side on 10th" means: You live on 10th Avenue, not 10th street (which would be confusing, otherwise, because 10th street is downtown, and the West Side / East Side refers to "East and west of central park" - so uptown). You live on 10th Avenue, which means you're really close to the river, so you probably have nice views. You live on the "West Side," which means that (unless we're being euphemistic) you're relatively close to Central Park AND Riverside park, as two of the major markers (again, going solely based on the map). All of these are really desirable factors, real-estate wise -- so from the information above, I'd guess that you're college-educated, have loads of disposable income, and probably shop at Fairway (since there are two on the west side).

A good place to go would be city data (not specific to New York), which tends to have a lot of good information on neighborhoods across the board. I don't know any New York specific sites -- mostly, I think, it's just common knowledge from wandering around. You could also get a guidebook. NFT (Not for Tourists) guidebook is a pretty standard one, but pretty much anyone will give you a good overview of neighborhoods and establishments -- though there's a lot of turnover for these.

But mostly, I think it's just walking around and using public transportation. I also don't think New York is unique in this respect -- it's just that it gets more press and has a "reputation."
posted by puckish at 12:42 PM on May 28, 2009

skipping blithely over preview -- everything that was said above.
posted by puckish at 12:44 PM on May 28, 2009

Broadway cuts across the middle of Manhattan and divides streets into East and West

Actually, Fifth Ave is the one that divides E from W. (So an address at 25 E 46th St. is just east of Fifth, while 435 E 46th St is way east, near 1st ave. Ditto with the west side - 435 W 46th St would be near 10th ave. One of the little inside jokes on Law and Order is how many of their addresses are actually in one or the other of the rivers.)

Diagonal Broadway creates all the famous squares where it crosses the major E-W streets: Union Square is Broadway at 14th, Madison Square is Broadway at 23rd, Herald Square at Broadway and 34th, etc...
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:46 PM on May 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Every neighborhood is distinct. As they said, Manhattan is actually pretty small land wise. Chelsea is for the gays (although, now its aging gays and with way less crazy nightlife) and galleries, Upper West Side is the literary/middle class (the middle class in New York is the wealthy everywhere else), the Upper East Side is for the wealthy or the frat boys/sorority girls (and wealthy in New York is the billionaires everywhere else). No one worth their salt lives in midtown. The East village is for aging punks and their families, the lower east side is for the hip (hipsters, band members, models etc), the West Village is a quaint little village that you'd have to be very wealthy or have inherited in order to find an apartment there, lots of tucked away shops and restaurants, so you'll also find lots of celebrities in this area. In the middle of it all is NYU/Greenwich village, which means college students. The financial district is very up and coming, or at least it was before the wall street crash. To be truthful, the cultural center of New York City has slowly expanded into Brooklyn (I'm very biased), and you'll find that the neighborhoods there have a much more "original" new york feel, meaning less chain stores, more mom and pop stores, original restaurants, boutiques, etc. And as you can imagine every neighborhood there also has its own persona. I'm partial to Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens myself.
posted by Unred at 12:50 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can't live on the Upper West Side on 10th. 10th Avenue becomes Amsterdam Avenue at 59th Street.
posted by decathecting at 12:58 PM on May 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

Not a New Yorker, and I haven't even spent very much time there, but I will offer a few observations on my part that might be relevant:

- A lot of that highly-specialized knowledge is specifically within Manhattan (the "exact street location" examples you give are generally within Manhattan).
- Manhattan alone has as many people (~1.6 million) as a medium-sized city elsewhere in the country
- Manhattan is pretty small (~23 square miles)
- Manhattan is incredibly diverse, with very small and widely divergent neighborhoods right up against one another.

My mid-sized midwestern city might have one tiny little shop somewhere that does the same very specific thing that that one tiny little shop in Manhattan does, but since my mid-sized midwestern city is spread out over 400+ square miles, I naturally don't know the whole of my city as well as a Manhattanite knows Manhattan. And while there are neighborhoods in my city as well and I'm reasonably familiar with the different neighborhoods and suburbs of my city, and what classes or ethnicities are common in each, the individual neighborhoods are larger to begin with, and the boundaries not so sharply defined as they are in Manhattan. A Manhattanite may be able to walk five blocks and be in a distinctly different culture than his home neighborhood; I can drive five miles without things changing that much. As such, the Manhattanite's awareness of a diversity of resources will be significantly greater than my own. I may know the resources of my own suburb (nearly as large as Manhattan, geographically) as well as a Manhattanite knows Manhattan, but the resources in my Midwestern suburb are far far less diverse than those of Manhattan.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:01 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The map that cunninglinguist found is solid, is there a map like that that talks about it from more of a demographic or connotative perspective? That map is very real-estate based (which makes sense because it talks to some obvious cultural points, but it doesn't say as much about the culture or "feel" of the area).
posted by milqman at 1:14 PM on May 28, 2009

Excellent question. I live in New York but I've only been here a few years and I've also lived in other cities where I didn't grow up (so I think I can say it's not just that New Yorkers seem weird because they're not Bostonians).

Given that, I think the biggest reason New Yorkers are like that, and yes, they/we are like that, is that knowing that sort of thing--how to get places, exactly where the best place is in some obscure part of Queens to get some obscure food you'd never heard of, what it means if someone lives in Hell's Kitchen versus the Upper East Side, etc.--is information that New Yorkers think it's important for New Yorkers to know. Lots of places have certain kinds of knowledge that they value (just a guess, but I'm assuming you're considered kind of a doofus if you can't find your way around the LA highways in your car)--and this kind of really detailed geographic information is a kind that New Yorkers value.

Add to that that many New Yorkers have moved here voluntarily (and as such are eager to pick up the local habits and knowledge), and that people here are generally pretty intense whether they're from the city or not (so social pressure is pretty intense to know the stuff you know your friends think is important), and that this would be intensified by all the non-native New Yorkers going around acting all "New Yorky"...and so on and so forth.

Finally, on a less anthropological note, when I moved to Manhattan I learned my neighborhood way faster because instead of being able to do all my shopping at a single place I had to cover virtually the entire neighborhood to get all the food I needed. Same thing with drugstore stuff, housewares, etc. That "there's an adorable shop in x place that sells y thing" phenomenon, while delightful when you're visiting, has an ugly side when you live here.

Oh, and Manhattan's small, and if you pry you'll find most of your most superior-acting New Yorkers only know a very small part of the city--usually Manhattan below about 110th, a tiny bit of Brooklyn and a tiny bit of Queens, no Bronx, no Staten Island.
posted by supercoollady at 1:14 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I moved to NYC eight years ago, knowing virtually nothing about it. I would second what everyone says about 1) public transportation 2) the grid. With time, this stuff just becomes ingrained in you. I have a spatial sense of NYC that I never had when I was driving in the other places I lived in.

I would say that my knowledge started with the neighborhoods where I lived, worked, and had friends. I actually lived in that entire cloistered neighborhood on the hillside there. You will always find yourself in new neighborhoods for various reasons- the doctor, visiting someone in the hospital, business, going to a specific shop. And every time you go someplace new, you add that to your internal map... along with the feel and features of the neighborhood.

For the first couple of years I was here, I would find that I still had "holes" in my map, and couldn't make the connection between areas. But it has certainly filled in over time. Although I still know the west side better than the east, because I've always lived on the west side in Washington Heights, Chelsea, and will soon be moving to the Upper West Side. The other thing is that people living in the city are generally obsessed with real estate, and talk about it all the time. Total strangers will ask about your rent within the first five minutes of conversation.

I will add that upper Manhattan (the part above the Upper West and Upper East Sides), are often overlooked in many respects. With the exception of Harlem, you won't hear much about Washington Heights and Inwood which are the other neighborhoods up there.
posted by kimdog at 1:15 PM on May 28, 2009

Oh, and thanks for the C.H.U.D.s, pollomacho!
posted by supercoollady at 1:16 PM on May 28, 2009

I moved to NYC eight years ago, knowing virtually nothing about it. I would second what everyone says about 1) public transportation 2) the grid. With time, this stuff just becomes ingrained in you. I have a spatial sense of NYC that I never had when I was driving in the other places I lived in.

I just wanted to chirp up that this is probably true anywhere where there's a grid system and you do a lot of walking; my current locale, Gainesville, FL, has a quadrant system and I've found that I've developed a tendency to talk about things that are, say, "NW, by 23rd" in a way that would probably make no sense to "outsiders."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:18 PM on May 28, 2009

1. You learn stuff by being around it and exploring and having friends who live in those places and finding things out for yourself. Honestly, you learn something new here every day, and if someone brings it up something you know about in conversation (great place to get a cheap drink, awesome bookstore, whatever), you jump on it because "hey! I know this awesome place!"

2. To a New Yorker, it means something if you say "I live on the Upper West Side, on 10th". I have no idea what that means. Does that mean they are rich or does that mean that they live in a roach infested half-condemned hovel?

Honestly, it could mean either. Neighborhoods have super huge grey areas in between them. If someone told me that, I'd ask what cross-street, what they like about their neighborhood, how they came to live there, etc. And sometimes the creepiest neighborhoods have the best apartments, so please don't judge people based on where they live! (not that it seems you were, but I'm just sayin.)

3. If someone lives in Queens and commutes to Manhattan, their commute could be anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours. Queens is HUGE. And also close to Manhattan. So if you're going from, say, Long Island City (and your apartment is a block from the subway) to Lex & have a short commute, maybe 15 minutes. Ozone Park to the UWS? Long, long long (with transfers).

I've always been infatuated with NYC, and have lived here for around 4 years, and I still get excited when I learn something new, even if it's just around the corner in my neighborhood.
posted by AlisonM at 1:18 PM on May 28, 2009

Based on the time when I had several friends and a brother living in Manhattan (and was considering moving there myself) I found a couple of things in addition to what has been discussed already.

1. Manhattan living costs are very high, and in my experience a lot of people are curious about relative costs in other parts of the city. So people talk about where they live and costs and the relative value of different neighbourhoods quite regularly, maybe more than elsewhere. In groups of people who are considering buying or have bought, that accelerates.

2. Manhattan may be relatively small, but something I've noticed is that many people who work downtown but live uptown will, on a weeknight, go out directly from work - for dinner, drinks, shows, meet friends, whatever - and only get home at the end of the evening. And since apartments tend to be small, there is a built-in incentive to spend time out and about.
posted by mikel at 1:22 PM on May 28, 2009

I think your question, and all of the above reasons are valid. However, I do have to point out that New York still has PLENTY of folks who do manage to only stick to their neighborhood or borough and don't have a capacity for telling you where to get XYZ done in another part of town. For example: people who only frequent shops/stores where the owner speaks their same language, or people who are elderly/incapacitated such that even mass transit is a pain in the ass, etc. When you have everything you need in the 9 city blocks surrounding your home, why go anywhere else? Also, I've run into several folks who decry "going below 23rd" or "above 14th", or whatever setpoint for cool/hip/upper-class/b.s. they subscribe to.

So, there's a little bit of a selection bias effect in play in your question, coupled with the fact that the type of multi-borough-versed New Yorker you describe is reinforced by tv and movies.
posted by NikitaNikita at 1:25 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

is there a map like that that talks about it from more of a demographic or connotative perspective?

here's one
posted by abirae at 1:27 PM on May 28, 2009

milqman: ""oh, there is a ridiculously tiny shop that does that exact thing on broadway at fifth""

Heh. I'm at Broadway and Fifth Avenue right now. Happens to be one of the most famous intersections in the city, given that it's the home of the Flatiron Building, in which I am sitting. Alas, unless the "ridiculously tiny shop" is a Sprint, Jo Malone, or Max Factor store, I'm afraid there isn't anything like that at this particular stop.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:28 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and while we're talking about maps, does anyone know of a physical one that shows subway entrance locations? I know the OnNYTurf map shows them online (zoom in all the way), but I don't have a phone with internet, and I'd like to be able to carry that information around in my purse.

Ideally such a map would cover the whole subway system, but even Manhattan only would be nice.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:31 PM on May 28, 2009

There's also a lot of pressure amongst certain sets (all of them) to be savvy about it all.

Yeah, I'd like to emphasize this. There's a pretty strong self-mythologizing concerning being in NYC and being a 'New Yorker'. When you start living here during the first two or three years there's this question that starts turning in the back of your head which is: am I a New Yorker yet? When will I be? Do I know my city enough?

This question + the grid system of Manhattan + cheap and fast transportation + a general distaste for chain stores and restaurants = this incessant desire to know your city more, to find the small hole-in-the-wall that looks ugly as hell but serves the best chicken mole in the city. Moreover, most people in NYC probably have this tendency already -- that's why they live here. So if you talk about cool small hidden areas of NYC, people probably want to know about it.

Note that in many ways this sort of obsessive neighborhood-searching is often limited to a certain demographic. That is, not all people who live in NYC want to be 'New Yorkers'. I can think of many of my friends, who were born and grew up in New York, as well as their parents, who maybe moved to NYC in the 70s or 80s, and approach NYC from a slightly different point of view. Those who grew up in Rego Park, Inwood, Flushing, etc. are interested in the city in different way; I guess growing up and living here for 10 or 20 years makes this city just sort of really, truly disappear into the reaches of your mind. In my experience, the transplants (like me!) are the ones who are the most enthusiastic and sometimes even overly competitive about being a New Yorker.

E. B. White says it best in a subway ad/excerpt that made the rounds a few months ago:
There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something... Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.
posted by suedehead at 1:34 PM on May 28, 2009 [15 favorites]

Did that store that only sold lamp shades and nothing else close?
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:36 PM on May 28, 2009

That was for ocherdraco. I loved that shades store across from the Flatiron.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:36 PM on May 28, 2009

I guess so—was it on Broadway? Or was it on Fifth? I certainly haven't noticed such a store (and can't see one from here). My favorite "Oh My God It Has Everything You Could Ever Possibly Want for _______" store near here is New York Cake & Baking Supplies on 22nd between 5th and 6th.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:48 PM on May 28, 2009

Still open, Cunning. Assuming you're talking about the one downtown.
posted by cestmoi15 at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2009

I meant "I guess not" actually. Whoops.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:54 PM on May 28, 2009

Ha! I was talking about the one on Rivington. Sorry to get in the middle of it.
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:01 PM on May 28, 2009

E. B. White says it best in a subway ad/excerpt that made the rounds a few months ago:
There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something... Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.

This is from his essay "Here Is New York." Although it was written something like 60 years ago, it is actually a very relevant rumination it means to be a New Yorker. I would suggest reading that to get a broad understanding of the archetypal New Yorker, which may shed some light on your other questions.
posted by Falconetti at 2:03 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another thing that has not yet been mentioned: there are certain cross streets (such as 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th in Manhattan) that are "main" cross streets, with buses, subway stops, etc. These are likely to be familiar points of reference -- so a New Yorker might appear to an outsider know a lot about every random street when he or she really only refers to these.
posted by sueinnyc at 2:06 PM on May 28, 2009

Maps from Identity Map Company really are the most detailed maps commercially available.
posted by mlis at 2:07 PM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

How do we know all the stuff we know about New York? ....Experience. It takes time -- when I first moved here, I was a very, very wet-behind-the-ears novice. I spent an entire year too scared to ride any other subway line except for the one that my college orientation tour showed us once. No matter where I was trying to get to, I would take the 6 train as close as I could get and then walk the rest of the way, even if it meant I had to walk a half hour across town. But in time, I had enough exposure to subways to try taking another subway line sometimes, or even the bus.

Getting around on foot, and knowing the city, is the same thing. Time, experience, seeing things, and talking to people is how you just learn. The same way you learn about any city.

Well, one of the same ways. Research is the other one. I actually find Wikipedia to be a good basic introduction to the different New York neighborhoods -- demographics, geography, history, the like. And if you really want to get a glimpse of the character of a particular neighborhood, some of the neighborhood pages have links to local blogs which are a fun read as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:55 PM on May 28, 2009

I just wanted to chirp up that this is probably true anywhere where there's a grid system and you do a lot of walking;

Or even driving. I visited Phoenix, AZ for work, and it's a grid system with effectively no landmarks. Everyone I dealt with threw around street intersections like a native New Yorker.
posted by smackfu at 2:57 PM on May 28, 2009

milqman - For the sake of future readers, the record should show (contrary to a few answers above - sorry!) that "if you say 'I live on the Upper West Side, on 10th'," it means that you're from someplace else.

Also, some New Yorkers don't care about the sorts of things you're describing. They just go about the business of daily life, perhaps thinking that your kind of enthusiasm is lovely -- so nice to have new-comers visit! (On preview I see there are some comments hinting at this above.) Parts of my family have lived in Manhattan since the 1870s or 80s. I don't think my grandmother ever took the subway. But I'd say that the knowledge you want comes from walking and reading. Read local publications. Read books (a fantastic list). Physical books that you can hold and savor -- preferably hardcover. Look for museum shows, especially those that delve into history (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4).

Also look here (What neighborhoods do I need to visit?) and here (Advice on NYC neighborhoods) and some great links within.

Slightly off topic, but this is an interesting time to start thinking about New York: it's the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival, which soon led to the establishment of New Amsterdam at the southern tip of Manhattan. The role of the Dutch in the formation of what we've become here is rarely studied by American school-children. The tolerant, multi-ethnic New York developed before it was New York, and more than a century before the Revolution, thanks not to Puritans or Quakers or Southern plantation-owners but to the pragmatic, businesslike Dutch.

Back to your question. MLIS is probably right about paper maps, but there are now web-based maps that can give fascinating additional detail. There are also some great overlays in Google Earth, though I can't give additional cites because I don't have access at the moment.
posted by Dave 9 at 3:02 PM on May 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Boroadway divides east and west south of Washington Square park.

I've lived here nine years, but I still carry my Hagstrom when I go south of Houston.
posted by brujita at 3:12 PM on May 28, 2009

As far as public transit goes, the whole system's complicated, but the part everyone knows is a tiny fraction of the whole system. The stuff that's actually universal common knowledge is
  1. The subway lines and major stations in Manhattan
  2. Vague facts about where the subway goes outside Manhattan (e.g. "The L goes to Brooklyn.")
  3. How to get to at least one airport (which for some people is just "I call a cab.")
I wouldn't count on even a long-term resident knowing a particular station outside Manhattan, or a particular bus line, or anything about getting around Staten Island or the Bronx, unless I happened to know they lived or worked nearby.

(Within a particular neighborhood, you can count on a bit more common knowledge than that. If you both live on the same block, you probably know a few of the same bus routes, for instance.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:23 PM on May 28, 2009

Since housing in Manhattan is so amazingly expensive, are their "average" (read: not really well paid) people now living there? Or is it now the realm of the well paid yuppie and professional white collar set?
posted by DieHipsterDie at 3:49 PM on May 28, 2009

DHD, 1/3 of NYC residences are rent-regulated apartments, so there are plenty of middle-class people still living in the neighborhoods where they grew up.
posted by nicwolff at 4:08 PM on May 28, 2009

When someone says they live in Queens and commute to Manhattan, how could I get an idea about what their commute is like, how long it takes, what areas they go through, and whether that is a popular route for that kind of person to make or if it is a very atypical arrangement of work and home?

Triptrop NYC can show you how long it takes to get anywhere on the subway, given a starting point. Hopstop or Google Maps will give you an idea of what route a person is using.
posted by hooray at 4:12 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

And to nebulawindphone's point, after 43 years living in Chelsea and the Village those are really the only neighborhoods I know in the kind of detail you describe. Then, like all NYers, I have areas like Rockefeller Ctr and SoHo and the Lower East Side where I worked at some point or had friends or a doctor or dentist; and I used to walk home from high school on the Upper East Side so I know that corner of Central Park and Fifth and Madison Avenues from 96th on down. My grandparents lived on E 53rd so I have a little pocket of knowledge there.

Then, I was a bike messenger for a few years, so I have a lot of outdated knowledge of midtown and Wall Street, and I still ride around a lot so I know what's opening and closing along my favorite rides. But I know very little about the outer boroughs, except how to get to JFK and up the Bruckner to I-95 (real NYers take the Willis Ave and Third Street bridges for free rather than pay the toll on the Triboro). A friend of mine was a sergeant in the 23rd Pct so I've been up to Spanish Harlem but otherwise don't know anything above 96th St.

In the end, I think NYers just seem like experts compared to people from other cities since the information we do have, a lot of people actually want and ask for in places like this; and there are a lot of us here, so it seems like all the NYers are answering each NYC question when actually it's just the few who happen to know the relevant neighborhood.
posted by nicwolff at 4:57 PM on May 28, 2009

Just this evening, as I was walking home (I was at Herald Square), some folks walked up to me, looking a little desperate. "Is this the Diamond District?" they asked me. I didn't even stop, but just told them as I passed by, "No, it's on 47th between 5th and 6th." That interaction reminded me of this thread.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:38 PM on May 28, 2009

Note: No one calls trains by their color (unless perhaps giving directions to very confused tourists).
posted by dame at 6:20 PM on May 28, 2009

I lived in NYC for four years, and I have to agree with other commenters that if you are forced to find your way around different neighborhoods, you'll learn a lot more about the place. I'm not sure if any website (except possibly Google's street views) could give you the same feel of a New York neighborhood as you'd get from visiting it. Also, because of the rent situation in Manhattan, people have more of an incentive to figure out which neighborhoods they can, and want to, live in. They also are pretty open when talking about rents, so that's why people have a pretty good knowledge of what you can rent, where.

That said, I also found the most satisfying stuff to learn was grounded in history. For instance, a lot of strange-sounding place names have a reasonable etymologies. Wall Street was where the Dutch settlers built themselves a wall to protect against invasion from further up the island. Bowling Green (near Wall Street) was where the English settlers had an open area for lawn bowling. Now it's a subway stop. The Bowery (a street) terminates near Peter Stuyvesant's farm, called the Great Bouwerie. The Bronx is also named after a Dutch settler, Jonas Bronck (the neighborhood was originally known as "the Bronck's"). SoHo (currently where the rich people go to shop for consumer goods) = "South of Houston", because its northern border is Houston Street. (Houston is pronounced House-ton, not Hyooston, a pronounciation that differentiates outsiders from tourists.) Tribeca = "Triangle below Canal St.". NoLiTa = "North of Little Italy", a ridiculously tiny neighborhood. Someone upthread mentioned the major numbered cross streets. Below 14th Street, the next major one is Houston (which is equivalent to 0 Street, because the numbered streets start just north of it), and then Canal Street, and below Canal you get into the rabbit warren that is the financial district. (Part of Canal Street actually used to be a canal.)

History also helps to explain the shape of how the city developed. The earliest settlement was at the southern tip of Manhattan. Settlers gradually extended northward. Greenwich Village was originally a suburb of downtown, growing rapidly in 1822 when a yellow fever outbreak in downtown forced people north. A lot of Manhattan was once farmland, believe it or not.

One pattern that holds today is that the really rich people live (and everyone works) in the middle of things, which today extends from Wall Street up to Central Park. Then there is this ring, including Harlem, Washington Heights, the Bronx, a good chunk of Queens and Brooklyn, Staten Island, Jersey City and Hoboken, that has neighborhoods of younger and middle-class professionals interspersed with really poor neighborhoods. Then there is the outer ring of suburbs. As far as I can tell, this pattern was the same in the 19th century, only because of the less effective transportation then, the rings were much smaller. So you had downtown as the center of things, then slums/up-and-coming neighborhoods (Chinatown, Little Italy, the Lower East Side) just north of there, and then the suburbs in Brooklyn and north of Houston Street. So the further south in Manhattan you go, the older (and, I think, more interesting) the neighborhoods are. Also, red brick is a dead giveaway of extreme age. Once you hit brownstone, you're into the middle of the 19th century or newer. Meanwhile, some of the newer neighborhoods have some of the newest immigrants, and therefore the most interesting cuisine (especially in Queens).

So when someone says they commute from one of the outer (non-Manhattan) boroughs, or New Jersey, you can be reasonably sure that they are young and/or middle class, their commute is medium to long in duration, and they live in a poor and/or ethnically vibrant neighborhood. But there's a lot of variation in the outer boroughs, so if they are more specific about where they live, they might mean something different.

Also, people who commute in from The Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn are almost certainly taking the subway, or possibly the bus. Anyone commuting from Staten Island almost certainly takes the Staten Island ferry, then the subway. Anyone commuting from Jersey takes either the PATH train or bus (then subway). The people who come in from further out are likely on a commuter train. Driving is for the rich and the civil servants.

Rich Republicans tend to live on the Upper East Side near Central Park. Rich Democrats tend to live everywhere else. Williamsburg (in Brooklyn) is hipster central.

One caveat: While a lot of neighborhood associations (eg Lower East Side = immigrant Jewish neighborhood) still hold to some extent, they've been broken down in the last 25 years by people with money moving to neighborhoods they thought were cool. Also the borders of neighborhoods can shift--I'd say that Chinatown has grown to engulf a lot of Little Italy and a lot of the southeastern part of the Lower East Side. And the nature of neighborhoods can change entirely, too. SoHo used to be an artists' neighborhood--watch Scorsese's After Hours if you don't believe me.

Sorry for the novel, but if it's any comfort, that's a good portion of what I learned about the city while I lived there.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:36 PM on May 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Most New Yorkers of a certain age have two hobbies in common: eating out and real estate. We go out to eat a great deal* and the important thing is to find a place before its in The Times. That means lots of trips to new neighborhoods, where the cheap restaurants are. These trips are considered enjoyable for their own sake. As far as intimate real estate knowledge: for some reason its not really rude to ask people what they paid for their apartment or in rent here and we talk about it all the time. Its like sports: sure-fire small talk.

*this is a memory for me as I have a six year old and dont go to new places that much anymore. The place that was once filled by new restaurant conversation is now taken up by kindergarten conversation. This is the WORST CONVERSATION IN THE WORLD, even as we talk about it we regret the banality, the odd combination of suffering and privilege, wrapped in a 21st century child-centric world view. And yet. We can't stop. Its a cry for help, really. Please, for your own sake, if kindergarten comes up ask the person what they paid and what the maintenance is.
posted by shothotbot at 7:44 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Very late to the party, but in NYC most parties start and run late. My $0.02 is that when you live here you have friends in many neighborhoods and you interact and share neighborhood data with them verbally and by proxy when you visit. Also, when you have a very specific niche need, there is likely someone out there waiting to fill the need. So you get on the subway or bus or walk and go get it. Along the way you say to yourself, "Self, Holy crap. Look at that. There is a store that sells frozen twinkies." Sure enough, a few weeks later after smoking the reefer, you crave a frozen Twinkie and off you go because you saw it once and remember. I agree with the poster earlier who talked about filling in parts of your map as you live here and travel.

I lived in Chicago for a long time and the same thing exists for natives. Knowing to go to the area around UIC for certain items or to go to the little shop on Diversey for something else sort of becomes second nature after a while. Some one tells me they are South siders and I immediately envision one thing different from if they tell me they are from Lincoln Park or the South Loop.

There is also the secret test commonly known as Thanksgiving dinner where New Yorkers brag about the latest and greatest find to each other and tell stories about finding the only peach bagel in the city. Heck, I tell people which street meat guy to go to and what dirty water hot dog guy is the best.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:20 PM on May 28, 2009

Note: No one calls trains by their color (unless perhaps giving directions to very confused tourists).

I know this is theoretically true, but I've lived here for years now and I still will sometimes call the 1/2/3 the "red line" and the 4/5/6 the "green line" (mostly the latter since I rarely take it being a west sider). Those are the only two. I guess it's good that I am not red/green colorblind, or that would make as little sense as trying to distinguish the "orange" and "yellow" lines.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:22 PM on May 28, 2009

I call the lines by their colors too.....a TRUE native NYer would use the initials of the original separate lines. ;-P
posted by brujita at 9:38 PM on May 28, 2009

1/2/3 the "red line" and the 4/5/6 the "green line"

I think that's justified in that the 1/2/3 and the 4/5/6 are the only lines that don't branch off significantly if you're traveling through Manhattan (unless you're going to upper Manhattan, in which case the "red line" does branch off very significantly). If you're just moving up and down the East or West ends, the number doesn't matter much. God help you if you want to go cross-town tho.
posted by The Whelk at 9:46 PM on May 28, 2009

When I need to be more specific, I'll use the letter/number.
posted by brujita at 9:52 PM on May 28, 2009

Best answer: By way of incredibly sweeping generalizations, here's how I'd describe the neighborhoods based on my time there, north to south.

Bronx: You're Hispanic. Your kids go to crappy public schools, you are a building custodian in Manhattan and your wife has a crappy admin job. You fucking love the Yankees.

Harlem: You're African American. You own a small shop but keeping it open with rent being what it is becomes more difficult each month. You blame this on mostly on Bill Clinton. You don't really care about the Yankees that much.

Upper East Side: You're a WASPY doctor/lawyer/banker or perhaps a Jewish guy who owns a small fashion company in upper midtown. You have a wife who spends all your money, a Benz you pay $500 a month just to park, and 1.5 kids attending school at monthly rate that could build a school in many parts of the world. When you have time to get to a Yankee game you're sitting 2 rows off the first base line.

Upper West Side: You're a WASPY, younger web designer/author/consultant or an even younger FIT grad with rich parents. You work somewhere in midtown (or write on a Mac in the Starbucks down the street from where you live). You have 2.1 kids and the coolest fucking stroller ever - I'm serious, its made from like Nasa shit. Unfortunately your wife has to work too, in order to afford living where you do, so someone from the Bronx actually spends more time with your kids than you do. You go to a Yankees game when a friend comes to town to visit, and you buy the tickets last minute off of Craigslist, from your iPhone. Other than that, you track their scores on ESPN in the morning but don't think about them much otherwise.

Midtown East. You're a foreigner in a furnished apartment, and you work at a consulate near the UN, or maybe even at the UN. Your life is pretty sterile and you're not very connected with NYC, after all you're not even here for 8 months. You've never even heard of the Yankees.

Midtown West. You're a student or maybe an out of work artist, or a bus driver. Not a lot of people live in this area, its more business / industry with smaller pockets of residential. You like that because it feels quieter. You have a small box of an apartment and making rent is tough, but you get by with the occasional side-job. You don't really care about the Yankees and don't have time to anyway.

Garment District. I don't have any idea who you are, but your life sucks. I hope you are at least a Yankee fan.

Murray Hill. You're a young single person with a mid-level job for a magazine or a department store headquarters or maybe some kind of online business. You were in a fraternity or sorority in college and you picked your apartment because its across the street from your favorite bar where you still act like you're in college 4 nights a week, minimum. You love the Yankees even though you're not from New York, you have a worn-out Yankee hat that you bought that way, and you typically go to games when your boss (UWS) and your boss's boss (UES) have decided they don't want to use the company tickets for that game.

Chelsea. You're a mid-30's gay guy with a pretty decent job as an architect/fashion designer/art gallery manager. You have a pretty cool apartment and you and your partner own exactly 1 dog, and enjoy walking the neighborhood to meet your friends and their dogs. Businesses in the neighborhood put out water for the dogs, even. You know about the Yankees, but sports are so not your thing.

Grammercy. You're a more straight-laced version of Murray Hill - young, moderately employed, pretty average. You'd live in Chelsea if you could afford it but you can't. You take Yoga daily, try to eat organic when you can, and are trying to foster an interest in the arts. You're a good, faithful fan of the Rangers, or the Cubs, or the Rockies, depending on where you're from, you even go to Yankee games when they're in town to play.

Greenwich Village (West Village). You're WASPY, single or maybe married, and you're fricking rich. You live in a tiny little apartment, but its on an awesome cobblestone street, and there's a fabulous French cafe on the corner where you like having brunch. You travel a lot for work and can't even think about having kids. You keep up with the Yankees on your plasma TV when you have a few minutes to relax.

East Village. You're a student and you live in a mid-sized apartment with 6 other students. You're super fashionable and its well documented on your flickr account / facebook, which you update regularly from your mobile. You enjoy shopping and being out at the bars til like 4 in the morning, and have a favorite place you always hit for junk food on the way home. Your parents are paying for everything - fortunately the Yankees don't enter your universe often so they at least don't have to pay for that.

Tribeca. You're a movie star and you have a stunning penthouse suite on a relatively quiet side-street, but you only ever see it when you're not on a shoot. When your agent has tickets to the Yankee game, you are ushered there in a limo and sometimes caught on TV briefly during the 5th inning.

Little Italy. You're Italian. You wait tables in a restaurant and have a small family. Go Yankees!

Chinatown. You're Chinese. You live in a small apartment and your kids seem 100% different from your generation, which you're not altogether comfortable with. You don't care about the Yankees or baseball that much. Its more of a Japanese thing.

Lower East Side. You're a librarian or maybe a teacher at NYU, your kids are already off at school somewhere so you have a little extra space in the pretty moderate apartment now. Life's pretty quiet, just like you like it. You watch the occasional Yankee game but you're not really into it.

Battery Park / Financial District. You're a younger professional or maybe out-of-work actor, you love where you live but have no real concrete reasons why - you do all your shopping at least 20 blocks north of where you live. Maybe its because you have a huge apartment that you split with 2 other people (just like you, who you found on Craigslist), at a fairly moderate rent because developers thought the Wall Street Bankers might want to actually live where they work, but were wrong. You are pretty ambivalent about baseball, but will cheer for the Yankees from time to time.

Brooklyn. You're a writer/software designer/photographer and, though you'd never own up to it, a tragic hipster. You even have a Metafilter account. You fucking love living where you do and know better than all of the idiots on the island, where you only go when you have to. You have no time for things like the Yankees.

Queens. You have a midsized family in a small house and you drive a truck for a living, and you have a funny accent. Fuck the Yankees, GO METS.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:29 AM on May 29, 2009 [41 favorites]

Congratulations. You've offended everybody.
posted by JPD at 5:00 AM on May 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: allkindsoftime answered the bejeezus out of my question.

He/she wins! . . . FLAWLESS VICTORY!
posted by milqman at 9:37 AM on May 29, 2009

NYC is also really crowded, expensive and frequented by tourists. So, for example, one might need to know about bars that are relatively big and not crowded if you had a large group hanging out, bars that are relatively inexpensive if some of the people are poor and bars that are not going to be full of tourists all the time. Plus some idea of noisy/quiet, bar vs. lounge, what they're like on different nights of the week, etc.

And you would want to know this for a minimum of a half-dozen neighborhoods. Same thing for restaurants, etc. So, pretty quickly you learn about more spots than maybe exist in the average town.
posted by snofoam at 11:12 AM on May 29, 2009

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned askanewyorker yet -- a site where plenty of knowledgeable people gather to help anyone with questions (for free).

Also, I guess it's not clear how serious you're being, but if you seriously got "flawless victory!" out of that little standup routine, I've gotta tell you: snarking/stoopiding along "people who live in __ be all like __" lines is generally the best way to be seen as an asshole outsider and meet with scorn or worse in real-world nyc...
posted by kalapierson at 1:12 PM on May 29, 2009

Another thought: when you're here, the quality of the map you're using makes a huge difference. The official MTA subway map is the worst I've seen for walking on streets and it pains me to watch tourists always struggling with it. It's totally not to scale, distorting geography willy-nilly in order to fit in all the subway stations' names.

It is so worth your while to spend a few bucks on a good map; there's a great selection in any bookstore, most drugstores, etc.

The best and best-looking one I've found is from Opus Publishing. They produce maps including Manhattan and a gorgeous, to-scale, 5-borough map with every street and subway station.
posted by kalapierson at 1:22 PM on May 29, 2009

I'm from NY and I couldn't tell you how to get to my mailbox if you were standing at the front door.
posted by kapu at 1:38 PM on May 29, 2009

allkindsoftime answered the bejeezus out of my question.

No, allkindsoftime fed you a bunch of stereotypes. If that's all you wanted, you could have just rented some Woody Allen movies and watched them all, and called it a day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:12 PM on May 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

EC, in part 2. the Asker pretty clearly requested broad stereotypical descriptions of each neighborhood; akot's answer best fills the bill.
posted by nicwolff at 9:42 AM on May 30, 2009

That said, milqman, my point about regulated rents and other market exceptions (such as artist-in-residence) means that the stereotypes are not usefully predictive about individuals. I live on Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village but I'm far from "fricking rich" (and I'm a fair-weather Mets fan); my best friend lives in SoHo and he's a cop. And conversely a couple of the wealthiest people I know live on the LES and in Harlem. My parents live in Chelsea and are not, so far as I'm aware, gay.

But the stereotypes do tell you a lot about what our neighborhoods and daily civic lives are like, and akot pretty well nailed them.
posted by nicwolff at 10:12 AM on May 30, 2009

WASPy UWS? Quiet LES? Italians in Little Italy? I didn't want to snipe before because it was so entertainingly written, but those are not even correct on a stereotype level.

posted by CunningLinguist at 10:32 AM on May 30, 2009

It does show you that a lot of the knowledge is based on hearsay rather than personal experience though. Which is sort of a truth: New Yorkers will always know the answer to your question in great deal. Whether it's the correct answer is left to be judged.
posted by smackfu at 4:32 PM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

New Yorkers will always know the answer to your question in great deal. Whether it's the correct answer is left to be judged.

A lot like respondents on AskMe, then.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:11 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you have an iPod Touch maybe? "Exit Strategy" is basically my favorite transit app - it has the mini neighborhood maps of almost all the subway stations, showing you all the exits and entrances, and it also shows you where along the train, according to the train and direction you're riding in, all the exits/transfers are.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:29 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's because New Yorkers walk around so much, much more than in most American cities. Also, New York city is very small, about 5 miles square. Finally, it's difficult to traverse, so people are constantly figuring out ways to overcome it's hardships, whether it be quick traveling, cheap food, etc.
posted by xammerboy at 7:15 PM on February 14, 2010

Wow this is an old thread. I didn't have a smartphone then, but I do now, and Exit Strategy was the first app I downloaded.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:59 AM on February 15, 2010

New York city is very small, about 5 miles square.

Manhattan, total area in square miles: 23.7

New York City, total area in square miles: 301.
posted by The Whelk at 8:11 AM on February 15, 2010

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