Experiences I've had

My whole life I've lived in and around New York City.  I do consider myself a true New Yorker.  I was born in Fresh Meadows, moved to Bridgewater, NJ when I was 4, spent several days per year throughout my childhood in NYC with family, went to college in Newark, NJ with several trips per week into NYC, started working in NYC in construction in 1999, moved to Jersey City, NJ in 2001, and finally moved to the Poconos in 2007 (although I do still commute into NYC daily)

 

Most of my early recollections of New York City are kind of jumbled together and it's hard to discern chronologically what happened when.  

 

One annual tradition that we had as a family was that EVERY Sunday after Thanksgiving we would come into NYC to Macy's at Herald Square to visit Santa.  This was because my parents owned a Hallmark store and December 1 (ish) was the beginning of the real holiday season.  Black Friday was certainly a thing but it didn't start on Thanksgiving Eve as it does now and didn't go 24/7 until December 26th like it does now.  The Sunday after Thanksgiving was always our last kind of break or breath of fresh air before the craziness of the Hallmark holiday season.  From what I understand, Santa's Winter Wonderland is a lot smaller than it used to be.  But we would always come into the city and visit Santa and do some window shopping while we were here.

 

Another semi-tradition was that we would visit my Dad's brother the Sunday between Christmas and New Years.  We would drive our typical/traditional path in the Holland Tunnel, zig-zag over to the Williamsburg Bridge, out the BQE, across the Kosciuszko Bridge, and onto the LIE to Fresh Meadows.  When I got my driver's permit, I remember being excited that my parents didn't know that I wasn't allowed to drive outside of the state on that permit and actually driving through the city out to Long Island.  Many, many trips over the years through NYC out to Long Island and back.

 

I remember my Mom once brought me and a friend, Scott Jacobs, in to a Mets game.  I think it was on this trip that my Mom was rear-ended by a delivery truck just outside the Holland Tunnel.  I remember seeing my Mom turn on this guy and get his company information and really give the guy a hard time.  I don't think there was really any damage to her car and nothing more came of it.

 

There was at least one or two early trips in to the Intrepid Air & Space Museum.  I think one was for a birthday party and another was to meet a college friend of my Mom's and her family.

There was another time that we went and did the Circle Line tour around NYC.  We parked our car over on the West Side near where the boats dock and went off on our journey for several hours.  We returned to find many of the cars around ours broken into but not ours.  

I believe I went two separate times to the Statue of Liberty on school trips.  Those were definitely some experiences that I took for granted now given the availability and access for tickets.  I do remember on a trip in the 5th Grade where one of my classmates found a $100 bill in the grass.  The same grass that had a sign to keep off of!  He was rewarded for disobeying the signage.

I think my first solo trip into NYC was probably when I was 13 or 14.  I think my Mom drove me to the train station where myself and another 2-3 friends took the train in and I don't even remember what we did but I just remember finally being allowed to go in on my own.

Through college and my years working in the city, things have really become a blur.  Here's a quick blur of experiences I've had:

  • several Mets games at Shea Stadium from the very, very top (maybe 10 rows from the top) of the farthest section out in right field all the way to the owner's box right next to the dugout because of my Uncle Harry's connections through his job at the 21 Club

  • a handful of Yankees games mostly through my earlier years at Turner when we were still allowed to go to ballgames on the dime of a subcontractor

  • an annual tradition for a few years where a subcontractor would bring us to the Knicks matinee game at Madison Square Garden on Martin Luther King Day

  • the Cloisters Museum up near Harlem.  That was a real hidden gem not many people know about

  • numerous visits to the top of the old World Trade Center.  Back in college and in my early years of working in the city, I would give frequent tours to out-of-towners visiting.  I'd always start the day at the top of World Trade Center to give them a lay of the land before we headed out across the city.  I had a few business meetings in the buildings over the years.  My parents brought my sister and I to Windows on the World at least once for drinks so we could experience it.  And the Christmas of 2000, a friend from high school had her company's Christmas party at Windows on the World.

  • Despite dozens of trips walking and biking and driving through Central Park, I have probably one experienced 10 or 20% of what the park has to offer.  It's hard to fathom the scale of the park in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.  There are places in the park that you can stand and look around in every direction, listen in every direction and you could completely forget that you are in such a massive and bustling city!

  • Through my years in college as an architecture major, I've visited all of the major art museums as well as some of the smaller ones.  I've learned just enough about the history and buildings in NYC to know that there is a LOT that I don't know and gives me a tremendous thirst to learn more at any given chance

  • Speaking of which, I've done two tours of the Woolworth Building; a definite must see!

  • In the years between the fall of the Twin Towers in 2001 and the reopening of One World Observatory, I've visited the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock.  The Empire State Building had a massive line (3+ hours) that I had already paid an extra $75 per person to bypass and it was a bit tight and cramped at the top.  Top of the Rock was nice and relaxed and cool in that they had an outdoor area that you are set back far enough from the building's edge that you can take pictures without other people in the way or taking the pictures through glass or bars.  The problem, however, was that it is not the tallest building around and some of the views were obstructed by taller buildings (a problem that I'm sure has gotten worse since then with the rise of many tall residential buildings)

  • Recently I've walked across the Brooklyn Bridge; that has been something that's been on my list for a while and I finally got around to it and it was a lot of fun.  Unfortunately (sort of) it was a gorgeous Saturday in the fall so there were a LOT of tourists

  • Back around 2001 I spent a day or two touring several spaces with AT&T who was looking to bring their corporate headquarters back into NYC.  All of the spaces had amazing views of Central Park.  Some were fully fitted out, some were completely vacant, and some had recently been vacated

Things to do

In no particular order:

  • NY Pass (www.newyorkpass.com) It's a great deal.... if you have a few days to dedicate and get your money's worth.  For anywhere from 1 or 2 days I'd definitely recommend against it because you just can't do everything you want in 1 or 2 days.  If you're in the city for 3 or more days, it is a bit costly but worth it with the discounts you get to admission to popular tourist attractions

  • Statue of Liberty (https://www.statueoflibertytickets.com)  PLAN AHEAD!  It's almost not worth going (because it takes a long time to wait in line and take the boat over and then back) if you aren't going up into the crown.  To do that, you'll need to get tickets 4+ months in advance.  It's a great trip and gives you some great views of the city but, again, as I mention above, it takes time to get there so plan on at least half a day possibly more.  Ellis Island is also interesting for the historians.  It's interesting to cruise through it in 30-60 minutes for most people but if you're super infatuated with history, you could spend several hours

  • One World Observatory (https://oneworldobservatory.com) back at the top of my list for showing people the lay of the land and what is what in the city.  It's a real experience now and the only draw isn't the view.  Don't miss the video feature on the three LED walls in the elevator on your ride to the top.  You'll rise out of the swamp and see the city building in "real time" as you see the years tick away on one of the walls.  As the years tick closer to 1973 don't miss the rise of the Twin Towers on the wall to your right if the doors are at your back and then they disappear about 5 seconds later

  • Empire State Building (http://www.esbnyc.com)  If you're craving a view from above in midtown, the Empire State is a pretty cool and historic building to see it from.  As I say above, however, be prepared for long lines (hopefully relieved now that One World Trade is open) and a bit of a cramped space at the top.  They're supposed to be renovating the visitor experience BUT you can't create more room on the observatory outdoor area

  • Top of the Rock (https://www.topoftherocknyc.com) is another cool view that I've noted above.  They should still have a decent view of Central Park without windows or bars between you and the view.  Unfortunately, I don't think I can say the same above the east and west and southern views.  If you're in a crunch for time, it might be worth checking it out

  • Central Park.  It's large.  It would take days to explore every single nook and cranny.  Google it and if there is something specific that you'd like to see, search that out.  Otherwise, what I typically do is I walk into the park from one side and plan on exiting in an area and just meander my way through the park heading in the general direction that I had intended to go

  • Fifth Avenue is nice with all of the ritzy stores especially if you want to look at the Christmas window displays but it's also important because you have St Patrick's Cathedral (https://saintpatrickscathedral.org/)  Almost across the street but a half block south is the walkway that is popular with the view with the wire-frame angels framing the Rockefeller Christmas Tree (https://www.rockefellercenter.com/holidays/rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-lighting/)

  • Times Square is a tourist destination.  One warning, however, is IGNORE the stupid characters dressed up as Batman or Spiderman or Mickey Mouse.  And warn your children as well.... these characters hunt out the children and get the children to pose for pictures and then they demand money from the parents.  They are rude and obnoxious.  Times Square stretches from about 42nd Street to 49th Street and is framed by Broadway and 7th Avenues.  There are plenty of restaurants in and around Times Square and obviously all of the Broadway shows but it's also just interesting to people watch

  • Battery Park is a nice residential area just south of the World Trade Center observatory and memorial and mall.  If you walk to the west and then south along the water there is a very nice walkway and bike path with plenty of benches to relax and sit by the river.

  • Many people want to visit Wall Street as it is the financial capital of at least the United States.  There's the American Stock Exchange, the NY Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, Federal Reserve, Trinity Church.... and LOTS of tourists.  And traders on their smoke break

  • If you want to go shopping (although there are FAR better options just outside of NYC itself) there is the mall at World Trade Center as well as the mall across the West Side Highway.  But be prepared to shell out some serious coin.  It's worth at least checking out the mall at the World Trade Center as it is partially housed in the new transportation hub by Santiago Calatrava

  • Museum of Modern Art (www.moma.org

  • Metrpolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org)

  • American Museum of Natural History (www.amnh.org)

  • Guggenheim Museum (www.guggenheim.org)

  • Whitney Museum (https://whitney.org)

Some of my favorite restaurants:

Only in NYC

Some of the things I've seen or been a part of or witnessed in NYC over the years

  • I used to catch a bus down in front of Zuccoti Park.  Some people know of the statue on a bench at the northwest corner of Zuccoti Park.  It's a bronze statue called Double Check (http://nyclovesnyc.blogspot.com/2011/09/double-check-by-seward-johnson-survivor.html)  One day, while waiting for the bus, I noticed that there was a second sculpture on the bench.  As I watched from a distance, I saw tourists going over and sitting with the "new" statue when suddenly the statue would spring to life and say something or grab the person.  It freaked people out!  The locals and commuters started to look for the street performer on most days for some good hidden camera type entertainment.

  • While I was working at Lincoln Center, I had to work one evening aiming lights down the side of the building with the lighting designer.  I was meeting with an electrician whom I had never met before so all I knew was to be looking for Jimmy.  I stood on the corner of 62nd Street and Columbus Avenue waiting for Jimmy.  As I stood waiting, I watched people going by and coming into the David Koch Theater to work.  I saw one guy walking up Columbus Ave from a distance not wearing a shirt.  I could see from about a block away that the guy was on the heavy side with no shirt, jeans, tennis shoes, but no shirt.  He wasn't carrying a shirt, he didn't have a shirt over his shoulder, he didn't have a shirt hanging out of his pocket.  There was no shirt around.  It was a somewhat warm evening but it wasn't like he was coming from the gym or anything.  I have no idea what the history behind this guy was but he came and sat down on a bench in front of me and just sat there for 20 minutes.  Somewhere at some point I had a  picture of the guy

  • Somewhere I have a very long version of this story but this is my 9/11 story.  I was still living at home in Bridgewater, NJ with my parents at the time taking the NJ Transit train to Newark, NJ and then taking the PATH train to Christopher Street and walking to Turner's main office.  The night before on 9/10 I remember walking from the ferry in the World Trade Center Marina over toward the World Trade Center complaining to a coworker about the tourists stopping to look up at the height of the Twin Towers.  The next morning at 9AM I was supposed to have a meeting with a coworker at One Liberty Plaza which is across from the south tower.  I rode the train into the city that morning and remember waking up to the sun rising behind the Twin Towers.  It was a beautiful morning.  I got into the office a little before 7 and checked my e-mail (this was pre-Blackberry, well pre mainstream Blackberry).  I saw an e-mail from the coworker wanting to push our 9AM meeting to 1PM and I agreed.  I went about my business and my day and at some point in the morning I went to the bathroom.  When I came out, two coworkers were running toward the exit saying something about WTC and fire.  I thought they were talking about a fire alarm involving the WTC or something work related so I went to my desk.  20 minutes they came back and had seen the second plane fly into the second tower.  I stayed with other coworkers from NJ until about 4PM that afternoon.  We finally decided to make a run at getting home.  The streets and subways and Penn Station were all empty.  We took a train to north Jersey where one coworker's wife met us and shuttled us back to their house.  From there the wife drove with 4-5 people in one direction while the coworker took another 2-3 of us and went in another direction.  Since my parents were away at the time and my sister was in college, I was home alone so I volunteered to drive a coworker down close to Philadelphia for one of his neighbors to pick him up.  It wasn't until I turned on the radio after dropping him off and I heard them talking about the events of the day on a Philadelphia station that I started to grasp the gravity of the situation.  I was in shock and believed that it was only a NY thing that had happened.  I REALLY grasped the impact when I got home to 5 voicemails on my answering machine from relatives in Ireland calling to check that I was ok!  But going back to that meeting at 9AM.... if my coworker hadn't moved that meeting until the afternoon, I would have been getting off the subway and crossing the street right as the first plane struck.  I can count my blessings!

  • I think it was August of 2003.  It was toward the end of the day on a Thursday afternoon.  I was on the phone with my girlfriend at the time who lived about 60 miles north of New York City.  As we were talking, she paused in the conversation and I could sense something was wrong.  I asked and she told me that the power had gone out at her house.  No big deal, that sometimes happens in the summertime.  We continued the conversation and about 5-10 minutes later the power went out in my office in NYC.  Within seconds, a few fellow coworkers confirmed that the power was out elsewhere in NYC, in Philadelphia, in Albany, and in Boston.  A coworker was going to give me a ride home and so I went with him to a bar.  His only intention for the evening was to get drunk.  I didn't know what to do because I didn't have a car and all public transportation going to my part of Jersey City was down.  As it started to get dark, we all started to get nervous about being in the city after dark.  Another coworker at the bar said that his brother is a Port Authority police officer and we were able to get a hold of the brother via Nextel (remember those?)  The brother told us that he was REALLY busy but that he would try to come help us out.  Within 5 minutes, a Port Authority police car shows up in front of the bar and we were off.  We got a police escort to the front of the 4-hour line to get out the Holland Tunnel.  I was home in 90 seconds!

  • Back around 2005 or so, the city was still going through periods of heightened security alerts.  The city would go through phases where local or federal officials felt the need to justify their existence and, to do that, they would raise the security alert level.  In any case, I was working across the river in Jersey City at Goldman Sachs.  Frequently the work that I was managing involved using the window washing rig on the roof and over the side of the building.  On several occasions, I would go out off the side of the building with the workers.  There was one particular day that there were some happenings or politicians in Lower Manhattan and we needed to be off the side of the building for a few hours in the morning.  From the moment we showed up on the roof to go to move the window washing rig, every 15 minutes or so there was a helicopter hovering over our heads to see what we were doing.  FBI, NYPD, Coast Guard, NY State Police, NJ State Police, Homeland Security, you name it they all took turns.  It was a tense couple of hours

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