Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

Service of a Kindness from an Unlikely Source: Thoughtful, Responsive NYC Civil Servant

Monday, September 11th, 2017

“12 Angry Men” Photo: gablescinema.com

I was married at City Hall in NYC and I’ve dealt on several occasions with various divisions of the Manhattan Motor Vehicles Bureau [to take a test for a driver’s license, report a lost license plate and renew my driver’s license], so I think I know where robot manufacturers go for their models. Warmth and compassion aren’t words that come to mind regarding the frontline of city employees I’ve dealt with, which is why this story that touched me was worth a shout-out.

Photo: newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com

A friend—I’ll call him Curt–was called to jury duty in NYC and for health reasons was unable to serve. When he tried to reach someone on the phone to learn what he had to do to be excused he dialed a bunch of phone numbers and got automated voices, so I offered to try my luck.

I found a number online and a message gave me a second number to call and shock of shocks, a person answered. His name was Jeffrey. He asked me for Curt’s juror index number, which I didn’t have, and gave me a third number to call after lunch that, he said, rang at his desk. Curt called and left a message on voicemail.

I wanted to be sure that Jeffrey had all the information he needed and that he’d cleared Curt from the system so I didn’t have to visit him in jail for being a no-show. I take seriously all government warnings. I called the next morning. Jeffrey confirmed that Curt’s name was deleted—he is also over the mandatory age for jury duty in any case.

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

I asked if Jeffrey needed a note from Curt’s doctor and he said, “No.” I thanked and Jeffrey said with some urgency, “There’s one more thing.” I replied, “Yes?” He said, “I want you to have a nice day. And bless you.”

His thoughtful words–out of context–took me by surprise. Have you been happily astonished by a kindness from an unexpected source?

Photo: shoppersocial.me

Service of Neighborhood Characters

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Neighbor image for post 1 turned I’ve lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn much of my life and I’ve always noticed at least one mystery character in every neighborhood.

It’s no different today.

Nightly I walk home from the office on the west side of Second Avenue. There’s a stretch of restaurants with outdoor seating between 50th and 51st. All summer I noticed an elderly woman at the same spot, either working on a crossword puzzle or hunched over her mobile phone as she is in the photos above and below. There’s a drink on her table–maybe a cocktail–and a napkin on her lap. Perhaps she has already eaten or is waiting for her food as I’ve never seen a plate.

I noticed her because she was impeccably coiffed and expensively clad in a summer suit or dress with coordinated sweater, shoes and handbag–a different ensemble each time I saw her–and always alone. She was also much older than any of the diners around her.

Once I stopped to tell her I admired her fashion style and kept going. In summer, foot traffic is brisk on the slim slice of sidewalk that tables and chairs don’t hog. This doesn’t allow for hesitation by pedestrians rushing past in both directions.

It’s cold now but the outdoor tables were still in place last week and she was the only person at one of them in the lineup of restaurants one night. It gets dark early so she was sitting in obscurity, stooped over her phone, oblivious to passersby, honking and traffic. Her hair was windblown and instead of a drink, there was a coffee cup on the table.

I like to guess about neighborhood characters like this. Where does she live? What did she do for a living? Do her clothes fill all the rooms in her apartment or does she have many closets? It’s fun to make up positive stories.

Are there strangers who pique your curiosity in your neighborhood? Are they more obvious in a city as walking slows motion and better allows for observation than when you’re driving through town in a car?    Neighbor image for post 2 turned

Service of Visiting NYC in Summer

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

NYC in summer

There are great things to do that don’t cost a fortune when you visit New York City at this time of year. Here are a few and some tips of what to watch out for.

UniqloCheck out free days/evenings at major museums like MoMA which has Uniqlo Friday nights or Brooklyn Museum’s Target free Saturdays once a month. [And visit Uniqlo on 5th Avenue and 53rd Street for fun clothes for women, men and children in a range of styles at moderate prices—downright inexpensive style if you catch a sale.]

Stroll Grand Central Station to see the remarkable architecture and on the ground floor a tourist information window with maps and useful free guides. There are plenty of shops—visit Cursive for gifts and cards—and kiosks with NYC-made merchandise as well as pricey food stalls upstairs and prepared takeout downstairs with plenty of seats. Mendy’s hotdogs are worth a detour.

Bryant Park ChairsThe price is right for a brownbag lunch in Bryant Park behind the 42nd Street Library. Find a chair and table under a tree, catch a breeze and watch the scene, a game of ping pong or bocce. A short stay is restorative.

Fruit stands all over the city sell cherries, raspberries, grapes, figs and more at amazing prices. If you’re near Union Square, drop in on Trader Joe’s wine shop on east 14th Street and the food store a few doors down for treats, serious food and polite service. If you want to stock up on a few cases of wine note that you can’t park for even a minute in front but ask a staffer to load your purchases on a hand truck. They’ll walk the cases to your vehicle.

As in all my favorite cities, walking is the best way to get around. New Yorkers can be testy when they can’t negotiate a cluster of people stopped in the middle of the sidewalk so best keep walking or go to the side to get your bearings or regroup. Read a map on the sidewalk and I bet someone will stop to guide you.

Staten Island ferry 2A ride on the Staten Island ferry is free; the view of lower Manhattan priceless.

Avoid taking rip off pedicabs. I’ve written about them and several times about the bicycle sharing program. I can’t recommend that tourists rent a bike unless they know the traffic rules and are used to riding in vehicular and foot traffic in a city packed with impatient residents.

NYC taxiTake care that your taxi is charging you the city rate. You’ll know if the meter is set at the higher suburban rate, wrote Rebecca Harshbarger in the New York Post, if you see a flashing “rate code 4” message on the TV screen in front of you. [I don’t recall ever seeing it.] She referenced a scandal four years ago when cabbies were caught stealing $millions by up charging the meter. Last year the Taxi and Limousine Commission [TLC] caught drivers overcharging 659 times vs. 2,000 the year before. “The agency uses a GPS-data algorithm that analyzes trip information to catch rogue drivers, who are then automatically hit with a summons,” wrote Harshbarger—a trend going in the right direction.

What are your must-visit places in NYC or best warnings for visitors and residents?

 nycfireworks

Service of Ear-Splitting Food: Toothsome restaurant fare with a large side of noise, as at Carbone, is here to stay

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Noise

Adam Platt predicts restaurants will continue to be noisy because “As one of my cranky food-writer colleagues put it the other day, ‘a quiet restaurant, these days, is a doomed restaurant.’”

Platt, who wrote “I Can’t Hear Myself Eat: Why restaurants are louder than ever,” observed that noise is “…about the single most disruptive restaurant trend over the past decade or so.” His article appeared in both New York Magazine and on his grubstreet.com blog.

NYC SubwayHe reported that 90 decibels is standard with some restaurants hitting 96. Is that so bad? It is according to Decibel Exposure Time Guidelines on dangerousdecibels.org. A chart listing decibels and “permissible exposure time” suggests two hours for 91 decibels, an hour for 94 and half an hour at 97. Answers.com measures a subway screech at 95 decibels at 200 feet. Platt acknowledged that some restaurants are taking steps to tone things down as the noise “threatens to damage the hearing of their waiters and cooks.” 

Carbone restaurant, Photo: nyfoodeedotcom

Carbone restaurant, Photo: nyfoodeedotcom

The restaurant reviewer, with some 10 years under his belt, described Carbone as “an overpriced noise pit, especially if you find yourself marooned in the tiny, brick-walled back room.” He identified the place as New York’s most popular restaurant.

The comments on Platt’s blog offer additional conjectures for the popularity of excessive noise. Some readers thought it encourages lucrative turnover as guests don’t linger. Others suggested the racket weeded out unwanted older diners. People can’t tolerate silence, added a few, they are so used to constant mobile phone chatter and/or hearing music on iPods every waking hour.

Readers chimed in from Minot N.D. and Boston identifying similar clamor where they eat. A few pointed out how liquor—the most profitable part of a dining check—helps people tolerate noise at the same time feel more inclined to yell and scream to be heard over it, adding to the din. One held responsibility landed at the foot of fashionable architectural elements such as hardwoods, glass, brick and exposed concrete ceilings. Platt held that Mario Batali launched the trend to blast music “over the heads of the startled patrons in the staid dining room at Babbo.”

Noisy restaurantOne blog comment: “Went to Alder this weekend–by far the loudest dining experience i’ve [sic] ever had. We kept conversation to a minimum because it was so hard to hear each other.” This writer didn’t say whether this was a good or a bad thing.

Platt’s mother described the noise at the most recent dinner they shared as “loud as a freight train.” He admitted “Most of the restaurants I write about these days aren’t restaurants at all in the classic sense that she would recognize. They’re noisy bars, built for sound, that happen to serve good, sometimes excellent food.”

Sushi barThere are exceptions: He identified Atera, an “effete little tasting atelier” (where a Bloomberg reviewer paid $700 for dinner for two last September). Other “relative temples of quiet,” wrote Platt, are two “grand gourmet establishments” Eleven Madison Park and Per Se. He also mentioned sushi bars.

Do you enjoy conversation with meals or are you comfortable to be part of the scene? Can you name good restaurants that celebrate food, conversation and relaxation? In spite of predictions by Platt and others, do you forecast that the fashion for putting on the feedbag with generous dollops of noise will pass?

Putting on feedbag

Service of Con Jobs: Pedicabs join list of scammers NYC tourists should avoid

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Con game

One of the foreign students I mentor—I’ll call her Daphne–shared her experience with me because she doesn’t want anyone else to fall for what happened to her. Read on and you’ll see she’s far from alone.

This young juggler with multiple internships in a graduate program was late for class. She was stranded three avenues and 19 blocks from where she had to be, in a part of NYC far from the subway, at a time there were no free taxis. A pedicab came along and she jumped in. In her country, pedicabs are cheap.

pedicab 1Arriving at school—having heard a song and dance throughout the ride about how the driver wished he could afford to go to the college she was attending [and where he was driving her]—she asked what she owed. His reply: $125. She questioned this [!] and he handed her a rate card that noted he charged $3/block; $4 an avenue, 20 percent sales tax along with some mumbo jumbo. “I was too shocked to do the math plus he had a calculator so I figured he was right,” said Daphne. After negotiation he gave her “a discount” and she paid $108.

On her return home that night after class she called the Consumer Affairs office—she shared his name and other information in his email as she’d paid by credit card and he’d sent her an electronic receipt.

How muchShe learned that he didn’t have a pedicab license and wasn’t authorized to drive one or pick up passengers. She was advised to tell her bank to cancel the charge but the bank clerk explained that because she signed off on the charge, he couldn’t do that. However, if she could present a letter of complaint written by Consumer Affairs about this driver and her experience she could file a claim which the bank would consider. [Someone suggested that she say that she had signed nothing. This lie was out of the question she said.]

Lessons learned: Always ask the price or for a rate card and before entering a pedicab in NYC, ask to see a NYC pedicab license and as of this week, a timer.

Mark SimoneIt could have been worse. On the Fourth of July talk show host Mark Simone [photo right] on WOR Radio reported that a pedicab charged $425 to a group of four. A website, commuteronline.com, noted more precisely that the amount was $442.54. Simone said that the driver falsely signed a document to get his license. He claimed that he had not received prior summonses when in fact there had been six. Simone declared that pedicabs should be forbidden in the city as they cause traffic tangles and the drivers are unscrupulous.

On July 5 WMAC Northeast Public Radio covered “How to Spend $442 on a 15-Minute Cab Ride.” Quoting a pedicab driver and president of the industry association, Laramie Flick about this incident: “Before the ride, [the driver] told them it was a dollar a block. After the ride, he told them it was a dollar a block, yes, but it was $100 minimum per person. Then he asked them for a tip.” The “them” were the passengers. The website commuteronline.com noted that doormen at major NYC hotels report trying to help frantic passengers who were similarly fleeced.

Pedicab 3Mayor Bloomberg signed a law at the end of last year in which pedicab drivers must charge by the minute and the timer must be in clear view. This is what Daphne wanted people to know. Nevertheless, according to commuteronline.com, the city isn’t bending over backwards to support the victims.

However WMAC noted: “New York City does not want tourists to leave town feeling like they got hosed by a pedicab driver. So the city worked with Flick and the pedicab drivers to come up with new rules, which are set to take effect next week. The drivers can still choose their own rates. But those rates have to be posted clearly, and they have to apply to all customers. Per minute. No matter what.”

According to Findlaw.com: “The pedicab driver shall provide passengers with a receipt  listing the amount of the charge for the use of the pedicab, the license number of the pedicab business and a telephone number of such business to which complaints by consumers shall be directed, the pedicab driver’s  license number  and  the  telephone number at the department where complaints by consumers can be reported.”

Eons ago I visited Daphne’s country. We’d spent too much on taxis so we opted for a pedicab on a route we knew. Like Daphne we didn’t ask the price but figured it had to be less than the taxi fare. When we arrived the driver charged precisely what the taxis had! We noted this but in the end, not wanting to be the ugly American, we paid.

When you’re overcharged in a foreign country, what do you do? What has your pedicab experience been anywhere in the world? Are you infuriated and ashamed as I am that these NYC conmen target young people like Daphne and countless tourists with such a scam?

 Tourists in NYC

Service of New York City

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

blanchebdy2012-0051

I love a lot of places around the world and have an affinity for cities. I was born and grew up in New York yet I don’t think I take it for granted.

I like hearing foreign languages when I walk down the street or enter a concert hall. I love cityscapes from office or residential windows. And for an exercise-lazy person like me, this is the perfect place because I race around and walk miles without noticing it. There’s so much going on to distract me in the street and in shop windows that it’s as easy to exercise as to sip a milkshake.

Here are a few more things about New York that I like especially:

Crazy good ideas such as the setup–photo above–that I happened by  last week, between 5th and 6th Avenues, a block from Rockefeller Center. I don’t know if the man on the stool charges for sips. The sink contraption is connected to a fire hydrant–he’s leaning on it. He thought of filling a bowl with water for dogs as well.

nyny-vuillardsmall3We get museum exhibits that feature favorite artists such as Edouard Vuillard. Advertised in the subway, it’s easy to stay abreast and not miss any.

 

 

nyny-breadssmall1I adore bread. As a child, tasty bread in this city was nonexistent. You had to go abroad for toothsome options.  Now we have so many delicious types it’s manna heaven.

 

 

 

nyny-bagels-small1Bagels are a favorite–poppy or plain–toasted with butter, sigh. There’s a bagel for every taste. This is the variety in one store.

 

 

 

nyny-pizzasmall199 cent pizza made by a Sikh [whom you don’t see because he’s behind the exiting customers]. We took out Mexican food for years from a place where the cooks and owners were Chinese.

 

 

 

Most people love the place they are from or where they now live. What do you like best about where you are or were born?

lovewhereyoulive

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics