Thursday, May 18, 2006

Point A to Point B in a HopStop and a Jump

I have two friends who in March used their remaining FEMA funds to relocate to the Big Apple from the Big Easy. Having been among the first wave of residents to return to New Orleans after Katrina, they were ambivalent about leaving their French Quarter digs. But with work scarce and their landlord in need of their apartment for a family member, they concluded that it was time to make a move.

They had both lived here previously, years ago, so they weren’t entirely inexperienced in the ways of the city. Still, even for those who have lived here before, finessing a move here can be challenging, and they’ve often impressed me with the ease with which they’ve made their transition. For one, they’ve shown tremendous resourcefulness in navigating the subway system, finding unique and efficient ways of getting from their out-of-the-way neighborhood in Brooklyn to various points around the city. They finally shared their secret with me:

As with MapQuest, you just enter your starting and ending points, and the site generates detailed directions from point A to point B. It tells you how to get to the nearest subway station, the transfers you need to make, and how to walk from your subway stop to your ultimate destination. What if you don’t know the address of the Met? No problem; just type in “Metropolitan Museum of Art.” You can also use intersections, but the system won’t recognize a single street only (e.g., you must put in 14th St. & Avenue A” – not merely “14th St.”). You can use pull-down menus to select such preferences as whether to walk more and transfer less (or vice-versa), and whether to combine bus and subway options. You can also enter the day and time you’ll be making the trip and select a language for the directions (current options are English, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Russian, Spanish and Swahili).

If you don’t like the route it suggests, just click “Reroute” and HopStop provides alternate directions. Or if you want to know how safe, clean, efficient, etc., the subway or bus line is, just click “Ratings” to get Zagat-like user reviews and tips. Once you have your route, you can text-message it, email it or print it. Other site features include the ability to generate an itinerary with multiple stops, maps, and guides to nearby attractions, shops and restaurants.

Even if you know the subway system like the back of your hand, is a great asset when you’re hosting the inevitable out-of-town visitor. Just text-message them an itinerary, and you may never get another desperate “OMG, we’re lost!” phone call again.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

When You Need to Know: The Sporting Life Links

Being a city dweller doesn't negate an interest in the sporting life. New Yorkers are an active bunch, and Manhattan provides a number of opportunities for athletic pursuits and both indoor and outdoor recreational activities.

Turn here to find sports, fitness and recreation resources to indulge your physical side. I’ll update this as I come across new resources – and if you have any good local sports and recreation sites to recommend, please send them along!

For links to your favorite local pro teams, check out When You Need to Know: NY’s Professional Sports Teams.

New York’s Parks
NYC Parks Facilities: Where to Play, Practice & Watch
The New York City Parks system provides public facilities for a vast array of sports and recreation, from bocce courts to volleyball courts. Find the public places to play, practice or watch the sport or game of your choice with this searchable Parks Department guide.

Manhattan's Backyard: Sports Facilities in Central Park
Did you know that Central Park has indoor and outdoor rock-climbing walls? Or that it has two croquet lawns and yoga classes? Get information here on all of the public sports facilities Manhattan's backyard has to offer.

League Sports
A League of Your Own: Applying for Athletic Permits
If you're organizing a league of your own, you'll need to obtain an athletic permit to use the public parks facilities. Apply for a permit online, download applications for permits (Adobe Acrobat Reader required), and check out the usage guidelines for the public courts and fields at this Parks Department Web site.

Out of Bounds
Get a listing of New York's LGBT sports leagues and recreational groups, such as the NYC Gay Hockey Association, NY Pride Rowing Association, Fast & Fabulous Cycling Club and a host of others. All are endorsed by Out of Bounds, a non-profit organization that “advocates and actively works for the acceptance, visibility, and active participation of members of the GLBT community in professional, amateur, and recreational programs without regard to race, gender, age, or sexual orientation..” OOB’s Web site also features news, a calendar of LGBT sports and more.

Inline Skating
NYC SK8: The New York City Inline Skating Guide
This all-purpose overview of inline skating in the New York Metro area started out in 1994 as a mere FAQ and has grown into a useful guide to local inline skating. It features information on where to buy inline skates, a guide to local laws regulating the sport, a safety primer and more. My favorite feature is a handy neighborhood guide to the city’s best places for inline skating, which is thoughtfully written for the novice as well as experienced skater.

The Empire Skate Club
This non-profit membership-based association is “dedicated to having fun and improving the skating environment in New York.” It sponsors a variety of regular skating events, such as the Tuesday Night Skate, for advanced skaters; the more relaxed Thursday Night Roll, a social skate for beginner-to-intermediate skaters; and out-of-town skate trips. An annual membership is $25. Get all the details at the club’s Web site.

The Central Park Skate Patrol
This group is a godsend for beginning skaters. I would never have learned to feel confident on hills without the patience and persistence of the Skate Patrol volunteer who taught me how to brake at the West 72nd Street entrance to the Central Park Loop; volunteers are available every weekend, April-October, 12:30-5:30 p.m.. The local chapter of the International Inline Skating Association's (IISA) National Skate Patrol, the Central Park Skate Patrol also runs a very reasonably priced Skate School, with certified instructors, on the second and fourth weekends of each month. Check the Web site for more information.

TennisNYC League
The official Web site of the city’s self-proclaimed “#1 Tennis League” is a confusing mess in terms of design but, if you’re willing to scroll through its very long main page, you’re apt to find out everything you wanted to know about amateur tennis in New York.

Central Park Tennis Center
Get the lowdown on group classes, private lessons and tennis camps offered at the Har-Tru and hard courts located near the reservoir in Central Park.

Riverside Clay Tennis Association
This citizen’s group saved the clay courts at 97th St., alongside the Hudson River in Riverside Park, from being paved over in the early 1980s and now, in conjunction with the Parks Department, maintains 10 world-class courts, runs tournaments and tennis ladders, and hosts a summer sunset concert series. The organization also pays the salary of an on-site tennis pro who offers private and group lessons.

119th St. Tennis Association
This home-grown site representing the hard courts at 119th St. in Riverside Park features tournament schedules, news and, most notably, a listing of “Play Pals” – names and contact information of local enthusiasts who are seeking tennis partners.

Friends of Harlem Tennis Center
Support tennis north of 96th St. by checking in here for an update on the Harlem Tennis Center at the 369th Regiment Armory. The center has been closed, awaiting funding for a renovation. Check out the “HTC Crisis” link for news on what’s been going on, the “About HTC” link for a history of the center – notables such as Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe played and taught here – and the “Local Tennis Groups” link for a listing of various leagues and associations elsewhere in the city.

Horseback Riding
Riding in NYC’s Parks
Each of the five boroughs offers public horseback riding trails in the city’s parks. While Central Park is Manhattan’s backyard, you’ll only get to ride here if you’re pretty experienced. Venture out to one of the other boroughs, however, and you can get reasonably priced lessons as well as guided trail rides. This Parks Department guide includes information on hours, services available and rates, as well as links to the individual stables in each park.

Urban Cowboy: NYC Horseback Riding
If you want a glimpse into what riding in the city is really like before you venture out and try it for yourself, check out this article at, the Web site affiliated with Outside magazine. A first-person account by an experienced rider of various stables and trails in each of the five boroughs, it offers both a glimpse into the reality of riding in the metropolis and practical information on the stables. NOTE: You must complete the free site registration to access the entire article.’s Guide to Horseback Riding in NYC
Get an overview of the stables and rates available around the city, plus kid-centric mini-reviews of each, as well as links to the stables’ Web sites.

Recommended All-Purpose Guide to Sports and Recreation in NYC
NY Sports Online
I’ll add more sports and recreation links to over time, but as much as I’d like to, it would be next to impossible for me to provide a comprehensive listing of sports and recreation opportunities in the city. And why should I, when New York Sports Online has done a fabulous job already? This site offers local sports and recreation news as well as localized guides and links to just about any athletic pursuit you can think of, from arm wrestling to volleyball.

When You Need to Know: New York’s Professional Sports Teams

Whether you root for the Yanks or the Mets, the Giants or the Jets, the Knicks or the Nets, New York fans are the most loyal in the country. Use the teams’ official Web sites to get the latest team news, check out team standings and stats, get schedules and purchase tickets.

The NY Yankees

The NY Mets

The Brooklyn Cyclones

Major League Baseball

Minor League Baseball


The NY Giants

The NY Jets

The NY Dragons

The National Football League

Arena Football League

The NY Knicks

The NJ Nets

NY Liberty

The National Basketball Association

The Women’s National Basketball Association

Ice Hockey
The NY Rangers

The NY Islanders

The NJ Devils

The National Hockey League

Roller Derby
Yeah, that’s what I said: Roller Derby. If the A&E reality show Rollergirls made you want to catch some of this action, you’ll be happy to know the metro area boasts two women’s leagues.

Gotham Girls
Comprising four local teams representing four of the five boroughs – Bronx Gridlock, Brooklyn Bombshells, Queens of Pain and Manhattan Mayhem – the Gotham Girls have bouts coming up this summer at The Schwartz Athletic Center at LIU-Brooklyn.

Long Island Roller Rebels League
With three teams – The Wicked Wheelers of The West, The East End Ladies of Laceration and the Mid Island Rolling Thundercats – this Long Island-based women’s league will be competing through October in Bethpage.

Monday, May 08, 2006

New Feature: When You Need to Know

To make this site a more valuable resource for New York residents (and visitors, too), I'll periodically list links to useful Web sites on different topics. Since we're having such a fine early spring -- perfect for perusing new neighborhoods -- I've kicked off the new When You Need to Know series with a list of links to neighborhood information.

In the weeks to come I'll add more neighborhood resources and create When You Need to Know posts on new topics, including The Sporting Life (sports and recreation), Manhattan 311 (city government), Getting Around (transportation and travel) and more.

Please post a comment if you'd like to request any specific topics or to share a link that you've found helpful.

When You Need to Know: Manhattan Neighborhood Links

Part of Manhattan's charm is the distinct character of each neighborhood, from Murray Hill to Morningside Heights, Little Italy to Lenox Hill. Check in here for neighborhood guides and info; I’ll periodically update these links to keep you informed.

Neighborhood Spotlights and Local Attractions

Spotlight on Morningside Heights: A Walking Tour
Morningside Heights – so named because it sits atop a 135-foot bluff - is a genteel neighborhood just above Manhattan's Upper West Side. Flanked by three of the city's finest parks, and home Columbia University and The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, it lends itself to meandering and taking your time. Get to know the people and places of Morningside Heights on this walking tour.

Spotlight on Midtown: One Night at the Plaza
An anchor on the northern edge of Midtown, the Plaza Hotel was the Grande Dame of New York luxury hotels. Established in 1907, its rooms overlooking Central Park, its French Chateau architecture, and its famed interiors such as the Palm Court, the Grand Ballroom and the Oak Room and Oak Bar made the Plaza a New York icon. Sadly, the hotel closed its doors on April 30, 2005, for a conversion to private residences.

Greenmarkets: A Guide to Farmer's Markets in NYC
You probably already know about the popular Union Square Greenmarket (or Farmer's Market, as it's often called). But did you know Manhattan hosts 18 other Greenmarkets throughout the city on different days of the week? While some are seasonal, 11 are open year-round. Use this map to find a Greenmarket in your neighborhood. NOTE: Adobe Acrobat Reader required. For more information on the city’s Greenmarket program, CLICK HERE.

NYC's Architectural Gems by Neighborhood
Tom Fletcher, a New York architect (by way of Australia), maintains this online library of photographs and notes about an eclectic range of the city's most architecturally interesting buildings; it's conveniently organized by neighborhood.

Best Neighborhoods for Inline Skating
This handy neighborhood guide to best places for inline skating is thoughtfully written for the novice as well as experienced skater, noting such details as how the trees hanging over the sidewalks of Riverside Park make the ground "twiggy." Get the full rundown on all the best locales around Manhattan.

Manhattan Restaurants by Neighborhood
When you need a restaurant in a specific neighborhood, use this link to get New York Magazine’s listing of 1,861 Manhattan restaurants sorted by location – from Battery Park City to the West Village (neighborhoods are sorted in alphabetical order). You can resort the list by cuisine, price range or restaurant name. Reviews are included, too.

New York Magazine Neighborhood Guides
The glossy’s Web site offers a number of handy neighborhood guides with detailed maps and write-ups on local shops, restaurants and attractions. Check them out before you head out.

Map No 5: Crosby Street (November 29, 2004)

Lower East Side
How Low Can You Go? (May 8, 2006)

Lower East Side-East Village
Map No 2: The Bowery (October 25, 2004)

Union Square
Map No. 9: State of the Union (April 5, 2005)

Upper East Side
Map No 4: Lexington Avenue (November 29, 2004)

Upper West Side
Map No 1: Lower-Middle-Upper West Side (October 6, 2004)

Map No 8: 125th Street (February 28, 2005)

Maps and Community Information

New York City Map Portal: Community Information by Address
Plug your address into this interactive NYC Map Portal, and you can spend hours getting detailed information on your neighborhood, from the breakdown of your various districts (community, city council, school, etc.), census data and local services to a host of statistics such as crime rates, number of noise complaints and more.

Map of Manhattan Neighborhoods
This color-coded map demarcates where one Manhattan neighborhood ends and the next begins, from Inwood to the Financial District.

City of Neighborhoods: The NYC Department of City Planning Interactive Neighborhood Map
This map breaks the five boroughs down into their 59 official Community Districts. Click on any one to get a detailed view of the district, including niche neighborhoods (e.g., you’ll see not just the Upper East Side, but Carnegie Hill). Or, use the pull-down menu to select a specific neighborhood to view. You can also use this site to obtain information on proposed city planning projects, such as the city’s recommendations for the development of the World Trade Center site and the High Line development plan in Chelsea.

Manhattan Timeformations: The NYC Skyline in 3D
Watch this interactive computer animation reveal the development of the downtown New York City skyline, neighborhood-by-neighborhood and era-by-era. First click on an area (e.g., downtown), then click through the time periods and major developments, and watch the city take shape – literally. HINT: A brief tutorial precedes the animation; just click through each of the links to arrive at the interactive map. For more information about the Manhattan Timeformations project and its developers, CLICK HERE.

The Oldest Known Map of Manhattan (1639)
For a look at Manhattan long before the skyscrapers, check out this 1639 map, dotted with tiny farms, plantations and four Native American villages in what is now Brooklyn.