So you have just arrived to New York. You are, more than likely, in the JFK Airport. You have gotten your bags, you have tipped the skycap and you are ready to take on Manhattan.
Hold on. How do you get to Manhattan from the airport? And when you get there, how do you find your hotel? How can you see the Statue of Liberty?
We have the answers. Welcome to our transportation guide.
On March, 2011, actress Liza Minelli called the media. It's not that the then-65 year-old actress had any news to make, or wanted to publicly regret her recent performance in Sex and the City 2. Rather, she wanted to be photographed taking a bus. It was a way to promote the use of public transportation to New Yorkers and tourists.
There are two conclusions we can extract from this fact.
First, that we should rule out using a car in New York. If the public transport had to be promoted, it means that its millions of citizens were prefering to drive in the city's mad roads. So renting a car is out of the question. Also, because New York's driving style is the closest the city will ever get to the far west, where the biggest and fastest would dictate the rules. The others are left to honk loudly. And they will.
The other conclusion we can surmise for Liza Minelli's publicity stunt is that the city has some healthy means of public transportation ready to be used. When you are in the JFK Airport, you will face the first, and most defining, New York decision of your trip. Will you take the dark NY Subway or the slow and dangerous but iconic buses and taxis?
You can tell if somebody is a foreigner or a citizen by the way they look at the subway.
It offers a fascinating human spectacle, for the price of the now famous Meterocard. You slide it through the grid and it's as if you've just paid the ticket for the great human comedy.
It's not just the racial diveristy, which can also be witnessed in other cities. There's more to it.
The New York Subway is the home of crazy urbans, surprising beggars, excellent musicians who need to pass an exam before they are allowed to play in the trains, horrible musicians who sneak in and play abysmally, Biblical preachers and a particular beggar who can make remarkably elegant dresses with black trashbags. But, above all, the subway is the place where segregation, so powerful even in New York, disappears. The poor mingle with the rich; the old with the young; the black with the white; New Jersey with The Bronx and with the SoHo.
They all have to see each other underground. The subway is the cohesive element of this citizenry.
History is the past, the present is news and the future is not here yet. That much we can agree on.
This tautology, however, doesn't apply to taxis in New York. They are part of New York's living history. Its drivers can talk about the future with much more authority than many experts (mainly because they listen to people react to things, like a show or a restaurant that has just opened). And they will be there, in your present, when you get to New York. They are part of the city. Subject of the photographs tourists take when they walk around Times Square. They will get you from your point A to your point B but will do much more than that. They will show you the city from a unique perspective.
But they are not safe. If it is safety you want, you can take the bus. It's what 14 year-olds take to go to class, and they have many user-friendly policies. They have the advantage to allow you to see the city around you, which can give your sense of orientation a big push. But they are hopelessly slow. They stop ever two blocks. This makes them perfectly useless when you want to cover a small distance (you might as well walk) and terribly frustrating when you want to cover long distance.
You will forget Manhattan is an island. It happens. It's no crime. The real crime would be to miss out on the advantages of riding the Staten Island ferry, which is the most famous of the many ferries sailing the waters around New York.
It gives a unique perspective of the Statue of Liberty and the skyline overall. It also gives you a unprecedented view of the NYC Waterfalls. So it's like a ride into itself. And it's free. So while it may not be a particuarly efficient means of transportation unless you want to go to Staten Island itself, it's a ride you should consider.
The best use you can make of its waters is found in the water taxi service -- small boats that will take to one end of the island to the other in a fraction of the time a cab or the subway would take. They are still not as popular as the other, time-honored means but they will get there.