• 10 Tips for a Seamless Transition into New York Life

    LOCALIKE is at home in New York. Visitors often ask us how to avoid sticking out, so we’ve written down important ten things to keep in mind. These tips will help you experience New York like a local.

    1. The sidewalk is really a highway.
    New Yorkers are high-velocity creatures. It seems like they’re always in a rush or running late. Because it’s often fastest to get from one place to another on foot, the sidewalks are sometimes comparable to highways (complete with invisible divided lanes). Accordingly, there are several unspoken traffic rules. So that the traffic flow stays consistent, New Yorkers stay to the right. If they have to stop or change pace, they move to the side and make way for the eternally frazzled ones behind them to avoid being trampled. Another unwritten rule is not to walk side by side when traveling in large groups; rather, proceed single-file. This way, the pedestrians in a hurry can still get by and everyone can get to their respective destinations at their desired tempos—and usually in a zig-zag.

    2. Choose the right shoes.
    New York women are known for their love of high-heeled shoes, but you’ll rarely see evidence of this on the street. Why? New York is a city of pedestrians and many streets are uneven or made of cobblestone. For this reason, women often hide high heels away in handbags and replace them on the sidewalk by flats or sneakers that will get them more comfortably from A to B. As soon as they’ve reached their destination, they change into high heels and restore their trademark New York look. P.S.: if your handbag is too small, we’d recommend taking a taxi or Uber. This way you’ll save yourself both blisters and a stressful trek through the city.

    3. Don’t avoid visiting museums on the basis of their entrance prices.
    Culture is a high priority in New York, and although it isn’t really publicized, the entrance prices at many of the city’s big museums are only recommendations. That means you can often decide what you’d like to pay (even if it’s only a dollar). Before you decide against visiting a museum because of its high entrance fee, it’s worth doing a little research online (or asking LOCALIKE).

    4. Don’t get into empty subway cars.
    It’s rush hour on a hot summer day and every single subway car is packed except for one…score? Afraid not! There’s probably a very good reason the car is empty. The air conditioning might have gone off (the least of all possible evils) or there may be something in there causing an ungodly stench. In any case, don’t be seduced by the generous amounts of space—your nose will thank you. Trust us. :)

    5. Ask for directions.
    New Yorkers can be brash if you get in their way (keyphrase: fast walking), but if you ask them a question they’re usually very friendly and willing to help. Sometimes they’re even proud to show off how NYC-savvy they are, so don’t be afraid to ask for directions or for the best subway connection. Sometimes locals will even come up and offer their help before you even knew you needed any.

    6. Become a master of the MetroCard.
    Visitors often struggle with the New York subway card. How should you swipe it? How fast should you pull it through? Which side should the magnetic strip be facing? We’d recommend keeping cool and getting your card out before you even enter the subway station. Make sure the magnetic strip is facing inward (or left) and pull the card through the reader at a medium, casual pace—like a local.

    7. Exit taxis on the right.
    Always exit taxis on the right-hand side, unless you’d like a bicyclist stuck to your open door.

    8. Keep your celebrity cool.
    New York hosts a high concentration of celebrities in a relatively small space, so the chances of seeing someone famous are quite high. In general, New Yorkers don’t ask for autographs or photos. Smile and walk on LOCALIKE-style. If you’re having trouble containing your excitement, you can always share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    9. Please wait to be seated.
    New York restaurants usually have a “please wait to be seated” policy. While in most European restaurants you can go ahead and pick out tables yourself, in New York, guests should consult the host at the entrance before sitting, regardless of how full—or empty—the restaurant is. The host’s tasks are to bring guests to their tables, to make sure that each server has a more or less equal number of tables, and to prevent general chaos. The latter rarely works ;)

    10. Don’t rent a car.
    New York is not a city for car-driving tourists, at least not when you’d like to be in Manhattan and the surrounding areas—there’s too much traffic and too little parking. What’s more, you’d be surrounded by wild, fearless drivers and unpredictable pedestrians and bike couriers. Do as the New Yorkers do: walk, use public transportation, or flag down a taxi. Finally, try not to spend too much time in Times Square. The “center of the universe” has amazing magnetism and should be a stop for anyone traveling to New York; however, the real city exists in the neighborhoods and on the streets outside of Times Square, in Downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens, in the restaurants, bars, and parks. Allow yourself to wander away from the crowd. Want to see the real New York? LOCALIKE is a friend away from home. Its on-site experts show you sides of the city that postcards never would. Like a local. www.LOCALIKE.com

  • Houston, We Have a Problem

    There are streets in New York whose names are known throughout the whole world. Some of them are so famous that they’re even associated with entire branches of industry. “Wall Street” stands for the global financial market, and the name “Broadway” is almost always followed by the word “musical.“ What is the history behind these street names? How did they come to be? LOCALIKE set out on a search for clues. We’ve collected the most interesting facts and want to share them with you.

    Before we begin, we’d like to make a brief excursion into the city’s history. Once upon a time, New York was actually called New Amsterdam and—yup, you guessed it—was a Dutch colony. The Dutch maintained power for a good part of the 17th century, but eventually the New Amsterdam business acumen became a burden: the trading posts were so lucrative that, in 1664, the British took over, and the city was renamed that same year.

    Wall Street
    Unfortunately, there’s no clear explanation for the name of this famous street, except that it was once called “de Waal Straat.” There are two different theories. One suggests that for a while, the street acted as the northern border of the young colony and was therefore called “wall.“ According to the second theory, the street takes its name from the 30 Walloon families that were some of the first Europeans to settle in Manhattan.

    Avenue of the Americas
    It’s possible this street name won’t ring a bell, and in fact, New Yorkers never use it themselves. However, it’s actually the official name for 6th Avenue. In 1945, at the insistence of Fiorello LaGuardia, the mayor at the time, the then run-down avenue was renamed in tribute to the Organization of American States. This international organization, whose members included the U.S.A., Canada, and Mexico, no longer exists. As far as Mayor LaGuardia’s name goes: it’s been kept alive by one of the city’s two airports.

    Christopher Street
    This street in the West Village was named after the British admiral Charles Christopher Amons. Today, though, it’s a symbol of the LGBTQ movement. It was at the Stonewall Inn on this street that the 1969 riots against the police force began.

    Park Avenue
    Today, Park Avenue is one of the most representative residential addresses in the world. Earlier it was just called 4th Avenue (according to its placement in the grid). What is now a green strip between the two lanes used to be tracks for the train line to Harlem. When these tracks gave way to green in the 1950s, the days of “4th Avenue” were also numbered.

    Lexington Avenue
    This avenue, which has both northbound and southbound traffic (this is unusual for New York) is named after a battle in the American Revolution. More interesting than that, though, is the fact that it shouldn’t even actually exist. It runs exactly between 3rd and 4th Avenues (the latter was renamed, as we mentioned). Why, then, is Lex, as New Yorkers call it, there at all? Because landowners expected to generate higher estate prices this way.

    New York’s oldest north-south axis was actually once called “Breedeweg,“ which in Dutch simply means “wide street.“ Today’s name, then, is a simple translation. Broadway not only runs through all of Manhattan and the Bronx—it ends about 30 km outside of the city limits.

    Another Dutch thing. “Bouwerij“ is Dutch for “farm,“ and “Bowery“ expresses the sound of that word to English-speaking ears. This spot, which connects Chinatown to the East Village, connected Wall Street to the bordering farmland back in the day.

    Houston Street
    The origins of this street name are rather boring and complicated—its pronunciation is the more important issue at hand. Let’s say you’ve just successfully hailed a cab and (justifiably) feel a little like a local. Your destination is on Houston Street, so you say “Houston Street“ as you’d pronounce the city in Texas (HIU-ston). Well, Houston, we have a problem—the taxi driver now wonders where exactly he should take you. In fact, the street is correctly pronounced (HOW-ston). Why, you ask? Oddly enough, there’s no good explanation.

    And, just so you can show off with ALL the facts on your next visit to New York, we’d like to inform you of one last thing. This time it’s not about streets but rather about city districts, namely Harlem and Brooklyn. In the Netherlands, there’s a city called Haarlem and a city called Breukelen. We’ll leave it at that.
    Keep on searching for facts—and see you soon in New York!

  • Subway of Superlatives

    Opened in 1904, the New York subway is today one of the oldest public rail transportation systems in the world. And New York wouldn’t be New York if there weren’t a couple more impressive facts.

    The subway runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. It is one of the most-used metro systems in the world. 5.7 million passengers use the 6,400 cars every day, which makes for 1.7 billion passengers each year.

    The 25 different lines connect 472 stations across over 236 miles (380 km) in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. No other subway system has anywhere near as many stations. A huge number of tracks converge, and if you were to extend them all into one long track, the stretch would add up to about 665 miles (1’070 km) and reach from New York to Chicago or from Italy to Denmark.

    Although the name “subway” implies that the New York system runs underground, about 40% of the tracks and 39% of the stations are above ground. Most of these are in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The majority of the stations in Manhattan are underground.

    A New Life for Old Subway Cars
    “Hundreds of cars taken out of service and submerged in the Atlantic.” Admittedly, this notice left us perplexed when we first read it. What at first sounds like a ruthless act of pollution is in fact part of a large-scale project to build artificial reefs off the coasts of Delaware and South Carolina. These subway car reefs provide food and protection for many species of fish and mussels. The pioneer project has caught on across the world.

    What's coming?

    The future is here! For a long time, there was neither telephone reception nor WiFi in the NYC subway. As of January 2017, however, all stations offer phone and WiFi reception – and that’s one year ahead of schedule.

    Also, the 2nd Avenue Subway, the result of about 100 years of planning, was inaugurated on January 1, 2017 and finally offers additional service to three stations on the Upper East Side. Further construction on the line is planned down to South Ferry in Lower Manhattan.

    And there’s even more: the MTA has ordered new subway cars. These will not only have broader doors to make entering and exiting easier; they will also replace the doors that previously separated the cars with accordion-like joints. In essence, these new subways will glide down the long tunnels like centipedes, and passengers will be able to walk all the way from the very back to the very front of the train. Aside from that, the new subway cars will of course be state-of-the-art: along with timely display systems, they’ll offer WiFi and mobile phone charging stations.

    There’s also a plan to renovate the subway stations and to allow for an easier payment system via the Metrocard. When all these things are finished, the New York subway will also finally be welcomed into the 21st century.

    Last But Not Least – NYC Subway Etiquette
    Want to move around like a New Yorker? We’d recommend observing the following dos and don’ts:

    • Each subway line is marked with a different color, but New Yorkers never refer to these colors. Instead, the lines are identified by numbers or letters – you take the “A Train” or the “6” and not the “blue” or “green line.”
    • Never eat in the subway.
    • Have lots of luggage with you? It’s best to remove your backpacks and put bags on the floor, not on the seat next to you.
    • If a car is noticeably empty, there’s usually a good (and odorous) reason for that. You’re best off not getting in.

    Finally, the most important tip for visitors: riding the subway is a must-do. This is where New York is at home, where you can breathe in its very essence, and where life takes place. This is where rich and poor, tourists and New Yorkers, bankers and artists, crazy people and geniuses all meet in the same space. And it’s not just the subways themselves that are full of life – the stations and platforms are just as vibrant, thanks to the countless street musicians, performance artists, comedians, puppeteers, dancers, etc. So it’s time to hop on the subway – the underground of Gotham City.

  • The cowardly hunter, a revolution on the toilet, and other New York stories

    What would the world be like without New York? Certainly much less interesting. It would also be lacking certain integral symbols of daily life. Did you know these things were invented in New York? We didn’t, either.

    1. The Teddy Bear – This most classic of stuffed animals was invented in Brooklyn by Morris and Rose Michtom. It was inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt, who on a 1902 hunting trip declined to shoot an injured bear. The name “Teddy” comes from “Theodore.”

    2. Air Conditioning– In 1902, Brooklyn resident Willis Carrier invented a machine designed to prevent paper in printing plants from bending in the summer humidity. The machine’s ability to cool off a room was a happy coincidence that went on to revolutionize daily life in America

    3. Toilet Paper– The first modern, commercially available toilet paper was invented in 1857 by Joseph C. Gayetty, who sold the paper in his Manhattan store. It was made of manila hemp and enriched with aloe vera extract. The best (or worst, depending on your perspective) thing about it: every individual sheet was embossed with his name.

    4. Scrabble –Alfred Mosher Butts, an unemployed architect and anagram zealot from Jackson Heights in Queens, invented this beloved board game in 1938. Fun fact: the street where Butts used to live is marked with a sign in Scrabble language: “35t1Ha1V4e1n1u1e1.” This jumble of numbers and letters includes the name of the street (35th Avenue) and the corresponding Scrabble letter values.

    5. The Remote Control– This technology was developed by the New Yorker Nikola Tesla, who invented a radio-controlled boat in 1898. What at the time was almost impossible to believe is today an integral component of daily domestic life.

    6. Eggs Benedict – In 1894, upon returning to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel after a night on the town, the stockbroker and bonvivant Lemuel Benedikt ordered poached eggs, crispy bacon, toast, and hollandaise sauce. The legendary maître d'hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, found this combination so interesting that he added it to the menu and named it after its inventor.

    7. The Hot Dog – The idea of serving a hot sausage in a bun came from the baker and Coney Island, Brooklyn resident Charles Feltman. Feltman sold his hot dogs at the unbeatable price of a dime ($0.10). The invention was a huge hit and made Feltman into an influential investor in Coney Island—at least until his former employee, Nathan Handwerker, opened a shop of his own and began selling hot dogs for a mere nickel ($0.05).

    8. The ATM (cash machine)– The first prototype for a cash machine was designed by Luther George Simjiam in 1939. Citibank was the first bank that volunteered to test the invention over a 6-month trial period. The test was unsuccessful: too few people used the machine, and those that did were mostly prostitutes and casino visitors. 

    The next time you take out money, eat a hot dog, play Scrabble, or change the TV channel, think of New York. 

  • Hudson Yards: New York’s Newest Neighborhood

    A City in a City
    New York is a pulsating city in constant flux. Some things change subtly and invisibly; others take years to develop and alter the city irrevocably. An example of the latter is the megaproject Hudson Yards in Western Manhattan. Between 8th and 10th Avenues and 30th and 42nd St., that is, where Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and Midtown West intersect, a new city district has emerged. It is the largest private construction project since Rockefeller Center was finished in 1939 and the largest in American history. By 2025, 15 skyscrapers will be built over a space of 395 acres (1,6 million m2). Once the construction is completed, the area, which encompasses 45 city blocks, will house 4,000 apartments. On top of that, 100 stores, a public school, a luxury hotel, several restaurants, and a center for modern art will also open their doors. Altogether over 125,000 people will live and work in the skyscrapers.

    How is a project like this possible in a city as densely populated as New York? The Hudson Yards are in a post-industrial section of Manhattan that was long neglected and unattractive. The Long Island Railroad parks its commuter trains here, and there’s also a railway tunnel to New Jersey. Because both the train station and the tunnel must remain in operation, the neighborhood will be built on top of the train tracks thanks to a 10-acre (four-hectare) platform. The construction will be supported by 300 pillars drilled 79 ft (24 m) deep into massive rock. When the Hudson Yards are completed, a mountain of new skyscrapers will leave Manhattan’s skyline forever changed. The project has been the talk of the town for years. There are three particular topics on peoples’ minds: 

    30 Hudson Yards
    When it is completed, the skyscraper 30 Hudson Yards will be the tallest building in the new district and the second-tallest in New York. At a towering 1296 ft (395 m), it will surpass the Empire State Building by 46 ft (14 m). Among the highlights is the highest outdoor viewing platform in the city. The building is scheduled to open in 2019.

    The Vessel
    A public park stretching across five acres (20’000 m2) will be home to 28,000 plants and 200 different tree species. In the middle of the garden, a sculpture called “The Vessel” will act as the heart of the new city district. The main component of the accessible structure, which is reminiscent of a beehive, is 154 interlocking stairways consisting of a total of 2,500 steps. While the diameter of the building is about 50 ft (15 m) on the ground, up on the 15th floor it’s a whopping 148 ft (45 m). The steps of the walk-in sculpture lead to 80 balconies, all of which serve as viewing platforms. The monument was developed by the British star architect, artist, and designer Thomas Heatherwick.

    The Shed
    The Shed will be New York’s most up-and-coming cultural center. The six-floor building was designed by the award-winning architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It’s already clear that the building will be an architectural highlight when it opens. One section of the building can be extended and drawn back in to adapt to cultural events of all kinds. In summer, there’s enough room for large outdoor events, and in the colder months the indoor halls can be used for concerts or other large events. The Shed will host music, art exhibitions, installations, dance performances, etc., and thereby become a new cultural hot spot in New York. New York Fashion Week is already in conversation with the building and plans to move in after the latter opens in 2019.

    This gigantic project will allow for an enriching new attraction in New York City.

  • Step on it, Mr. Neurosurgeon!

    The yellow taxi is used by New Yorkers and visitors alike. Visitors, whose travel opportunities are numbered, are only afforded a little insight into the peculiarities of this quintessential New York transportation mode. As the movies have shown, hailing a cab involves waiting on the curb and waving. Sooner or later, one will stop. You climb in, say hello, and give the driver an address. You take in the city through the smudged side window. You reach your destination, pay, say goodbye, and take a practical, authentic New York experience home with you. A couple of these experiences are worth every visitor’s while.

    If you call New York home, traveling by taxi isn’t quite so simple. Unless they’re considerably out of the loop, New Yorkers rarely wait patiently on the curb holding out their hand. Instead, they quickly resort to Uber. Uber cars find you—not the other way around. There’s an imperative thought process leading up to a decision for or against a taxi ride. One must consider many variables: route, direction of travel, time of day, traffic, day of the week, weather, and the dreaded taxi drivers’ shift change between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. (during this hour, despite heightened demand, the number of taxis drops significantly—a decades-old problem for which there doesn’t seem to be any solution). Sound like a lot of thinking for a single taxi ride? It may be, but it’ll save you frustrating wait time.

    Before we get to the really interesting aspects of New York taxi travel, here are a few facts:

    • There are 13,605 taxi licences and over 51,000 licensed taxi drivers in New York City. The number of licenses has remained amazingly stable over the years.
    • Nowadays a license costs around $700,000 (in the pre-Uber era, it cost almost a million).
    • Most of the licenses belong to companies that then rent them out to drivers.
    • The drivers work for up to 12 hours at a time. About 90% of them are immigrants.
    • A taxi driver’s yearly income is around $33,000. In other words, it’s a tough, low-paying job.
    • The initial fee for a ride is $2.50. In comparison to other cities, taxis in New York are affordable.

    There are no formalities exchanged upon entering and exiting a taxi. Generally, you should yell out your destination without losing a second. This won’t be interpreted as rude—quite the contrary. You’re doing yourself, the taxi driver, and the stressed, reckless driver behind you all a favor. As soon as the taxi starts driving, you’ll have time to make the next minutes comfortable for yourself. This may involve opening the window to dilute an undefinable but intensive taxi aroma and ease the impact of a notorious, neck-breaking driving style that can interfere surprisingly quickly with physical and mental well-being. Also of note is that New Yorkers, despite this often ‘interesting’ driving style, don’t usually buckle their seatbelts. In fact, nobody does.

    Taxi rides usually include another guaranteed experience: you become witness to a telephone conversation in an unknown language. Almost all taxi drivers talk on the phone, and often without interruption. What’s he talking about, and to whom? Is it the fiancé in Morocco, the daughter in Queens, or the mother in India? Is he speaking to other drivers via the taxi radio and making fun of his customers? It’s one of the city’s greatest enigmas. There’d certainly be enough material for jokes: the drivers witness fighting couples, women who change their entire outfit over the course of the ride, backseat deals, and bossy, know-it-all back seat drivers on a daily basis—no wonder they drive so fast.

    Traveling by taxi in New York has positive aspects, too. Sometimes a simple question can lead to a rewarding conversation—with the Yemeni surgeon whose pubescent daughter is going through a difficult phase. Or with the Belarussian engineer who isn’t sure if he should train to be a nurse. Or with the Ghanian teacher who assures you that tomorrow will be a better day.

    When all of the right elements fall into place, taxi travel can even be enchanting: you (and the driver) may, for example, have the pleasure of admiring the city worldlessly through open windows while a symphony plays on the radio in full volume.


  • Welcome to Hipster City

    The Brooklyn Brand.
    The neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn has become an international symbol of gentrification (although the bordering areas are no less affected). It’s also one of the birthplaces, and remains an epicenter, of hipster culture—a culture that has dominated the urban centers of the world for several years now. In cities like London, Paris, Tokyo, or São Paulo, there are cafés, restaurants, and shops named after Brooklyn and Williamsburg. Parisians seem especially predisposed to a fetishization of Brooklyn—“c'est très Brooklyn” has long been synonymous for “it’s super cool.” This no longer has much to do with underground hipster culture—the Brooklyn “brand” has since spread its influence to the mainstream. When people abroad refer to Brooklyn, they still often mean Williamsburg.

    A Brief Summary of the District’s Turbulent History.
    In 1638, the Netherlands bought a piece of land located on the eastern shore of the East River from the Native American Canarsee tribe. For a very long time, the land was used exclusively for farming, but when the Williamsburg Bridge opened in 1903 and acted as a direct link to the south of Manhattan, the district slowly began to develop into an industrial center. For one thing, Williamsburg became the supplier of more than half of the United States’ refined sugar. When the bridge was opened, several immigrant groups from hopelessly overcrowded Manhattan began settling in Brooklyn. The Jewish quarter that was established south of the bridge exists today, though the ultra-Orthodox leanings that characterize the community today only began to develop after World War II. Polish and Italian immigrants settled in the area north of the bridge, but even in the 30s, the outlook was bleak for the district. After years of criminal gang activity, one of the tragic low points was the widespread looting during the power outage of 1977, after which the New York Times came to the conclusion that the district was ruled by anarchy. Around the same time, however, the low rent prices were attracting the first artists to the borough. More artists followed, and the familiar pattern of gentrification began to take hold: next came the galleries, cafes, shops, and young, well-educated people from across the country. And voilà: hipsterdom.

    Another Upheaval.
    In recent years, another huge upheaval has taken place in Brooklyn. With the exception of the Jewish community and those who bought property early or benefit from rent-controlled apartments, many residents have been systematically “replaced” by newcomers. Apartment rentals have soared, as have property prices. The borough has become a favorite for wealthy expatriates from around the world. Many are in their thirties and have young offspring. The streets of Williamsburg are now characterized by places selling exquisite croissants, handmade borek, Belgian beer bars, Japanese delicacies, and the like. Even clearer signs that international residents are thriving here are institutions such as Swedish preschools or French high schools. European politicians taking a Sunday walk along Bedford Avenue, the area’s most characteristic promenade, must prepare for headache; the "brain drain" from their old world communities is practically tangible. For onlookers, however, there’s lots to observe. The preppy British couple with twins, the Spanish architect, the Italian lawyer, the German graphic designer, and the Greek art dealer all walk side by side. These types of social constellations may be new for Brooklyn, but the fundamental change is not, and nor will this be the last of it. We’re in New York and there’s no time for a break from radical development—especially not in Williamsburg.

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