Monthly Archives: October 2013

Hurricane Sandy: One Year Later

by Louise, Director of Operations

It’s so hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since the day we all hunkered down in our homes (or in shelters) without any real idea what this Hurricane Sandy was going to bring our way. Many people were convinced that it was going to be nothing, purposely not preparing, and scoffing the MTA for overreacting. Others were taking it seriously, but being cautiously optimistic.

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Blacked out lower Manhattan during the storm, seen from Brooklyn

Personally, I fell into the second camp and prepared in accordance to the recommendations, and I remember so clearly the feeling of trepidation on the evening of October 28th as I sat on my couch with my bath tub full of water, my battery-powered radio at hand, my multiple flashlights, scattered around and my non-perishable food supply stocked. But I was very fortunate: I never lost power or even internet at home, and my neighborhood was fairly devoid of damage. Here at our office, we were without internet for a week, but everyone was safe, we had power, and we were able to get by. My best friend’s wedding in Brooklyn a week later was able to go off without a hitch.

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Brooklynites walk to Manhattan while the subway is still down

In short, I was one of the lucky ones. And I’ve never stopped being grateful for that, and aware of those who were not as lucky. It’s always remarkable to be in New York City when we’re going through a rough time, to see the way everyone bands together and helps each other out. In the weeks after Sandy, it was inspirational to see so many New Yorkers do their best to help with the initial recovery effort, and buckle down and accept the new normal – waiting in line for hours for buses, walking to work without (much) complaining, and doing what we needed to do in order to keep life going.

Over the past year, for the most part the city has returned to a state of seeming normalcy and for most of us, our day-to-day lives don’t include a constant reminder of what happened. With Ellis Island reopening at last today, we are bidding farewell to one of the most widely-seen remaining effects of the storm. But it’s so important for us to remember that for many residents, the storm still takes a toll every day. There are those who are still displaced – who lost their homes and can’t afford to rebuild or rent new homes, who lost their jobs due to cutbacks, who are suffering from health problems, or who lost their businesses.

Diana Nyad

Diana Nyad swims 48 straight hours for Sandy Relief

So what can you do to help? There’s the obvious, of course – donations! AmeriCares has a great program, including sponsoring Diana Nyad’s 48 hour Swim for Relief which helped bring awareness of the fact that a lot of people out there are still in need of assistance. We can’t all do laps for two straight days, but there are plenty of other ways to help. http://www.americares.org/emergency-response/hurricane-sandy-recovery.html

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A Shore Soup Project volunteer makes deliveries

The Shore Soup Project is another very worthy cause – they started in the wake of the storm as an effort to get food out to the affected people in the Rockaways, one of the hardest hit areas, and have since a partner program of the Fund for the City of New York. You can read more about their donation and volunteer opportunities here: http://shoresoupproject.org/

And of course, as always, one of the best ways to help is to visit NYC, and to make an effort to patronize the still-struggling businesses in downtown Manhattan, Red Hook Brooklyn, the Rockaways, and other areas that were hit hard. For more information, feel free to e-mail us anytime at info@newyorkguest.com. And, as always, We LOVE New York!

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A Realistic Approach to Spending New Year’s Eve in New York City

by Eileen, Travel Consultant

New York City is always very busy but once we get past Christmas, the race to New Year’s Eve feels like a whirlwind.  On December 31st visitors from around the world will descend to Times Square to watch the annual ball drop, a tradition that dates back roughly 100 years.  Seeing the ball drop live is a once in a lifetime experience and a venture that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.

nye131To see the ball drop in Times Square is free of charge.  The ball has been dropping from 42nd Street since 1904 and it is estimated that around one million people will be in Times Square at midnight.  Revelers will line the streets from 42nd Street all the way up to about 53rd Street along Broadway and 7th Avenue.

The deciding factor in all of the New Year’s festivities is the weather.  If the weather is nasty (cold, snow, rain), the crowds will stay away longer until mid-afternoon.  If the weather is mild, the crowds get there bright and early (think 8 AM).  Streets will begin to shut down to pedestrian and car traffic around noon.  At this point in time, the NYPD will begin to align the barricades and guide revelers into the sectioned off areas.

Once you enter the barricades it is in your best interest to stay in the barricades until after midnight.  If you choose to leave, you are not guaranteed re-entrance and will most likely be directed to head out of the immediate Times Square area.  At a certain point in the evening, you will not be able to get into Times Square at all.

nye132Security is incredibly heightened during the holidays and each person heading into Times Square will be patted down or scanned with the wand (electronic metal detector).  You cannot bring in any liquids or backpacks.  There is no seating available (except the pavement) and there are no public restrooms.  The New York City Police Department is in complete control of what happens in Times Square.  The police protect and serve our city 365 days a year, 24 hours a day – it is in your best interest to listen to them on December 31st.  They protect and serve, so let them do their jobs and enjoy yourself!

There are a number of other alternatives to ring in the New Year.  We will be hosting our annual New Year’s Eve party at St. Andrew’s Pub in Times Square.  St. Andrew’s is located just off of 7th Avenue and is a perfect way to spend the evening indoors.  The food is always great, the drinks will flow and there is always good company to be had.

If you are interested in any of our other partner New Year’s Eve events, you can see the full listing here.  Be sure to book early as availability and prices are subject to change.

You are more than welcome to contact our planning team directly at info@newyorkguest.com.  We’re native New Yorkers and here to help with all your questions.

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Mangia! The Brooklyn pizza tour!

by Tara, New York Guest Concierge

pizza5When boarding the bus for the Brooklyn Pizza Tour, I was not sure what else to expect besides getting pizza from two of the best pizzerias in Brooklyn without having to wait in line (which by itself is worth taking the tour!) Our tour guide, Paula, was very entertaining and informative, telling a lot of great stories about the Brooklyn Bridge (and the woman who made it finally happen), the Grimaldi’s pizza feud, sites of attempted mob hits, and other little known facts about Brooklyn.

pizza4The views coming in were wonderful; within the first half hour or so, we passed over the Manhattan Bridge, (which included photo ops for the Brooklyn Bridge), saw work being done on Jim Carrey’s new NYC apartment, and made our first stop into DUMBO where we were able to walk around Brooklyn Bridge Park and take pictures of the beautiful skyline.

We boarded the bus again for Grimaldi’s and Paula showed us a few spots that were used to film major motion pictures. She used the television screens on the bus to show us the movie clips and paused the screen when we approached the exact site. We reached Grimaldi’s to see a long line of people wrapped around the corner and were advised to not make eye contact (a standard NYC rule of thumb). Whenpizzatour1 exiting the bus I could see why. We were able to walk right inside where our tables were waiting, and received their delicious thin crust Margherita pizza within minutes. All of the ingredients are fresh (with the cheese brought in every morning) and are cooked in one of the few coal brick ovens left in the city for about 3 minutes. The basil adds a touch of flavor and color (The colors of the Italian flag!)  They also have a nice selection of bottled sodas; the Black Cherry was popular choice at our table.

After our first pizza stop we learned more about Brooklyn’s pizza history from Paula as we headed toward Bay Ridge and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. She took us past beautiful mansions and brownstones and showed us a few more movie locations complete with scenes (Goodfellas and Annie Hall to name two). We then headed over to our second pizza stop L&B Spumoni Gardens but not without driving along 86th street, location of the opening of Saturday Night Fever, complete with the Bee Gee’s Staying Alive.

pizza2We arrived at our next pizza location, L&B Spumoni Gardens, where we were able to, once again, skip the line. This restaurant was voted to have the best Sicilian pizza in the city by an NYC magazine for so many years in a row that they eventually did away with the contest altogether. L&B were also featured on a Travel Channel favorite, Man vs. Food. Due to the special way they prepare their pizza (you’ll find out how when you take the tour!) it is light, fresh and simply heaven on a plate. I hope my favorite pizzeria in Jersey City, NJ never sees this write up, because I can say L&B has the best Sicilian slices I have ever had. Even as I write this I am contemplating the next time I can go back.

By this point, my friend and I were just about full, but we still had it in us to get a small cup of their spumoni. Spumoni, as I learned on the tour, is a type of Italian ice cream that is typically layered. The Spumoni Gardens’ spumoni consists of vanilla, chocolate and pistachio. I advise, even if you couldn’t eat another bite, to at least ask for a free sample of spumoni (after all L&B’s is famous for it!) It makes for a sweet, refreshing end to your meal.

pizza3Our group then boarded the bus to make one last stop at Coney Island to walk the boardwalk, (no stops at Nathan’s, but then we didn’t need it!) though our tour guide did offer to give subway directions back to the city for those who wished to stay at Coney Island, and walk more of the boardwalk or check out the rides at Luna Park. As we walked the boardwalk, our guide walked among the group to talk to us and answer any questions we had. Once we passed the Cyclone, it was time to board the bus one last time to come back to Manhattan.

During the ride back, Paula played one last video of all the famous actors, musicians and athletes to come from Brooklyn. Just before we entered the tunnel, she put on some Frank Sinatra which felt appropriate as we rode back to NYC relaxed, full, and happy. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who wants to try amazing pizza without waiting in long lines, and also those that may have done most of the Manhattan tours and is looking for something different. This tour definitely has something for everyone; a great neighborhood tour, some movie sites, and of course great pizza.

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