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Living in New York City

Classic New York City Taxi

Old fashioned New York City Taxi.

I saw this old fashioned taxi cab parked on the side of the road.  I assume it’s still being used, but I could be wrong.  Maybe someone bought it and is using it as a personal vehicle and they enjoy the novelty of driving it.

I don’t ride in taxis much here.  They’re way too expensive.  With a little foresight and time management, you could save yourself 20 dollars or more and just take the bus or train.  I guess a lot of people do use them though, because sometimes I get the impression that there are more taxis on the roads here in the city than any other types of vehicles combined.

Categories
Living in New York City

2010 New York City Halloween Parade Pictures

Skulls on a shelf at a Walmart in Georgia.

I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!  I spent my evening out on 6th avenue watching the annual Halloween Parade, which is said to be the largest Halloween event in the country.  I’ve gone to see it once before, in 2007 when I was here in the city on leave from Kuwait to visit family.

A picture of the crowd going up one side of 6th avenue.

It was pretty chilly out there, really crowded and it smelled funny.  Maybe it was just the area I was standing in, but I heard a few other people complaining about the smell as well.  There wasn’t much I could do about it.  I showed up an hour early and still was standing behind 3 rows of people.  I figured if I moved I might not get a spot as good as that anywhere else, so I just put up with it.  I didn’t hang around for the whole thing.  After the better groups of parade participants walked by, I figured I’d beat the rush of the crowd.  Getting jammed around by a crowd of mostly drunk people isn’t my idea of a good time.

I was hoping I’d get some better pictures this year, but most of them still turned out poorly.  I’ll share the better ones though:

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

Barbie thought she was special so she was walking by herself.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

This is the head of a skeleton horse, and it’s front hooves, if you’re wondering, plus some dead fish swimming around in the background.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

Yes, they are naked and covered in body paint while dancing to the beat of a tribal drum.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

This little girl was walking on stilts all the way down the parade route from Spring Street to 16th Street.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

These two guys were dressed as the stop and go signals for pedestrian crossings.

And that’s about it.  By this point I was starting to really feel the cold and my legs were starting to get tired, so I decided to head back home.  I hope you enjoyed the photos, and hopefully I can get some better ones next year!

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Living in New York City Travel

MTA’s SBS Bus Service Is A Big Step In The Wrong Direction

MTA Ticket Machines for Limited Buses in New York City.

The M15 limited bus is one of the new SBS buses in New York City.  It uses a new system where you buy a ticket from one of the machines pictured above before you board the bus and then you can enter the bus from any of the doors, rather than just the front door where the driver is.  It’s also supposed to have a dedicated bus lane and, though I have no clue how this works, priority at traffic lights.

The problem I see with this is that it doesn’t really save time at all and it wasn’t advertised enough.  I’ve only been back in the city for a little while, so it’s really no surprise that I hadn’t heard of this before having to figure it out firsthand, but other commuters seemed just as confused by the thing as I did, including my mother, who was born here and, after some time away, moved back 17 years ago.  She watches the news regularly but had never heard of this change and it wound up causing an incident on the bus we took this afternoon, the M15 at 1st Avenue and 14th Street.

You see, we showed up at the bus stop and boarded the bus just like any other bus.  The driver sat there and watched us come in through the front door.  He watched my mom dip her MetroCard into the machine and saw that it deducted the transit fare.  Then as she started to walk away, he called her back and told her she needed a ticket from one of the machines outside.  After she had already paid.  To get a ticket from the machine she would have to pay again.  We wound up having to get off the bus.

My question is this: why did the driver watch my mother dip her card and deduct a fare when he knew that wasn’t the appropriate method for boarding the bus?  Why is the card reader even on the bus in the first place if it’s not used for these limited buses?  And what recourse does my mother have now to recover the money taken from her?  None.

The driver gave my mom one of those paper transfer cards and told her to try that in the ticket machine, but it didn’t work, and of course he drove off right away rather than having to continue dealing with the problem.  Not that he could wait around forever of course, with a bus full of passengers, but it still feels like he was trying to evade the problem.

So, in the end, my mom got shorted one fare today.  One fare may not sound like much to some people, but every dollar counts and it’s not just the amount, it’s the principle.  The NYC MTA stole money from my mother today.  That’s bullshit.

Getting back to what I was saying about the process not being any faster, like SBS claims, I believe that it’s all a trick to make things seem faster.  The only faster part about it is getting on the bus.  It still takes just as long for people to get off the bus.  It also takes quite a while to get a ticket.  I haven’t been there during the morning rush hour but we spoke to one lady who said that in the morning there are long lines of people waiting to use the machine to get a ticket, and while you’re standing there in line waiting, you’re missing buses that go by.  So, how is it really making it faster for passengers to start at point A and reach point B?  I also don’t recall the bus using any special lane on 1st avenue, or having some sort of special privilege at the traffic lights.

This whole system just makes things more confusing than they have to be, and it feels like a step backward rather than a step forward.  Seriously MTA, paper tickets?  You know that’s what they do in third world countries, right?  Everyone else in the world is moving towards a permanent prepaid card that you use indefinitely.  You don’t even scan, slide or dip it.  You simply tap it on a panel that reads the chip in the card to do the fare deduction.  You don’t even have to take it out of your wallet.  That’s easy and faster.  Imagine getting on the bus and dragging your purse over a pad to make your payment, or bumping your wallet against a pad before tucking it back into your pocket.  No more fumbling with getting a card in and out of your purse/wallet/pocket.  And you know how the secret inspectors verify that you’ve paid?  They have a handheld device that reads passengers’ cards to show when they last used them and for what bus.  They don’t walk around asking for paper tickets.

One last thing I’d like to mention is the extra costs involved in this venture.  The SBS signs on the buses point out how they use less energy because the buses are at the stops for a shorter amount of time.  That’s all well and good, but what about the cost of all of the ticket machines?  And how is it greener to print paper tickets for every single person for every single ride!!!!!!????  One of the simplest concepts in ‘going green’ is to reduce the use of paper to save forests, not increase it unnecessarily.

The money that’s been wasted on this project should have been used to replace buses with newer, more fuel efficient models, or to upgrade the system to permanent, prepaid tap cards.  As far as this goes, though, it’s a step towards the third world in a city that’s supposed to be the best.

Categories
Living in New York City

The New York City Fire Department Don’t Play

This morning I accompanied my mom to Times Square Church.  We left late, but hey, that’s what happens when you stay up til 2 AM.  Anyhow, we went out the door at about 10 AM and when we got to 14th street, where we usually catch the bus to Union Square for the train, the road was shut down between Avenues A and B.

FDNY shut down 14th St. between Ave A and B.

Firefighters walking back to their truck.

This may seem like a stupid question until you see the following photos, but I asked one of the firefighters why they were there.  He said there was a fire in the building that one of the trucks’ ladders was up against.  You see, I thought something serious was happening, like a gas leak, a bomb threat, or something that could potentially destroy us all.  The whole street was filled with response vehicles:

The building with the ladder up to it is the culprit.

The whole street between Ave A and B was filled with response vehicles.

To the right of the SUV marked “4” is the bus stop we usually use, and the guy standing there is the one who I asked what was going on.

More response vehicles further down the block.

Fire trucks parked on the street.

More emergency response vehicles.

Smoke rising from the building.

When we first walked by, we couldn’t even tell that the building was burning.  By the time we got to the Avenue A intersection, there was some light smoke rising from the building.

I didn’t see anything about this on the news this evening, but there was a guy recording with a professional camera.  I can’t help but wonder what was going on in that building that required so large a response from emergency services.  Was it overkill, or were they just making sure they brought enough firepower to put down anything they encountered?  I have no idea how things work here in NYC in regards to emergency response since the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, but even my mom seemed surprised and she’s been living here for a long time.

Regardless, it made for an interesting start to the morning, got my blood pumping and helped me from falling asleep in the warm, cozy Times Square Church annex during the sermon, which was actually pretty good.

Oh, and after the service… I enjoyed an unexpectedly 8 dollar kebab wrapped in pita bread.  I think I’d have been better off waiting til I got back downtown to the famous stand on 6th avenue.  I can’t remember the name of it, but I’ll blog about it later.  Lesson learned.  Food prices at the Times Square street fair are steep!

A fancy shishkebab from the Times Square street fair.

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Living in New York City

Be Careful Where You Park Your Car in New York City or….

A white van with graffiti spray painted all over it in New York City.

… you might wind up with a ride that looks a little something like what you see above.

Over the last 10 years or so, New York City has really been cleaned up.  I heard recently that crime has gone down by a third during roughly the same amount of time.  Still, that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down when it comes to making sure you keep yourself and your property safe.

Without checking actual statistics I would say that New York City is probably a safer place than Manila, but even so I know people who don’t go out after dark, just to be on the safe side.  Women get snatched up and raped, people get robbed, and there have even been fatal shootings in the neighborhood around where I’ll be staying.

In the week that I was in New York (before the trip I’m currently on to visit family in Georgia), we heard someone fire off about 6 rounds from a pistol on the street behind our apartment building and we walked down a street just a few short hours before two people were found dead in a vehicle there.

So, while I can relax a little bit compared to being in Manila, I’ll still be keeping my eyes open and listening for trouble.