The streetwalker

Posted on Friday June 15, 2012

New York – at least, Manhattan – is a very walkable city. No hills, pedestrian-friendly if you cross at the lights, loads of people-watching available, and every second building sells some kind of food. And if your tootsies are tired, there’s a great subway and crosstown bus system and the ubiquitous and cheap Yellow Cab.

I feel ten times safer here than walking along Eureka Road at home.  So I’m doing ten times the walking. From where I’m staying at Lexington Ave/23rd Street, I can reach the East River in 15 minutes, the Hudson River and Chelsea Pier to the west in under 30, and the Financial District to the south and Central Park to the north in about 45 mins.

Chelsea Pier

The architecture is endlessly fascinating, because it’s so mixed and in a constant state of destruction and renewal. It’s a strong contrast to where I was in Massachusetts last year, which had the decay, but not the renewal.

The early C20 city planners took the genius step of requiring upper floors of buildings to be set back from the street frontage, so there’s never the feeling of being hemmed in by skyscrapers that occurs in cities like Sydney.

The bonus is the beauty of many of the buildings, especially those from a time when external design and decoration was important – a sort of public service. I’m close to Gramercy Park, a long-established residential neighbourhood, with some stunning joints. One of my favourites is the old Gramercy Park Clubhouse, now a residential building.

Noice, hey?

Having so many American people living in a concentrated area means a lot of garbage. It all ends up in plastic bags out on the sidewalk, in piles of sometimes Uluruan proportions. On a hot summer’s day, you can smell it moving.

One reason it’s not possible for westerners to feel unfamiliar with NYC is that we’ve all seen so many movies and TV shows set here. That means that almost any day, somewhere in the city, someone is filming something. I’ve no idea which film will include two seconds, or five, or ten from this effort, but there was a monster production crew at work.

People-watching here is even more fascinating. I’ll keep that for later.