Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
My Go-To New York Tourist Attractions
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2009 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
At the Transit Museum, they practiced how hard it was to leap over, duck under, or otherwise fare-avoid different turnstiles throughout history. We saw tiny exhibits about Miss Subways, slugs and washers pawned off as fare tokens, and the Brooklyn [Trolley] Dodgers. And I got to explain to them where the word "commuter" comes from.
The Transit Museum now has a whole new room with On the Streets: New York's Trolleys and Buses, a cool timeline of ground transit in the city, starting with a privately-run horse-drawn omnibus in the 1800s (capacity: 12). In the words of the museum, the "gallery dedicated to surface transportation presents, in nine complementing segments, a history of above ground mobility for the last 175 years - from the early 1800s through the 21st Century." Buses in NYC were segregated until the 1870s, but the subways never were, which is comforting. A cute touch:
The central element of the exhibition is a simulated traffic intersection complete with traffic lights and coordinated walk-don't walk signs, parking meters, fire hydrants, and an array of other "street furniture."
In other words, your kid who always wants to play with the newspaper vending machine can finally do so in a safe and controlled environment.
I recommend the London Transport Museum to anyone who enjoys the NYC Transit Museum, and vice versa. Sadly, the London museum is not in a disused subway station.
If it had been a nicer day, we might have walked the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan. Instead, we took the A or F to West Fourth, ate at John's NO SLICES pizzeria on Bleeker and the ice creamery next door, took the F to Lex and 63rd, and walked to the funicular stop a few blocks away to get to Roosevelt Island. The tramway gives you such a nice view, and costs only a swipe of the MetroCard instead of whatever usurious prices the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock charge.
I think next time I'll skip walking the northern half of the island, despite the lighthouse, Octagon, etc.; the real attractions on Roosevelt Island are the views of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the ruins of the smallpox hospital, and the completely empty park-to-be grassy bit at the extreme southern tip. I've finally found a schedule that gives me more hints on when the gate to the hospital and Southpoint is likely to be open (although I can't tell whether that's a 7-day or weekday schedule). Relevant authorities have already started stabilizing the ruins and are planning a Serious Park at Southpoint: read, "aww, it's not as indie and desolate as it used to be, and soon it'll be all tame and boring." So go soon. With Will & Martin, if you can manage it.