New York is the beating heart and economic engine of the United States. Vibrant, hectic and a city that never sleeps. New York has something to offer for everyone: impressive skyscrapers, the big Central Park, the hip Greenwich Village, the impressive Brooklyn Bridge across the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty, theatres 'on' and 'off' Broadway, numerous shopping facilities, etc. After the destruction of the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building is once more the tallest building in Manhattan. But that won't be for long, because on the site of the former WTC ('Ground Zero') even taller tower will be built.
In the 17th century, New York was a Dutch settlement, New Amsterdam. Peter Stuyvesant built a defensive wall on the place where Wall Street now lies. On the other side of the East River there was another settlement, Breukelen, which became Brooklyn in English. Like elsewhere in the world, the English and Dutch fought for dominion over the area. In 1674, the Netherlands traded New Amsterdam for Suriname.
The city itself has about 8 million inhabitants. The entire 'metropolitan area' has a population of over 22 million. If there is one place where the term 'melting pot' applies, is surely is the population of New York. People have moved to this city from all over the world and they have made it there new home.
New York is located in the north-east of the United States on the mouth of the Hudson River. It is the capital of the state of New York, which has the shape of a fan, with the city as its handle. The state extends up to Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River, the border with Canada. To the east of New York lies Long Island, a peninsula that protrudes far into the Atlantic Ocean. The western part is a long row of suburbs. The eastern part has beautiful beaches and the country estates of wealthy New Yorkers.
The city itself consists of five parts ('boroughs'). First of all Manhattan, a peninsula between the Hudson River and the East River. To the north lies The Bronx, on the other side of the East River lies Queens, to the south of which lies Brooklyn, which is connected to Staten Island via the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. That bridge is the gateway to the port of New York.
Even in colonial times New York was an important financial centre, and it continues to be that to this day. In fact, the city is the financial capital of the world, with many international banks and the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. There are many other exchanges, including the ones where gold, silver, oil, cotton, cocoa and coffee are traded. The country's largest newspaper is the New York Times. Two of the country's largest broadcasting companies - CBS and ABC - have their headquarters in New York. The service sector is also very important: consultancies, marketing, public relations, advertising. And of course the domestic and foreign tourists also make a contribution, as do the diplomats (the UN head offices are in New York) and conference crowd. New York receives 40 million visitors each year.
The most important airport of New York is John F. Kennedy Airport, often referred to simply as 'JFK'. It is located in the borough of Queens to the south-east of Manhattan. The new AirTrain connects all the airport's terminal to the city's subway system. The use of the AirTrain between the terminals and the shuttle bus stand is free.
Taxis drive to Manhattan for a standard rate (in 2006: $45). Business travelers often choose to take a helicopter from JFK to Manhattan (8 minutes). An additional benefit for them is that they can avoid the security check at the airport, because the helicopter firm has its own security check.
Newark Liberty International Airport is located in New Jersey, to the south-west of Manhattan. There are train and bus connections to New York. For car drivers, the road network around Newark can be very confusing: it is a maze of streets, motorways, exits and fly-overs.
La Guardia is an older airport that is located fairly close to Manhattan. It is used primarily for flights within the VS and to Canada, but there are also flights to Aruba, the Bahama's and Bermuda.
The city's subway system is excellent, very extensive and efficient. In virtually all subway stations there are free maps of the public transport network (subway and bus) available. You pay by coins or with a so-called MetroCard, which you can buy for the desired number of rides (with 10 or more you get one for free). You can switch to another subway train or bus within 2 hours after stamping the card. Some people think that the subway stations are unsafe, but that it no longer the case. This applies to the whole city of New York: the city has done a lot to fight (petty) crime and it has been successful. New York is now safer than many other American cities.
One of the advantages of taking the bus is that it allows you to see the city en route to your destination. Buses sometimes move very slowly, because they make a stop every two 'blocks'.
Traffic and parking
Driving in New York, especially in Manhattan, is not something we would recommend. Many New Yorkers do not even have a car. Not only is the traffic very busy, it is extremely difficult to find a place to park your car, and if you do find a place, you will pay through the nose. With the excellent subway system, and the omnipresence of the city's famous 'yellow cabs', there is no need to drive in New York. If you do decide to take the car into the city, keep in mind that you will mostly see one-way streets. Generally speaking, traffic moves from west to east in even numbered streets, and from east to west in odd numbered streets. The major Avenues are also one-way only, with the exception of Park Avenue, York Avenue and 11th Avenue.
In downtown Manhattan, there is a maximum of 2 hours parking in Leonard Street Municipal Parking Field. Some hotels in Manhattan offer parking facilities, although often at a steep price.
A rental car is very suitable for exploring New York State or other American cities. Make sure you buy a good road map and plan your trip. The road signs are excellent, but the different highway numbers can be confusing. Make sure you write down the numbers of the roads on your trip in advance, and you will have no trouble finding your way. Of course, we recommend avoiding the rush hour.
New York has plenty of hotels, but you need to book in advance. Also, accommodations are not cheap: you will not find a reasonable hotel room for less than $100 a night. There are cheap alternatives in New Jersey, for example in Weehawken not far from the ferry to New York. Most of the luxury hotels are situated along the avenues. Keep in mind that many hotels carry out construction work in July and August.
For more information about New York, we recommend Google, and the following sources: