GHG billboard

posted in: new york 0

I recently took a continuing legal education course at the hotel pennsylvania, and noticed this greenhouse gas billboard next to madison square garden. you can read about this ‘carbon counter’ (installed by Deutsche Bank) here.

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general grant’s tomb

posted in: new york 0

one of the notable sights in my neighbourhood is General Grant’s tomb. built in 1897, it’s a massive structure made just to house Grant’s and his wife’s body–there’s not much else inside aside from a few photos and medals and busts.

it’s generally pretty empty, except for the occasional stray tourist. but on Wednesday nights in the summer, jazzmobile holds its free outdoors concerts here–and it’s a pretty cool venue:

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close-up of one of the eagles (the inscription above is “let us have peace”):
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other sights in the ‘hood include Riverside Church, the tallest in the US:
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…and General Daniel Butterfield, looking very stately in Sakura Park:
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and when I’ve had enough pompousness, this is my way back home down Claremont street:
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the end.

purchasing power across cities

as a follow up–when comparing the price of public transport, a friend duly noted that it would be more interesting to see the relative purchasing power of people in these cities.

conveniently, UBS has published a 2009 report on Prices and Earnings in 73 cities.

using New York as the benchmark, here are the relative purchasing powers (income / price of basket of goods & services) of some cities of note:

City Net Hourly Pay Annual Income
New York 100 100
Chicago 96.3 88.8
Berlin 89.4 77.6
Montreal 88.9 83.9
London 86.7 76.9
Toronto 85.7 80.4
Tokyo 81.4 82.2
Paris 75.2 61.3
Taipei 57.5 58.9
Moscow 55.6 49.4
Hong Kong 52.3 58.1
Seoul 51.3 57.4
Kuala Lumpur 38.4 39.5
Shanghai 25.3 24.7
Bangkok 24.1 26.0

In its report, UBS notes that when comparing purchasing power, the basket of goods and services would be different in Asian cities versus European or North American ones. For that reason, they came up with a measure based on the Economist’s Big Mac Index: working time required to buy a big mac (this is from page 11–download the full report for more info).

cities BM

It’s funny to use Big Macs as a comparison, since going to McDonald’s in North America (as a cheap place to eat) is not quite the same as in Asia, where it’s more a gimmicky thing (since it would be much cheaper to eat, say, a bowl of noodles). I’m sure McDonald’s considers that when marketing (& pricing?) its menu…

costliest cities for public transport

posted in: hong kong, new york 0

New graphic from the Economist. The cost for Hong Kong is interesting, given that its MTR was completely privatised in 2000. Compare with New York’s MTA, which is a (government owned) public-benefit corporation.

public transportation prices - economist

To be fair, the way trips are priced is different for the two cities: in Hong Kong your fare varies by distance (paid for using your trusty Octopus card, which by the way is also accepted at places like Starbucks or KFC), whereas in New York it’s a flat rate of $2.25. Economically speaking the Hong Kong method is of course more efficient, while New Yorkers get a better deal when taking longer rides.

In my personal experience, taking public transportation in Hong Kong is a dream–it’s seriously one of my favourite things to do in the city (including trips on the Star Ferry). But in NYC, frustration rules–subway stations are falling apart, there are always delays, and don’t get me started on the number of re-routings done on the weekend… however, the NY subway does run 24/7, and the unique express trains give the satisfying psychological illusion of going fast.

According to wikipedia the New York subway has 1.6 billion passenger rides per year (4th largest in the world) versus 1.3 billion in HK (7th). The top three most used subway systems are Tokyo, Moscow, and Seoul.

west harlem piers park

posted in: new york 0

I do most of my grocery shopping at fairway market, this huge grocery store just past 125th that offers a gigantic selection of organic, non-organic, and otherwise edible produce–and all at high prices. (to be fair, everywhere in new york has high prices so this is not a distinguishing factor in itself.)

anyway, despite the chaos of going to fairway, one nice thing about it is that it’s right next to the hudson riverside, at west harlem piers park.

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and of course there’s the wicked overpass from the westside/henry hudson highway that’s impossible to miss:

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graffiti hall of fame

posted in: new york 1

106th St. & Park Ave (west of the bridge)

coney island

posted in: new york 1

An article on the impending gentrification of Coney Island just appeared in the Economist, and coincidentally a friend and I went to check it out a few days ago.

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The first thing you notice is how huge the beach is. Being a Monday it wasn’t at peak crowd levels, but you can just imagine the capacity since garbage cans are well-placed on the boardwalk at about two-metre intervals. Since there isn’t much else around, the second thing you notice are the public housing towers that dominate the skyline. Though there is a famous (but sad) little amusement park and an aquarium, Coney Island gives the impression of a neighbourhood that has seen better days. Lots of buildings are shuttered up, and though there are beach crowds during the day, I don’t think I’d be too comfortable wandering around at night.

But there is of course the annual hot dog eating competition, which according to the countdown placed our visit just a couple of days before the Economist’s correspondent.

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shoot the freak!?
shoot the freak!?
didn't feel quite up to seeing the headless woman
didn't feel quite up to seeing the headless woman

thai home kitchen

posted in: food, new york 0

New Yorkers really love their Thai restaurants. They also like being seen to be trendy. Finally, they have pretty bland palates. Because most of the Thai places I’ve been to suck–unless you like eating vaguely Asian-like food in a dimly lit hipster bistro.

Which is why Thai Home Kitchen surprised me. Sure, it had the modern-looking decor (rock pool, orchids, etc.), so I was suspicious: but the food was actually good! The starter chive cakes were great, and G is convinced Bangkok’s chinatown has a street vendor that serves the same thing (I didn’t recall this, but it did taste familiar). My Seafood Kapow was beautifully topped with a pile of fried basil and was tasty enough, but G’s Vegetarian Duck with Red Curry stole the show for flavour (a bit of sweet + spicy goes a long way).

Again, though we asked for extra spicy (which we now do in every Thai place), it was nothing compared to the average dish in Thailand. But since it tasted good, we’ll take it.

Thai Home Kitchen restaurant

Chai Thai Home Kitchen
930 8th Ave.
(corner 55th St.)

times square lawn chairs

posted in: new york 0

last week, I decided to check out the new pedestrian area of times square. it’s a public space experiment running until the end of the year, when the city decides whether or not to make the change permanent.

I had expected the entire area to be completely pedestrian, but traffic is still allowed to go cross-town: only Broadway is closed off, from 42nd to 47th street. so as I walked northward I still had to be aware of traffic crossings, but I could walk on the street instead of being confined to the sidewalk. I came through on a weekday, so things were fairly quiet–though there was a nice little brass band playing by the tkts area. all this was fine, but what I found most curious were these kitschy plastic lawn chairs spread out all over the road: on one block they were green, on the next magenta, and then blue…

times-sq chairs

these are just cheap summer chairs you can get at any walmart, so I wasn’t sure if they were put there by the city–but according to an article by the new york times today, yes indeed, they are.

The scene-stealing star of the city’s newly opened, $1.5 million pedestrian plaza project may be its fleet of folding lawn chairs, humble refugees from the Ace Hardware catalog that have colonized the Broadway pavement. […] Average purchase price: about $15 apiece, or 0.001 percent of the project’s total budget.

These bright-coloured lawn chairs aren’t staying forever, though; they are only meant as a temporary solution to the delay in permanent furniture due to arrive in August. Some people love them, others hate it–at any rate, their tackiness matches the whole of times square, no?

this is times square shortly before the makeover (taken from the novotel):
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and here is a video from nytimes of times square now (including ecstatic praise from pedestrians and complaints from taxi drivers).

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