Optimal Walking in New York City, a How-To

Filed under: hacks Topics: , , , , ,

Walking in the city is a full contact sport. From one professional city walker to another, here’s how I do things.

Please note: this guide is intended for solo walkers. For couples and groups, many of these tactics are sub-optimal; however, they may prove useful for those serving as group leader in the mama duck role. If demand exists, I will expand and modify this guide to include optimal-walking recommendations for dates, business conversations, threesomes, and for groups four and larger. Please enjoy.


  1. Use the road.
    Don’t be afraid to walk in the street. Sidewalks, particularly downtown, weren’t built with a bustling metropolis in mind and are narrow in many places. If you’re stuck behind a slow-moving tourist, check for motor vehicle traffic, and walk in the street. The lights in NYC are pretty predictable, and likewise the traffic (when it’s not at a standstill). Take advantage.
  2. City blocks are not one-dimensional: cut corners wherever possible.
    If we take a city block and take a look at the cross-section, you’ll notice that streets have dimensions. That is, they have sidewalks, and road, parked cars, and traffic lights.

    Look at all that space between buildings!

    When walking down the street, look for opportunities to cross the street before an intersection or cross walk. But, don’t walk in a straight line across, perpendicular to traffic… cross at an angle.

    The Blue Line is how you’ve likely been doing things. Follow the red line next time… but watch for traffic!

    The other clear advantage to cutting the corner is that you often avoid most of the pedestrian traffic on both the sidewalk and the crosswalk. As discussed with principle #1, use the road. Don’t let dumplings* slow you down.

  3. When aggressively cutting corners and crossing blocks, prioritize avenues over streets.
    Avenues run along Manhattan top-to-bottom whereas streets run cross-town. In general, avenues are wider and are much harder to cross because city engineers prioritize uptown/downtown traffic flow over cross-town traffic. So, cross them when you can, and use the entire road (as in the red-line above.)

    Cross-town traffic tends to be at a standstill. Coupled with a narrower road, they’re much easier to cross.

  4. Avoid corners of immobility.
    On many street corners, particularly in midtown, some lights block you from crossing the street in either direction. Avoid these where possible.
  5. Show preference towards how the crow flies.
    Usually, walkers travel up/down-town and cross-town. If you max out your amount of up-/down- or left-/right-ness, you’ll be subject to the lights in one direction only– meaning, there’s a lot of waiting around. Sometimes, this is unavoidable, but keep it in mind.
  6. Cut through parks and building tunnels whenever possible.
    This should be obvious but for one caveat: sometimes those tunnels are filled with people. Often not, so check foot traffic density before committing, because they’re no way out.
  7. Avoid touristy areas, unless you don’t mind walking in the street.
    They’re full of dumplings… and for you tourists out there, the streets are where all the celebrity’s walk. They have about as much tolerance for tourists as I do.

  8. Avoid Construction Sidewalks
    You’re much more susceptible to being caught behind a dumpling. And, to boot, the area is often filthy with small ponds forming when it rains. Just walk around, in the street if possible.

I hope this has been helpful.

*Term coined by Oz Sultan

Submitted Parking Ticket Defense


Defense Letter Website: An associate and I created this website in response to the enormous amount of Google traffic that came to this site in search for parking ticket defenses and letters. Please enjoy.


June 30th, 2008.

Dearest Parking Violation Judge–

I do hope you find this electronic letter arrives in good fashion. The Post Office has, on occasion, misplaced official correspondence to the US Government, so I chose electronic delivery over more traditional methods to ensure this message’s receipt.

This morning, I parked my father’s car on 35th street, on the south side of the street, directly east of Park Avenue. I deposited the requisite coinage ($2.00) for in Machine #6358 in area 144 at precisely 08:54 AM and then placed the parking receipt on the Driver’s Side Dashboard, as instructed.

The car remained there for 58 minutes while I loaded some artwork and varies sundries into the truck and back seat. Nearing the end of my time, I saw one of your officers approaching my father’s car with a determined look with an electronic parking ticket machine in hand. So, I said hello to the officer. His name, according to my ticket and his badge, is Officer E. Valdivia, and he had a very neatly-trimmed black mustache.

I inquired why he was writing a ticket as I still had a few minutes remaining of paid parking time. He points to the sign and says I am violating the parking rules, confidently noting that the car was “not a commercial vehicle.”

I asked for clarification as to the sign’s language which, for posterity, reads:


*note: I can only assume this word begins with a ‘C’. The sign, as attached to the post, covers the beginning of the word.

This confused me, so I asked for clarification. You see, I used to live on that block and I had asked another parking officer not one month ago if I was allowed to park at that exact location during the day. She, a lovely officer whose name escapes me at the moment, reassured me it was no problem, as the sign is be interpreted as, “No standing expect commercial vehicles OR metered parking.” Meaning, it is a legal parking spot for commercial vehicles or anyone with who paid the meter, commercial or otherwise.

Unfortunately, as Officer Valdivia understood it, the signage should be interpreted with a different reading: parking is valid for commercial vehicles WITH metered parking.

The signage is clearly ambiguous, evidenced by two officers — both responsible for enforcing said signage — who have differing interpretations. If your enforcing officers have no consensus on this signage, how is a reasonable person expected to follow the posted rules? (Particularly a reasonable person who, when unsure, asked an enforcing officer for clarification.)

Speaking directly to my case, I feel I have acted reasonably. I am still unsure what the official ruling is or actual intent of the signage is; but, I feel the point is moot: the signage is ambiguous. As such, I plead not guilty, as it is not clear, even from your enforcing officers, what the rules are.

Additionally, under the “Complainant’s Comments” section of my Notice, it reads, “veh pkg on unattended”. Even the comments section regarding the violation are unclear. Even when expanding the abbreviations (assuming “veh” means “vehicle”, and “pkg” means “parking”), the comment is both grammatically and factually incorrect. If the vehicle were unattended, how would I remember the conversation we had, much less his neatly-trimmed black mustache?

Under the “Signature of Complainant” section, it notes that “If the operator was present I indicated the operator’s name … and personally served this Notice upon him/her.” My name is nowhere to be found on this Notice of Parking Violation, and I was clearly standing there as the ticket was being issued.

I do not mean to get Officer Valdivia in any trouble — he was a very polite and respectful officer — but, just like me, he needs to follow the rules… whatever those rules happen to be. As the rules, in this case, are posted ambiguous, and that the enforcing officer noted my vehicle unattended when it clearly was attended, compels me to plead Not Guilty.

Best regards, and have a happy summer!

Michael E. Gruen

New Apartment Resolutions

Filed under: chronicles Topics: , , , , , , ,

I move next month. No roommates. No compromises. What ridiculousness will come?

Since college, I’ve lived with one of my best friends from high school. It’s been fun, but he needs to move in with his girlfriend and I need my own place. Shared living space means compromises and concessions; and now, for the first time ever, I have complete freedom.

I’m excited and have begun thinking about the implications.

  1. More Nudity
    With the prospects of the roommate (or his girlfriend) arriving at any time, I found it good practice to wear pants at all times. No longer an issue, I’ll likely forgo pants around my apartment. 
  2. Less Laundry 
    More nudity also means I’ll be doing less laundry as I’ll be wearing fewer clothes. Seems logical.
  3. More Gym Time
    More nudity also means I’ll notice how out of shape I’ve become. I’ll likely go to the gym more, or spend more time on my two-cycle.
  4. More Laundry
    Frequent gym time doubles my load, so I guess I will have more laundry after all.
  5. No Cable TV
    My current roommate compulsively watches TV. (He gets antsy without the Trinitron’s warm glow.) I tend to watch shows without commercials on DVD, and entire series in one sitting. I suspect I’ll skip the Cable, Blockbuster and Netflix accounts and just buy an AppleTV. 
  6. No Stuffed Animals In The Living Room
    The only fight my roommate ever won was the stuffed animal debacle. Right now, a Mr. Snuffleupagus and a Tux penguin (holding a hand-written “NO LOAFING” sign) [dis]grace the living room. While every girl who’s ever visited the living room thought they were adorable, I still can’t stand them. At least I relegated the stuffed amoebas to the roommate’s bedroom. (Yes, he owns stuffed amoebas.)
  7. Cups Will Be Stacked Rim-Up
    When you live with someone, little lifestyle differences begin to crop up. I stack cups rim up; my roommate does rim down. I won that battle, but he still puts the silverware the wrong way in the dishwasher. (Two years and it still bothers me.)
  8. Better Music
    My roommate discovers music through Volkswagen and Apple ads. ‘Nuff said.
  9. More Home Cooking
    My roommate and I love ordering from SeamlessWeb. It’s our favorite thing. But, with a supermarket next door, I now have no excuse.

It’s like my own magical DisneyWorld. I’m too excited to sleep.