What we call New York City is actually five distinct boroughs – Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. But for the purpose of this post, let’s focus on Manhattan, since it’s the place tourists visit the most.
I just got back to Florida after a few days in NYC, and the city was sizzling! Summers can be brutal in New York, and when possible I try to avoid going there between the end of June and mid-September. It’s not only the high temperatures and humidity – both of which are aggravated by the heat radiating from the concrete jungle – it’s also thousands of tourists everywhere, the perennial noise of ambulances, police sirens and fire trucks – and rain. Rain can be pleasant as a break in the summer heat, but unfortunately in NYC it turns traffic into a nightmare. On top of it all, there is construction on every block. I ask myself, “Why would anyone choose to visit NYC in the Summertime?”
These days all the problems are aggravated by the fact that the present city government seems to love raising taxes for no apparent reason: the hotel room occupancy went up to 5.875% recently, and the occupancy fee is now $2 per room per day. That means that staying in NYC hotels is more expensive now, and when you multiply taxes and fees collected by 60 million – the number of tourists NYC receives each year – it’s a lot of money. But it’s clearly not being used to improve garbage collection, a chronic NYC problem that just got worse. With the heat, the piles of garbage bags on the sidewalks smell like a huge landfill.
Knowing this quite well, residents who can afford to leave the city in droves. Some go to the fresher pastures of the New Jersey shore, or the beaches in the Hamptons or Cape Cod. Those who prefer the mountains run to the Berkshires or the Adirondacks, and others travel abroad. But come September they all come back, eager for the great things that only New York City has to offer.
First of all, the people – New Yorkers are smart; or perhaps smart people just flock to the city from wherever on the planet they were born. Nowhere else can we find such a massive amount of talent, creativity and energy. People in NYC are fast and funny, have a very peculiar sense of humor, and big ideas for their lives. Those who think small will find the city unbearable, and its people annoying.
NYC has Wall Street – the thermometer of the world’s economy – and Broadway theaters. It has some of the best museums in the world – the Metropolitan, the MOMA, the Natural History Museum. It has Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, Greenwich Village and Tribeca, Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera and Harlem. Where else can you get all that in one city? Not even in London.
To be fair, the speed of the city can be maddening – this is the city that never sleeps, after all. Everything and everyone runs fast in NYC; decisions are made in “a New York second,” and anyone who waits too long will be left behind. New Yorkers want to accomplish a lot, and time always seems to be too short. Ask any person arriving in NYC from other US states – or from other countries – why they chose to live there, and you will be amazed at the dreams these people nurture, and how often they accomplish them.
I lived in NYC for 31 years, and I have a love/hate relationship with the city, like most New Yorkers. It’s true that the city is often noisy and dirty, overpriced and crowded – at times maddening – but it’s my sort of town.
And if you absolutely need to visit it in the Summertime, here’s some advice:
Try to stay away from Midtown, (the streets between 42nd and 57th streets), unless you don’t mind incessant noise and traffic jams. Midtown is the commercial and busiest part of NYC, and in the summer the hotels charge more and are filled to capacity.
If you choose to rent from Airbnb, make sure the place you pick is in Manhattan. I recently checked out their site and found out that many pretend to be, but are actually in Queens, the Bronx or Staten Island. Look at the map location carefully.
There are a number of arts festivals, concerts and special events every summer. Some are free; check on https://www.nycgo.com/ and click on Summer Events.
In the Summertime there are sales everywhere, from posh Bergdorf Goodman to low-cost retail stores; you can save a lot if you do your homework. Or go directly to Chinatown, where the prices are always low (as opposed to Soho, where they are always high).
I prefer NYC in the Spring or Fall, when it’s at its best – or at Christmas time, when the streets shine full of lights and colors. But no matter when you go, NYC will be quite an experience. As native New Yorker and famous movie director Woody Allen once said, “When you leave NYC you’re out camping.”