Very Cool: Video Footage of NYC from the late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Embedded above and on YouTube here: footage of New York City from 1896 through 1905.

Via Kottke.


It Is Hot and Humid Here in NYC

2013 07 18 nyc hot

That is all.


Spotted on NYC Subway: (Fake) Ad for ‘Canine Plastic Surgeon’

I spotted this “ad” for a “canine plastic surgeon” recently on the 1 train here in New York.

2013 04 25 canine plastic surgeon

Despite the silliness of the concept, the ad is pretty convincing, since it’s done very much in the style of many local NYC subway ads. (Dermatologist Dr. Jonathan Zizmor‘s ads come to mind.)

However, a quick visit to, the (hilarious) URL mentioned, reveals that the “ad” is actually for Comedy Central’s “Kroll Show.”

Pretty clever.


Springtime Weather Arrives in NYC

This was the scene on the Columbia campus around mid-day yesterday:

2013 04 10 springtime nyc

Yes — it was sunny. And with temperatures in the 60s, it felt almost hot after the last several months of winter.

People were wearing shorts. And napping on lawns. And buying treats from a frozen yogurt truck.

Yes, springtime weather has arrived.



That is all.


My 2 Favorite NYC Public Transport Apps

2013 03 24 nyc subway

Navigating New York City’s massive subway system, seen above, can be difficult. Especially for those, like me, who are new — or newish — to the city.

I use two helpful iPhone apps to streamline my various journeys.


The first is called Embark.

Opening this free app reveals a touch-responsive map of the city’s subway system:

2013 03 25 embark1

The stations are clickable. You simply 1) choose your starting point, then 2) choose your destination, as I’ve done in the screen shot above.

Then, when you click on the arrows at the top right of the screen, Embark will tell you which trains to take, when they’re arriving, and how long your journey will last:

2013 03 25 embark2

When beginning, if you know which station is closest, you can simply click that stop.

Or, if you need guidance, you can click a button and Embark will use your device’s GPS functionality to find the nearest station. Then the app will direct you, step by step, to that stop.

The maps are all built into the app, so you can use it underground, where there’s no mobile service. (GPS functionatliy, however, only works above ground.)

The maps showing your routes are simple and clean:

2013 03 25 embark4

One especially useful feature is that Embark will re-route you in the event of subway service interruptions.

So if, for example, a train stops running before you make your return trip, the app will automatically suggest an alternative route.

You can read more about Embark’s design and functionality here.

Exit Strategy

The second app I like is called Exit Strategy. It costs $3.99 and is available in iOS, Android, and Blackberry versions.

2013 03 24 exit strat3

The app contains detailed street-level maps of the city. But I primarily use Exit Strategy for what may seem like a trivial task: figuring out which subway car to ride in so that I’m closest to the exit when I reach my final station.

Some of the city’s stations are quite expansive, and have multiple exits. Knowing how to beat the crowds out of the station can save substantial time.

(Indeed, from a design perspective, I find it fitting that the icon, above, features a stick figure in mid-run. This feels like an apt graphical representation of NYC transport from a commuter’s perspective.)

Exit Strategy’s station maps look like this:

2013 03 24 exit strat1

And here’s what the street-level maps look like:

2013 03 24 exit strat2

Readers who navigate NYC’s public transportation system: What are your favorite apps? Am I missing any gems?

(NYC subway image: Wikipedia.)


The Mysterious NYC Fire Hydrant Poles Marked ‘Thailand’: We Have an Answer

2013 02 28 thailand fire hydrant poles

We have a definitive answer to the question I posed back in October: What’s with the New York City fire hydrant poles marked ‘Thailand’? Above is a photo I took back in the fall.

Michael De Stefano left a comment on the post Tuesday saying that:

Actually, it’s rather prosaic. By law, the Country of Origin must be on items purchased by the City of New York. In your travels, you’ll see manhole covers labeled “India”. The poles you’ve found are called ‘bollards’; they protect the hydrant from errant vehicles.

I followed up with Michael via email, and he explained that he knows about the issue because he’s a New York City civil servant who used to work in purchasing.

According to the law, the lowest bidder for producing such goods wins, Michael said. (The New York Times ran a memorable story in 2007 about manhole covers manufactured in India’s West Bengal state.)

So there you have it: Quite intuitively, the poles bollards are labeled “Thailand” because that’s where they’re made.

I remember thinking, earlier, that this most obvious of explanations was possible. (For further reading, here’s more from the Thai government on the country’s steel industry as of 2007.)

On a side note: One of the great pleasures I get from maintaining this blog is receiving thoughtful feedback from folks who happen upon my posts.

Thanks, Michael. And thanks to those who commented on the original item, both here and on Twitter. (In fact, Bangkok-based @KristoferA even speculated, originally, that the bollards were manufactured in Thailand.)

Misc. Tech

Twitter accounts for following snowstorm Nemo as it approaches NYC

A big snowstorm, Nemo*, is now making landfall in the Northeast.

I just Tweeted some NYC-specific Twitter accounts worth following, and thought I’d share them here as well:

*Storm nomenclature details are here.


Wait, Did I Say It Was Cold The Other Day?

I take that back.

Now it’s officially cold here in NYC.

2013 01 22 cold


I’m Back — and Cold — in NYC

I’m back in New York.

And cold.

This is the weather I left behind in Thailand:

2013 01 20 weatherTH

And this is the weather here in NYC:

2013 01 20 weatherNY

But I shall survive. Bring on the spring semester!

That is all.


Tracking Hurricane Sandy as it Approaches NYC (Sat., Oct. 27)

Note: Go to the home page or click the Hurricane Sandy tag for more recent posts.

2012 10 27 sandy

Updated Sat. at 7:45 p.m.

Here are some resources for following Hurricane Sandy as it approaches New York City.

(Additional locations will also be affected by the hurricane and the accompanying “Frankenstorm,” of course. But I’ll be focusing on the metropolitan area since I’m here in uptown NYC.)

The latest:


2012 10 27 sandy wnyc map has a helpful map, above, that shows NYC evacuation zones. (You can also access the map directly via this link.)

The Times has an interactive map showing the storm’s potential path.

The Associated Press has also put together a good interactive map (featured at the top of this post).

Local and federal government Web sites

Some local and federal government Web sites worth bookmarking:

  • — Official New York City site
  • — New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • — Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • — National Weather Service
  • Other sites and blogs

    • The Huffington Post has a liveblog.
    • The New York Times‘s Lede Blog has been providing updates.

    Disaster preparedness

    The Weather Channel has suggestions for a disaster supply kit.

    And has suggestions for an “urban survival kit.”

    Twitter accounts and hashtags to follow

    Some Twitter accounts and hashtags you might want to follow:


    Note: I’ll be posting more developments as they arise.

    In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @newley.