New York ‘Ghetto Tours’ Canceled After Neighborhood Backlash

John Fekner, Wikimedia

After protests from neighborhood residents and representatives, a New York company offering “ghetto tours” of New York has ceased all sightseeing offerings. According to news.com.au, Real Bronx Tours allowed outsiders to gawk at life in the South Bronx “from a safe distance,” taking them past housing projects and food pantry lines on three weekly tours.

The news outlet reports that Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito sent an open letter to the company owner saying they were “sickened by the despicable way” the borough was being portrayed and urging the company to stop profiting off of a tour itinerary that “misrepresents the Bronx as a haven for poverty and crime.”

The company has since ceased operations, and has even taken down their website. However, those looking to make a pilgrimage to the South Bronx still have tour options – including one offered by resident and anthropologist Elena Martinez, who proudly shows off the neighborhood that was once a microcosm for hip-hop music, fashion and art, through City Lore.

Woodlawn Cemetery named National Historic Landmark

Woodlawn Cemetery
New Yorkers have always known that Woodlawn Cemetery was someplace special. This Bronx burial ground is the final home for many of the rich and famous. It’s beautiful too, a parklike setting with 400 acres of ornate headstones and mausoleums, such as this one for Frank Winfield Woolworth. Yes, that Woolworth.

Founded in 1863 in an age when wealthy families vied with each other to have the most elaborate mausoleum, it attracts thousands of visitors a year who don’t even know anyone buried there. The public certainly knows of many of them: Harry Carey, David Farragut, Duke Ellington, Fiorello La Guardia, Frank Belknap Long, Herman Melville, Bat Masterson, and Joseph Pulitzer to name a few.

Now the cemetery has been named a national Historic Landmark, the highest honor that can be given to a U.S. historic site. Visiting Woodlawn makes a soothing and contemplative break from the high-powered vibe of New York City. If you like cemetery art, check out our picks of creepy and beautiful cemeteries around the world.

[Image courtesy Woodlawn Cemetery]

Name a cockroach after your lover: Valentine’s Day at the Bronx Zoo

cockroach, cockroachesThe Bronx Zoo has come up with a good way to show that special someone you care–name a giant cockroach after them.

The BBC reports that for ten bucks you can buy the rights to one of the zoo’s 58,000 giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches and name it after that special someone who bugs you more than anybody else. The zoo says they sold 1,000 dedications in the first day of the promotion. Perhaps their tagline helped: “Flowers wilt. Chocolates melt. Roaches are forever.”

Indeed they are. They’ve been around since before the dinosaurs and they’ll probably be around after we’re long gone. The Bronx Zoo has some interesting facts about the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, like that they can grow to three inches long and the hiss they make can be as loud as a lawnmower.

They’re nutritious too. Check out our 8 bug-eating videos including two on eating cockroachs. Also check out the far less disgusting but much more educational the video below.

[Photo courtesy user Husond via Wikimedia Commons]

Cheap Vacation Ideas for New York City

budget travel new york city

New York can be crazy expensive. $8 for a bottle of beer. $300/night for a hotel room. $400 for dinner at famed Japanese restaurant Masa. As someone who spent most of 2008-09 writing about the Big Apple for Gadling and who’s lived here over 7 years, it’s a sad fact I’ve come to know all too well. But here’s another shocking fact I’ve discovered about my adopted hometown: if you know the right places to eat, where to stay and what to do, New York City budget travel can also be a surprisingly rewarding experience.

Best of all, budget travel in New York doesn’t mean you have to give up on all the good stuff. Still want to eat like a king? Stay in a trendy new hotel? Experience New York’s legendary activities and nightlife? It’s all yours for the taking. It simply requires an adjustment in your approach.

We’ve scoured New York high and low and come up with the following ten budget travel suggestions. Want to learn how to visit New York on the cheap? Keep reading below!budget travel new york cityThree Tips on Where to Stay
Tracking down reasonably-priced accommodations is arguably the most daunting part of any New York budget travel experience. Visitors who so much as sneeze near popular hotel spots like Times Square can expect to pay upwards of $300/night for lodging. Budget travelers, fear not: if you want to avoid the sky-high prices (and the crowds) check out some of these wallet-friendly options:

  • The Jane (doubles from $99/night)The Jane, a hotel that effortlessly blends old and new inside a beautifully renovated building from 1908, oozes New York cool. Best of all, you’re just steps away from free attractions like the High Line.
  • The Harlem Flophouse (doubles from $125/night) – don’t let the name fool you; this “flophouse” is part of an emerging crop of intriguing Harlem lodgings that are easy on the wallet. Part B&B, part art gallery, guests can immerse themselves in the home’s one-of-a-kind decorations. All rooms have shared bathrooms.
  • The Gershwin Hotel (doubles from $109/night) – you can’t miss The Gershwin hotel from outside. This distinctive hotel is adorned with a one-of-a-kind facade of curvy glass lanterns. The intriguing interior decoration (and the prices) don’t disappoint either. Especially thrifty travelers should check out the Gershwin’s $40/night hostel-style “Bunker.”

Three Tips on Where to Eat
You probably already know New York is one of the best places in the world for eating. Did you also know it’s one of the best for cheap eats too? Thankfully, eating well and eating cheap in New York are not mutually exclusive. Here’s three of our favorites:

  • Xi’an Famous FoodsXi’an Famous Foods, which first found fame on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, recently opened an outlet of its famous Flushing noodle shop in New York’s East Village. Spice-lovers can grab a plate of the shop’s hand-pulled Cumin Lamb Noodles for under $10 bucks.
  • Super Tacos Sobre Ruedas – this unassuming taco truck, parked on Manhattan’s 96th Street, doesn’t look like much. Yet it’s one of an increasing number of under-the-radar New York spots to get outstandingly good (and cheap) Mexican food. Grab a cup of milky Horchata rice milk with cinammon and a couple Carnitas Tacos for just a few bucks.
  • Pies ‘N’ Thighs – think New York is all “fusion” cooking and snooty French cuisine? The down-home Southern cooking at Brooklyn’s Pies ‘N’ Thighs will prove you wrong. Enjoy Fried Chicken, biscuits, and apple pie at (nearly) Southern-level prices.

budget travel new york cityThree Tips on What to Do
Having fun and free are not opposites in New York. In fact, the city is filled with surprisingly fun activities and freebies for budget travelers looking to save a couple bucks:

  • Free Friday museums – even the city’s most famous cultural centers aren’t always expensive, particularly on “Free Fridays.” Venerable institutions like the Museum of Modern Art (Free Fridays from 4-8pm) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (pay-what-you-wish, Fridays 6-9pm) help art lovers enjoy these great institutions at low or no cost.
  • Wander Grand Central Station – It’s free to enter this gorgeously restored New York landmark. Gaze in awe at the vaulted ceilings in the Main Concourse, stop by the great food court and share a secret with friends in the Whisper Gallery. Here’s a few more Gadling Grand Central tips to help you out.
  • The High Line – New York’s High Line, the city’s newest and greatest park is built atop the ruins of an old elevated railway line. In its place is a beautifully designed park, complete with wild grasses, art exhibits and plenty of great people-watching.

One Wild Card
One of the most intriguing and cheap ways to spend a Saturday or Sunday in New York is at the Brooklyn Flea. This one-of-a-kind swap meet meets artisanal food tasting meets art show is one Brooklyn’s more intriguing weekend activities. Pick up inexpensive jewelry and handcrafted clothing and art from Brooklyn artists while enjoying cheap eats from local food vendors.

Just another surprising example of New York’s refreshing range of cheap accommodations, inexpensive eats and budget-friendly activities.

[Photos courtesy of Flickr users b0r0da, DanDeChiaro and albany_tim]

New York City street vendors to accept credit cards

Starting in June, if you’ve got a hankering for some street meat in New York City, you’ll be able to use a credit card to purchase your kebab. As part of a trial program in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, select street vendors will begin accepting credit card payments for food.

If the initial response to the experiment is positive, it could be rolled out to all New York City street vendors in three or four months. Meaning that stale pretzels and soggy hot dogs may soon be no more than a credit card swipe away.

Beyond those snacks, there are some fantastic food carts in New York City that offer full meals ranging from Jamaican to Lebanese to Korean (and everything in between). So, while you may never have the need to charge $2.00 for a hot dog, being able to pay for a quick and delicious meal-to-go with a credit card may be just the thing to make you consider those food carts that you often just walk past.

Street vendors are wildly popular outside of the States. Here at Gadling we’re always promoting the joys of street food. These carts are only now beginning to catch on with wider audiences domestically as high-end food trucks and more elaborate carts have hit the streets. Here in New York, however, we’ve always been hip to street meat. And now we can charge it.

[Via Gawker via NYP]