Flickr’s New York: A tale of two cities

Tourists photograph Midtown and Lower Manhattan, while locals click their cameras in the East Village and Chinatown. So, it’s clear: tourists and locals don’t mix in New York.

Eric Fischer, a computer program, used geotagging data from Flickr and Picasa to plot maps of New York and 71 other cities, using a system he created for determining which shutterbugs are locals and which are from out of town.

Using this system, we can divine the following:

  • Tourists shoot Yankee games, while there are more locals snapping away when the Mets are playing at home
  • Locals prefer the Manhattan Bridge, and tourists flock to the Brooklyn Bridge … yet Brooklyn itself is packed with local photogs
  • Nobody goes to the Upper West Side (unless he or she lives there)
  • Governors Island is about as tourist-free a place as you’ll find in New York

Five places to puff in Manhattan: Tips for Smokers

Yes, I know. Every time I write something for the smokers out there, the comments always fill up with an argument over smoking itself. For now, I’m just going to assume that there are some people out there who happen to smoke and travel. I have this sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one. So, for those of you who enjoy a puff on the road, here are five places where you can smoke in Manhattan. At least one of them will surprise you.

1. Tobacco shops
Rather than single out one, I’d like to call your attention to several cigar shops in the city. Rules vary: some allow cigars only, while others also welcome pipe and cigarette smoker. Regardless of what you choose, do have the courtesy to buy something in the establishment before lighting up. In Midtown, you’ll find De La Concha on Sixth Ave at W. 56th Street and Davidoff stores at Columbus Circle and on Madison Ave (at E. 54th Street). There’s a Nat Sherman on 42nd and Fifth and a Barclay Rex across the street from Grand Central Station. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.2. Cigar bars
If you want to light a heater and enjoy a cocktail at the same time, there are a handful of establishments open to the public. On the Upper East Side you can hit Lexington Bar and Books or Club Macanudo. In Midtown, you’ll find the Carnegie Club. Be prepared to pay. Drinks and sticks are a bit pricey, and if you bring your own, you’ll be charged a cutting fee.

3. Private clubs
The best-known is the Grand Havana Room, which sits atop 666 Fifth Ave. It’s a beautiful space and has a fantastic restaurant. The only way you’ll get in, aside from becoming a member, is to convince one to invite you up.

4. Inter-block alleys
Yeah, this is the “when all else fails” alternative. There are alleys that cut through the middle of some blocks in Manhattan, and Midtown has more than a handful. My favorite goes from 5nd to 53rd and is between Sixth Ave and Seventh Ave. It’s covered. In the summer, Moda (the restaurant in Flatotel) runs a bar in there, so you’ll lose some space. This alley is covered, making it great for rainy day.

5. Jury duty
Okay, this one’s really for locals. If you get called for federal jury duty, here’s a good reason not to avoid it: there’s a smoking room just off the big room where the jury pool waits in the courthouse on 500 Pearl Street. Since you can’t leave the building (except for lunch) when you have federal jury duty, this room, I guess, is intended to make your experience more pleasant. The room is dark, sports old furniture and has no windows – it’s hardly a luxury space. After spending several hours waiting to be tapped for that product liability trial, however, it’s hard to complain about the digs.

US Helicopter suspends 8-minute service from airports to NYC

New York jet-setters short on time got some bad news last week. US Helicopter, which previously offered 8-minute helicopter flights from two local airports to Manhattan, announced on Friday that it is suspending service.

The chopper company offered flights for $159 each way from JFK and Newark airports to the Wall Street or Midtown West heli-pads in New York City, but has ceased operations due to insufficient funds. The young company (it’s been around for about 3.5 years) has been no stranger to financial troubles. According to Jaunted, they often ran $99 specials to drum up business. Apparently, people just aren’t willing to splurge on private helicopter rides, which cost about four times the price of a cab, during a financial crises. Go figure.

But there’s still hope for the impatient or super-rich. The company says it’s just on hiatus while it gets its “act together” and that it will be back, bigger and better, by November.

Cap off your summer in style at the Kimberly Hotel in Manhattan

Manhattan‘s rarely cheap. So, even if you can get a kickass flight, you’re still stuck lamenting the hotel rates and dinner prices – not to mention spending a fortune on cabs. The Kimberly Hotel is about to make this easier. If you’re looking to get your kids to the top of the Empire State Building before school starts, you still have time to squeeze in a trip this summer with a nice discount to make it a bit easier for you.

Until August 31, 2009, the Kimberly Hotel is cutting its rates by up to 40 percent on one- and two-bedroom luxury suites (might as well give the kids a taste of the good life before returning to the daily grind of the school year, right?). One-bedroom suites normally go for $299 a night, but you can book one for $100 less this summer. If you value elbow room, shell out $299 for a two-bedroom suite: they usually cost $449 a night.

Or, you can pick up a package built around the Intrepid Museum (that’s on the aircraft carrier parked in the Hudson River). For $459 a night ($829 for two), the “Welcome Aboard” package includes discount admission coupons for four to the museum, daily breakfast in the hotel and a free in-room movie with your choice of popcorn.

If you want your summer to end with a cymbal crash, this is the way to do it. Fight the oppressive New York heat (it’s part of the experience), and make sure your kids have some great stories to tell on the first day of school.

The Parker Meridien NYC knows how to serve a cheeseburger

I know I’ve written a lot about hotdogs, but I’m also a big fan of burgers. I guess my true affinity is for anything that’s bad for you. Nothing beats a great dog, but I have room for variety and sometimes crave an amazing burger. In Manhattan, you should look no further than the Parker Meridien on W. 56th St. (or W. 57th St., you can enter from either side).

You’re probably thinking about a $20 hamburger (more with cheese), because nothing’s cheap at a Parker Meridien. Well, for this burger, you’ll have to pass Norma’s (which is a great brunch spot, but far from cheap) and look for the neon cheeseburger on the wall. Welcome to the Burger Joint! It’s hidden in a hallway next to the concierge desk, and if you ask for directions, the staff will direct you easily. They know what you’re looking for.

During most peak dining hours, though, the location will be obvious. Look for the incredibly long line and be prepared to wait.

When you finally do reach the Burger Joint, you’ll notice a substantial shift in the décor. Scrawled between the many posters on the walls are light attempts at graffiti (but lots of them). The signs are handwritten in magic marker. The upscale uniforms visible in the rest of the hotel are eschewed for attire that’s considerably more laid back. The restaurant’s name says it all. It’s a burger joint, nothing more. But, it excels at its one mission – putting an amazing hamburger between your teeth.

Read the menu before you get to the cash register, or you’ll probably be sent to the back of the line. Demand for the product will force you to wait for a while, so there’s no reason to make it worse by screwing up at the moment of truth. The sign provides strict (but easy to follow) instructions on how to order. Speak loudly and confidently.

The restaurant itself is usually crowded. It’s tough to get a seat, and there’s always an asshole or two who lingers after finishing. So, you’ll be crammed shoulder-to-shoulder while waiting for your grub to be cooked, bagged and handed to you. Deal with it; there’s no alternative. From time to time, one of the cooks will step from behind the counter and scream at loiterers to get the hell out. It’s not done delicately … and it shouldn’t be.

If the dining area is full, or you just don’t want to mess with the crowds, there’s a great inter-block alley between W. 54th St. and W. 55th St., and it has tables and benches. This is a great dining spot when the weather is favorable. Also, you’re only a short walk from Central Park.

So, what about the food? You can’t go wrong with the burgers and fries, which comprise the entirety of the menu. The burgers are tasty, but do benefit from a bit of ketchup. I’d be happier if they were larger. The fries are thin-cut and the best (of this style) in the city. I haven’t tried the shakes (not really my thing), but I can tell from how many have been ordered that they must be good.

The total cost for all this isn’t absurd. For three cheeseburgers, two generously-sized orders of fries and a drink, I dropped $31.50. You’re going to have a bitch of a time finding a deal like this anywhere else in the city, I assure you.