July 7, 2009

NYC Update

I am in NYC right now and enjoying it. I'm staying with my friend in Brooklyn (Clinton Hill area). I've had a great time exploring, walking, using the subway, and so on. So far I've been to a number of place, including DUMBO, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, the WTC site, Chinatown (where I ordered in Chinese, woohoo!), Central Park, the Guggenheim, the Jewish Museum, East Village, SoHo, Midtown/Times Square, the Broadway area, Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building ... not to mention countless blocks walked in between destinations, and many miles logged on the subway system already ... and I've still got four days left here!!

It's tough for me NOT to compare this experience with Shanghai. For example: the subway system in NYC is older and dirtier than the one in Shanghai. The entrances to the platforms are skinnier (there's barely room for two people to walk side by side), there are no escalators like in Shanghai, and the ceilings are barely tall enough for me to walk through (I had to duck under some pipe today in the Bleecker St. station). The trains are older and dingier and a LOT noisier (and "brake-ier") than in Shanghai. But the system runs 24/7, which is hard to beat, especially in Shanghai where the lines close around 10:30 (such a pain in the butt). And the system seems more extensive than in Shanghai, but I think that's because it covers a larger radius. Shanghai's system really thins out when you get outside the city center.

The crowds are thinner than in Shanghai, too. Someone pointed out this might be because NYC has much wider sidewalks. I could see that. The only area I've been to that "feels" like Shanghai is Midtown in the Times Square area. Most other places feel empty, maybe because I'm walking around during the work day. I mean there's people there, but I expected more. In Shanghai it's a constant jostle unless you move to Pudong. Speaking of which, Puxi is to Manhattan as Brooklyn is to Pudong. In both Puxi/Manhattan you have the "heart" of the city, and in fact it's what most people consider the "real" city. People you meet in Puxi/Manhattan hardly ever come to Pudong/Brooklyn unless by force. And Pudong/Brooklyn are both relatively new areas that are just starting to attract attention from those on the west side of the river. It's an interesting comparison. Funny how two cities can be like that :-) But I would be surprised if it's accidental - I think Shanghai looked at other large cities and used them as models for growth. For example, Century Park in Shanghai, reminds me a lot of Central Park, and Century Ave is modeled on the wide, sweeping lanes of French cities like Paris.

More to come, including pictures, as time goes on ...

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