42 New York City Hacks from a Local

In no apparent order and of questionable value

  1. First things first, Joe’s Pizza is not the best pizza in the city. It’s not even the best pizza in Manhattan. I could elaborate on my reasoning in painstaking detail but take my word that there is better out there.
  2. If you’re paying more than $2.50 for a regular slice of pizza make damn sure it’s worth it.
  3. If you haven’t yet, try garlic knots. Most pizza places have them and they’re delicious as hell.
  4. Many newsstands and bodegas keep candy in the fridge, because nobody likes eating a half-melted Kit Kat.
  5. Visit. Other. Boroughs. If you go to NYU there’s a very good chance you haven’t been to the Bronx, Queens or Staten Island, if not ever, then recently. Fix that!
  6. If you need a new MetroCard and want to avoid paying the $1 fee, you can pick up a discarded one off the ground; thrifty, if unsanitary.
  7. If you come across an empty subway car at rush hour it’s for one of two reasons: a bad smell or faulty heating/air conditioning making it intolerable. Avoid.
  8. Keep pushing into a subway car even if it’s crowded. There is always more room. You may get glares and groans but often people don’t move far enough into the train car and there is no motivation quite like being shoved by a stranger at rush hour.
  9. If you’re on the subway and something or someone makes you uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to switch cars.
  10. If you have an unlimited MetroCard, or even if you don’t, swiping for someone who might not be able to afford the fare is always a nice thing to do. The “Swipe It Forward” campaign has been at it for awhile, and the issue has been in the news again recently because of a study that revealed turnstile policing in Brooklyn has overwhelmingly targeted poor African Americans. If you do have an unlimited card you can offer to swipe someone for free when you reach your destination.
  11. If you feel inclined to nap on the subway (ill-advised but I still do more than my fair share) you can loop your leg through your bag strap to avoid having it stolen.
  12. If you’re entering the subway and police select you for a random bag search you can decline, but the tradeoff is you (almost definitely) won’t be allowed to use the train.
  13. The Citi Bike program is excellent and incredibly cheap if you use it to commute, especially compared with the MTA. The bikes themselves can be heavy and slightly clunky though.
  14. Try taking a ferry. The Staten Island Ferry, for one, is free and has a great view of the Statue of Liberty. IKEA also has a ferry service to its outlet in Red Hook that’s free on weekends and $5 during the week.
  15. Rickshaws are often available at tourist hotspots like Columbus Circle, with fees varying from around $2 to $5 — a minute. If you do choose to go on a pedicab ride make sure to look for one with a reasonable rate (I’ve seen as low as $1.50).
  16. Google Maps can be great for getting directions around the city, but when in doubt allow for extra travel time. Traffic delays or modified train service often aren’t factored into the commute.
  17. If you’re going to take a taxi, especially a gypsy cab, be prepared to have to give directions to the driver; not all are GPS-equipped and if you’re traveling particularly far they might not know the best way to get there.
  18. Sign up for Notify NYC, a free text alert system from the government that sends you updates on traffic and transit problems and emergency notifications.
  19. IDNYC is a free government-issued ID card for residents that provides access to many city services as well as discounts and free admission to museums, zoos and the like.
  20. When in doubt, ask about student discounts when you go out. Theaters and cinemas almost always have them, and your university ID card already gets you into some of the best museums in the city for free.
  21. That being said, some of the bigger museums like the Metropolitan or Natural History Museum that aren’t free list suggested amounts to pay for your ticket, though in reality you can give as much or as little as you like. Always check the fine print on the prices when you go.
  22. Avoid Times Square at all costs. The same goes for Port Authority. There are better forms of masochism.
  23. Newark Airport in New Jersey is a solid alternative to the circus that is JFK or the schlep to LaGuardia. Much less crowded and not too bad to get to.
  24. If you must go to JFK taking the A train is actually a good way to do it. Depending on the time of day you can usually get a seat, even with luggage, and it’s way cheaper than a taxi or Uber. If you do take the A train, though, you have to make sure it’s going to Far Rockaway and not Lefferts Boulevard (it’ll say which on the electronic ticker).
  25. There’s an official audio tour of Central Park available for free and narrated by a bevy of famous people.
  26. This is intuitive and applies to any city, but I often take extra free salt and pepper packets or napkins when I go to chain like Starbucks or McDonald’s — they never hurt to have on hand.
  27. The New York Public Library is fabulous and its branches offer tons of free programs and events as well as nice, quiet study spaces.
  28. City tap water is … actually not as safe as once thought but it’s still hella fresh.
  29. The night court at 100 Centre Street is open to the public. Sitting in on a case can be fascinating (or really, really boring) and more insightful than any daylong bus tour of the city.
  30. Be wary of people walking around with “Free Hugs” signs. Hugs aren’t the only thing that have been dished out for free.
  31. The grid system is your best friend.
  32. If you can’t score tickets to some of the more expensive pro sports teams in New York take the road less traveled and, depending on the season, look into other franchises like the New York Liberty women’s basketball or the Staten Island Yankees for minor league baseball. Because … because sometimes you need to fill the void in your heart where hope, happiness and World Series prospects used to be before the Houston Astros stole everything from you.
  33. If you can’t find a bathroom and want to avoid using a sketchy public one hotels usually have one in the lobby if you’re feeling sneaky.
  34. Look to street vendors for cheap and fresh fruit. I once spent $1.50 on a banana at a coffee shop and have yet to forgive myself. Chinatown in particular has great bargain produce.
  35. Carry cash at all times, just in case; a crisp $20 will do. Plenty of places in the city such as food carts and bodegas are cash-only, and you never know when you’ll encounter a broken credit card reader.
  36. McDonald’s has some of the cheapest ATMs. The fee hovers around a dollar, whereas usually you’re lucky to find anything under $3.
  37. Look both ways when crossing any street, even if it’s one-way; there’s always a chance a bicyclist or skateboarder might be snubbing traffic. On that note, also make sure you don’t hit anyone in the bike lane when you exit a car or cab.
  38. Don’t take up the whole sidewalk when you’re in a group or walk slowly/distractedly if you’re on a narrow street. Not for my sake, for yours. If I’m in a hurry and you’re in my way I will body-check you without shame or mercy.
  39. The two free daily city papers are Metro and amNewYork. Metro has comparatively more difficult crossword puzzles, whereas amNY reuses the same simple clues and answers with downright embarrassing regularity.
  40. The Manhattan Bridge is just as cool as the Brooklyn Bridge, with equally beautiful views and infinitely fewer tourists and pissy Brooklyn bicyclists.
  41. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions! New Yorkers are, contrary to popular belief, usually happy to help if they can and/or are not in a hurry.
  42. And finally, no one can technically stop you from eating all the free bread samples by the olive oil station at Fairway. That said, expect some serious side eye.
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