The Big Apple is the largest city of the USA, with population of 8.5 million, but this number doesn’t include tourists and business travelers, so it is probably bigger by half. The first impression you get here is New York is a chaos. In order to recollect yourself and start feeling confident in this chaos, you need to know a few simple things.
The city consists of 5 big parts called boroughts: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island. Although Brooklyn – that still regrets joining the Big Apple – is proud of its museums, parks and hipsterish districts, Queens is famous for its ethnic enclaves, Bronx is pardonably proud of the local Zoo and Staten Island boasts its hip-hop, Manhattan continues to be New York’s center. Almost all newcomers spend most of their time here.
To not get lost in Manhattan, you need to understand it’s divided into neighborhoods just like any other American city. New York neighborhood defines everything beginning with who lives and works here and how much apartments and hotel accommodations cost ending with whether being outside after dark is dangerous or not. Every neighborhood has its own special meaning. SoHo is where people go shopping, Upper West Side is about museums, dim sums are eaten in Chinatown, gallery exhibitions can be found in Chelsea, and East Village is good for having a drink.
Manhattan was built-up from south to north, so it’s easier to talk about it starting with the southern end.
The streets net of this neighborhood still reminds of Netherlandish colony – New Amsterdam. Wall Street once had a wall protecting the settlers from Red Indians and English; Pearl Street used to be a waterfront covered with chipped shells; Bridge Street owned a bridge over one of the New Amsterdam’s canals. Banker’s high-risers and stock exchange building of Financial District sit side by side with two-hundred-year old little houses contemporary with George Washinhton. One may catch a water taxi to Brooklyn, an excursion ship to the Statue of Liberty or a float-boat to Staten Island from the Battery. An entire district with a museum dedicated to September 11, futuristic railroad station by Santiago Calatrava and the tallest New York skyscraper appeared on the place of once standing World Trade Center Towers.
Civic Center – with the city hall and the Municipal Building constructed for urban services – is located to northward of the Financial District. Generally, there are less tourists here. They mainly come to see the towering skyscraper of Woolworth Building. There are exceptions though. For example, a huge crowd gathers here during rarely held solemn parades in honor of astronauts, sportsmen and friendly emperors.
Highly crowded Chinatown borders on Civic Center. This is one of the planet’s most populous districts, with 30 thousand people inhabiting each square kilometer. For New Yorkers, it is the area of Chinese tearooms, dim sums, Asian grocery stores, holes-in-the-wall selling whatnot and showy street fests with drummers and dragons. Lately, it is also a registration address for new galleries and various drinking establishments. Chinatown has its downside too represented by guesthouses where illegal immigrants find shelter in tiny rooms, clandestine factories and bawdy houses, bloody conflicts between competing banditties. Modern Chinatown compared to that of 1970-s is a sample of peaceful life though.