i saw a similar post about writing tips when it comes to having paris as a setting, so i thought it would be helpful to have the same thing except for……new york city! as a native new yorker i love seeing my home appearing in fics, because lbr nyc is pretty awesome. so if you’re looking to make nyc your setting, here are some tips when writing about it. these can help establish if your character is a native or non-native.
—first off, nyc is technically not one city. it’s five cities. the boroughs of manhattan, queens, staten island, bronx, and brooklyn are all part of nyc. however, the nyc that’s always on tv/movies is manhattan.
—if you live in any of the four other boroughs, manhattan is always referred to as “the city”. so if your character lives in brooklyn but is heading out to central park, they’re going to the city.
—public transportation is the way to go. unless it’s staten island, where cars are the easiest way to go. mta fare is $2.75 and we use metrocards. trains are divided by uptown and downtown, and some are express and some are local. we do not refer to the train lines by their color—only by their number or letter. buses are designated by their borough; a manhattan bus would have M in front of the number.
—taxis are mad expensive and sometimes public transportation can be too when you need to take a combo of buses and trains. many new yorkers walk a lot. the reason we walk fast is bc it makes it easier to get to your destination. walking up ten blocks can only take ten minutes if you speedwalk basically. which is why slow walkers annoy us, especially when they stop suddenly.
—trains run slower during weekends and nights so your character might be in for quite a wait. bus generally take 10 minutes to come, unless it’s a popular route. then buses come every five minutes.
—except for the very southern part of manhattan, the roads are numbered. so areas such as greenwich village, wall street, little italy, and chinatown do not have streets with numbers. streets run from east to west; avenues run from south to north. the east & west streets are separated by 5th Avenue. numbers increase as you move north and/or to the west.
—you can always find pizza and hot dogs for a dollar. busy areas such as times square and central park will try to overcharge you. no new yorker would be gullible enough to pay $2 for a pizza slice. for cheap $1 pizza, the chain 2Bros is good. speaking of pizza, we fold it in half bc it is easier to eat and walk then.
—a distinctly new yorker thing is saying “on the line”. such as asking someone “are you on the line?” no other state says this. drive into new jersey and they’ll say “in the line”.
—there is one international airport and one domestic airport for nyc, which are both in queens. there’s JFK (international) and La Guardia (domestic). a third option is newark airport (also international) in new jersey.
—smoking is not allowed in nyc parks nor in most public spaces whatsoever. also the legal age for smoking and drinking is 21.
—if your character is a college student, all public colleges are branded as CUNY (City University of New York). every borough has at least one CUNY college. public colleges have “cheap” tuition rates, which are usually around $5000-$8000. the “famous” colleges in NYC are not public. NYU and Columbia are both private and are ridiculously expensive. Wagner College (private) in Staten Island has a really good performing arts/music program.
—new yorkers avoid many of the sightseeing places bc they’re expensive and overcrowded. i have lived my whole life in nyc (almost 20 years) and have only visited the Empire State Building for the first time this summer—and that’s only bc my internship covers the expense of my tickets to such places.
—speaking of expenses, most of the homes in the boroughs are apartments. Staten Island however is suburban and residential. houses are abundant there. in manhattan, houses which are really just townhouses, are super expensive. we’re talking millions here.
—manhattan is an island. so is staten island. the only ways off manhattan are by cars/buses over bridges or tunnels, or by trains. the only way off staten island is by car, bus, or the Staten Island Ferry. the ferry is free of charge, running 24/7 between SI and Manhattan. all bridges have tolls, where ezpass holders have lower rates.
—yes we’re the city that never sleeps, but we do sleep. some areas like times square don’t appear to. i’ve shopped at the forever 21 in times square at 1 AM. it was still crowded.
—SI has a predominant Italian and Sri Lankan community. Queens has a predominant Indian community, most especially in the Jackson Heights neighborhood.
—coney island is in brooklyn. the rides are fun but expensive. the beach is crowded and dirty. brighton beach and rockaway beach are better choices. staten island has a more calmer (and actually fourth longest in the usa) boardwalk.
—if you’re mailing something to manhattan, the address should be written as new york, new york. it would not be manhattan, new york.
this got really long but if your heart is set on writing within new york, i think it’s really important to get your setting right. like i said before, these tips can really help your character stand out or not as someone who is or isn’t from new york. i hope this helps for all the fabulous writers out there!