How to Survive the City

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Posts.

How to Find a New York City Apartment
The unfortunate truth is that areas off-but-near campus will be pricey and apartments will be small. Move to Brooklyn if you want more space, Queens if you want more space for less money. You will spend about $1,000 per month for the honor of having a roof over your head, but it will be the best decision you have ever made.

The joys of having a space sans resident advisor are innumerable, so if mom and dad are footing the bill, take all you can. If not, you will need to hunt. Sure, the charm of living off Washington Square beats the charm of a sixth-floor walkup in Bed-Stuy, but if you’re looking for an authentic New York City experience, you should live somewhere that actual New Yorkers call home. And if you’re in Washington Heights (that’s Upper Manhattan, guys), you can even brush up on your Spanish for no extra charge. So begins the search.

It takes a particular blend of skepticism and masochism to effectively find an apartment in New York. You must trust no one, and at the same time be willing to go out and look at dozens of potential living spaces with incredibly shady real-estate brokers. Apartment hunting is a necessary evil. There’s just no way around it.

Sure, you might get lucky. Your friend might know of a place or even invite you to be a roommate. Best-case scenario, you’ll start dating someone with an apartment and subtly move in before she realizes you never had your own pad to begin with. But for all the rest of us confused and homeless college students, Craigslist is a wonderful place to start.

In addition to Craigslist, a site called is also well liked. Any time you look at online listings, however, always be suspicious. For instance, a listing that reads “$1,600 Bigger Than Queen Latifah!! BEAUTIFUL STUDIO HUGEEEEE (Financial District)” should make you suspicious for two reasons. Reason 1: Almost every apartment we’ve ever been in, no matter how small, is bigger than Queen Latifah. And Reason 2: Anyone who uses five Es when one will suffice is hiding something.

Despite the headache and heartache, finding an apartment is a rite of passage, a declaration of independence and a damn good way to keep from going back to whatever redneck burg you hail from over the holidays.

How To Not Get Mugged
Everyone, especially your parents, will have advice for you about when Big Bad Criminals come a knockin’ at your face. Carry an emergency $20 so you don’t get pistol whipped for not having any cash, our mom once told us. Though, having been mugged with an empty wallet, we know that you can’t always predict what will happen (we were fine, albeit annoyed). What you can do is try to keep yourself out of dangerous situations, and here’s how:

Avoid being alone. If you’re out late at night travel with friends, as there is safety in numbers.

Know your nabe. Keep track of which streets in your neighborhood are well lit and where the 24-hour stores and bodegas are so you have safe spots.

Stop pickpockets. Keep your wallet in your front pockets or in a bag strapped across your shoulder.

Hang up the phone. People think that by talking on the phone, they will seem connected and like a bad target. They are wrong.

Don’t be a flashy asshole. Don’t count cash or wave around expensive objects. Stow iPods in a bag or pocket and invest in non-white headphones.

Avoid looking like a tourist. Wandering around wide-eyed and brandishing a map is an easy way to make yourself a target. Write down directions on a small piece of paper if you need them, and duck into a deli or store to ask for directions if you must. Don’t stop people on the street.

How to Get a Fake ID
We do not promote fake IDs, but if you were ever going to get one, here’s how to do it.

When looking for a vendor (in the West Village on Bleecker St. may or may not be a good place to look. Just saying), choose one based on word of mouth. Ask around campus where satisfied customers got theirs. A fake that can trick ID-testing scanners is ideal, so make sure to ask about that, too.  

Expect to drop about $150 to $170 for a quality ID. Pay in cash, and don’t buy online. Sounds obvious, but naive freshmen have done these things. Also, be careful how much info you give the fake ID vendor, and don’t let them hold on to your actual ID for too long.

If you have a choice, get a fake that is not a Maine ID. Most Fakes are from Maine since the design is easy to forge, so Maine will automatically make booze-hawkers and bouncers suspicious. It’s probably best to get a fake with your real name on it, since then you can use you a second credit card or whatever to “prove” it’s real. Some argue that, if you are busted, it is better to have a false name on the fake so you can scurry off without being identified.

Avoiding bars where fakes are more prevalent than bars with honest-to-God people over 21 hang out is also key. The less like a college bar someplace is, the less likely they expect underage college kids to sneak in.

Once you’ve got the goods, don’t mix up your real ID with your fake, which is easy to do when drunk. If you ever accidentally give your fake to a cop when you’ve been pulled over, shit can get ugly.

How To Find a Barber
OK, guys, unless you’ve got some sort of tortured-artist thing going on that actually gets you laid, you will realize that sooner or later, you need a haircut. All the girls you meet will probably wait until they go home to have the stylist they always go to snip their precious locks, but if you’re going to get cozy with anyone after the Welcome Week hormones wear off, you’ll need to look sharp.

For those in the Village, head down to the massive underground layer that is Astor Place Hairstylist (2 Astor Pl., betw. Broadway & Lafayette St., 212-475-9854). This place is an institution, and with a $14 guys’ cut and a wash/cut/blow-dry for $25, it’s a cheap and reliable bet.

Living Uptown? Try the Razor Sharp Barber Shop (614 Amsterdam Ave., betw. W. 89th & W. 90th Sts., 212-877-1459), which will only set guys back $14.

If you want your friends back home to say you look “so New York” and don’t mind waiting, you might be able to score some free hair services through the University Model Project at Bumble and bumble (415 W. 13th St., betw. Washington St. & 9th Ave., 212-521-6500), which lets student stylists try out their fancy cuts.

If you’re low on cash and looking to take a risk, try the American Barber Institute (252 W. 29th St., betw. 7th and 8th. Aves., 212-290-2289) where they’ll let one of their trainees go to work for only $4.99.

How to Choose a Bookstore
As classes begin, you’ll be faced with a difficult choice of where you should buy course books: the college bookstore or the independent bookseller? Sometimes the choice is made for you since professors often place book orders at a particular store; this arrangement benefits both the store and the professor, since the store gets your business and the professor usually gets a discount for his or her personal use. In such a case, you might be forced to patronize either the college bookstore or the independent, especially if the book is rare. But you should know your options and learn how to navigate them.

The cliché is that the independent bookstore, such as Book Culture (536 W. 112th St., betw. Broadway & Amsterdam Ave., 212-865-1588), boasts more knowledgeable staff and a better selection of books, while the college bookstore, now often owned by a corporate giant such as Barnes & Noble, cares only about making a profit.

But the truth is always complicated. Customer service at indies can be unfriendly, like at St. Marks (31 3rd Ave., at E. 9th St., 212-260-7853), since the literary-minded staff have little tolerance for the lay reader. Further, prices at the independent are often higher. Barnes & Noble’s financial clout allows them to give bank-saving discounts to students. The independent might also offer discounts, but these are often contingent on large purchases.

Then, of course, there’s the Internet. is an old standby, but other websites sell books even more cheaply. A good place to start is Canadian website, which allows users to find the cheapest buy online.

How to Score Some Culture Without Paying
No one wants to pay to see something you can look at for free—whether it’s a Matisse or the girls across the street that change with their shades up. That’s why we’ve compiled this incomplete guide to free or discounted museums around the city. Use it to enrich your own knowledge or convince your new pals that you’re the smartest guy around.  

Things that are straight-up free:

The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology: This museum is, of course, part of the famed fashion school. Students here dress weird and know about good parties, befriend them. Closed Sunday and Monday. 7th Ave. at W. 27th St, 212-217-4530.

The New Museum: The hippest of the big museums, the NewMu is free if you’re 18 or younger. After freshman year, bring your high school ID card. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 235 Bowery (at Prince St.), 212-219-1222.

Donation (or, free with guilt)

American Museum of Natural History: The herbal enthusiast’s favorite haunt, this amazing museum is worth the trip uptown to check out elephants, cavemen and, of course, the squid and the whale. Open daily. If you want to pay, it’s $12 for students, but nobody will force you. Central Park West (at W. 81st St.), 212-769-5100.

The Brooklyn Museum: If you’re into Egyptian art, feminist art (we’re talking famous vaginas on platters) or looking like you know your way around the outer boroughs, this is a great museum. If you want to pay, it’s $6 for students (but can also be as little as you want to donate). Closed Monday and Tuesday. 200 Eastern Pkwy. (at Washington Ave.), Brooklyn, 718-638-5000.

Metropolitan Museum of Art: It’s $10 for students, but you can get into the mother of all museums for as little as a penny. If even that’s too steep for you, sitting and watching the scene outside the steps is similar to performance art (and you can save your cash for a hot dog). Closed Monday. 1000 5th Ave. (at E. 82nd St.), 212-537-7710.

Day-Specific Specials

Museum of Arts and Design: There’s no traditional art in this temple of crafts, but if you’re an industrial design student or just like the way radiators look, it’s a great place. Pay whatever you want 6 to 9 on Thursday nights and be sure to sneak upstairs to check out the view from the restaurant. 2 Columbus Circle (at 8th Ave.), 212-956-3535.

International Center for Photography: Fashion photos, art photos, daguerreotypes—this place has it all. Pay whatever you want 5 to 8 on Friday. 1133 6th Ave. (betw. W. 43rd & W. 44th Sts.), 212-857-0000.

Museum of Modern Art: The modern classic. Free on Friday 4 to 8, but normally clogged with tourists. Check to see if your student ID will get you in for free, otherwise come ready to dodge some fanny packs. 11 W. 53rd St. (betw. 5th & 6th Aves.), 212-708-9400.

Whitney Museum of American Art: A bastion of new art on the Upper East Side. Pay whatever you want 6 to 9 on Friday and don’t miss the knishes from the cart on the street out front, they make a delicious and inexpensive dinner. 945 Madison Ave. (betw. E. 74th & E. 75th Sts.), 212-570-3600.

Guggenheim Museum: The one inside the Frank Lloyd Wright building. Pay whatever you want 5:45 to 7:45 on Saturday, leaving you plenty of time to make it to the pressing game of flipcup at Third North. 1071 5th Ave. (betw. E. 88th & E. 89th Sts.), 212-423-3500.

The Frick Collection: Fine art at its finest. Pay whatever you want 11 a.m. to 1 on Sunday, if you wake up in time. 1 E. 70th St. (at 5th Ave.), 212-288-0700

Radio Free NYC
Unless you’re an NPR person (and you’re not an NPR person), most radio sucks—except, sometimes, for college stations. Without the commercial constraints of a normal station, college channels can play some compelling stuff, especially when music majors and student genre aficionados are disc jockeying.

New York Press has singled out some of the top student-run stations in the city, so you can get to know your college’s station or, if another school sounds better, listen to that one. School pride is no reason to listen to shitty music.

Columbia University, WKCR
Where to find it: 89.9 FM,
What to hear here: WKCR has a storied history. It was associated with the inventor of FM radio, and it was the first station in the country to broadcast the beeping Russian satellite Sputnik. Nowadays, WKCR is best known for its jazz programming. Through the years, legends like Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus have visited the station and, more recently, musicians including Billy Taylor and Dick Hyman have dropped in for interviews.

Barnard College, WBAR
Where to find it: 87. 9 FM,
What to hear here: WBAR, the radio station of Barnard College, is less jazzy than its Morningside Heights neighbor WKCR, with more of an indie rock vibe. It also has an impressive archive, where you can search for specific shows, DJs or songs. The station also puts on concerts around campus.

New York University, WNYU
Where to find it: 89.1,
What to hear here: This station, which broadcasts to the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, for those of you new to these parts) has been a launching pad (and still is) for a lot of important music through the years. Up and coming as well as more established musical acts like Andrew WK stop by for live performances. The station also has a strong slate of longtime shows. Beats In Space (Tuesday, 10:30 to 1:00 am), hosted by DJ/producer Tim Sweeny, has been broadcasting since 1999, and The Halftime Show, a hip-hop review, has had Eminem, Method Man & Red Man, the RZA and Ghostface as guests.

CUNY Stations
Where to find them: Baruch College, 87.9 FM. Brooklyn College, 1090 AM. College of Staten Island, 88.9 FM. City College, 90. 3. Kingsborough Community College, 90.3 FM. Queens College, WQMC.

What to hear here: The CUNY stations offer a diverse range of content (though they all vary in quality). But there are some impressive gems in the bunch. The College of Staten Island station (88.9 FM) is far better than anything on Staten Island should be, and the City College station is very involved in the surrounding Harlem community.

Fordham University, WFUV

Where to find it: 90.7 FM
What to hear here: Okay, with 300,000 listeners, WFUV may be more than just a Fordham University radio station. Since WFUB is run out of Fordham, has tons of students on staff and has great programming, we’ll count it. The station has some of New York’s great rock DJs. Dennis Elsas, who has interviewed rocks all-time greats and still broadcasts weekdays from 2-6 and Vin Scelsa, whose show Idiot’s Delight on Saturdays from 8 to midnight is a cult favorite, are just a couple. The station also has the kind of genre programming only college/public stations can offer. Have a closet passion for Celtic? That’s all they play from 9 to noon on Saturday morning. Baked at midnight and want to hear some Grateful Dead? The Grateful Dead Hour, Saturday night from midnight to 1 a.m., goes perfectly with the sound of crunching potato chips.   

Pratt Institute, WPIR
Where to find it:
What to hear here: WPIR has had a spotty history, but the station is rearing for an Internet-only comeback. The station got lots of new equipment over the summer, and the new station heads are dedicated to creating a real Internet radio presence, spinning everything from underground hip-hop (Pratt is near the birthplace of Biggie Smalls, a geographic badge of honor for WPIR) to swing oldies.   

Tourist Traps Worth Visiting
A big part of living in New York is thinking less of people who don’t, and there’s almost no easier way than eschewing or ignoring the places that they frequent. Times Square? A nightmare. The Statue of Liberty? Give the girl a break! But there are a few spots, clogged though they might be with visitors, that are worth the irritation to visit.

The Staten Island Ferry
Cheap visitors will skip real tours of Liberty Island to take this ferry ride past Lady Liberty to Staten Island, where parks are made of garbage. It’s tacky when they do it, but if you decide to skip a hot afternoon of roaming around to catch a sea breeze and buy some beers from the on-board bar, it’s a smart, inventive way to spend the day. In all honesty, the views can’t be beat and wandering through the Financial District to get to the ferry station can be an adventure all its own. Avoid at rush hour, when the boat is crowded with people actually trying to get home. They will cramp your style.

The Cloisters
Owned by the Metropolitan Museum, The Cloisters consists of a museum featuring art from The Middle Ages and, more importantly, four acres of land in Fort Tyron Park in Upper Manhattan. In addition to 5,000 pieces of art, there are some incredible gardens, gorgeous views of the Hudson River and an inordinate amount of used condoms littering the trails. Ah, the great outdoors!

Governors Island
Open through Oct. 11, this island off the tip of Lower Manhattan draws fewer out-of-towners than obnoxious locals looking to escape the city by piling onto an even smaller island. There are rolling hills, waterfront picnic areas, public art projects, historic homes to tour and more. It has all the makings of a middle-school fieldtrip, but is easily one of the most fun ways to spend a Saturday that we can think of. Forget how cool you are and bring a Frisbee and some friends.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Almost everyone we know takes his parents here when they come to visit. It’s pretty, it’s charming and it kills a whole lot of time without having to talk to the people who raised you about the egregious errors they made along the way. Membership is exceedingly inexpensive; starting at $40 a year, and the events (including an upcoming workshop on making your own kimchee, summer picnics and the annual cherry blossom festival) are not only kind of fun, but also surefire ways to impress a date.

Dorm Room Dining
Dining out is expensive. Even if you’re just shoving slices into your maw, the appetite of a college student is an expensive thing to keep up with. And sometimes there’s really nothing about the dining hall that makes the trek worth it—you’ll see what we mean once winter hits. Chef Brian Bieler from The Mott says, “College kids should research what kind of local markets are near their college, its better quality and good bargains, for example farmer market eggs are cheaper than supermarket and any college kid can make an omelet on those little hot plates in a dorm room.”

With dorm cooking in mind, we’ve rounded up tips from chefs on cooking right there in your nasty little room.

Spam Bolognese
From Marc Taxiera, chef at Beppe

One can Spam

1 pack ramen noodles, beef flavor

1 pack cherry tomatoes

2 cloves garlic


grated cheese

Olive oil (or neutral flavored oil)

Microwave Spam with 1/2-cup water for 5 minutes on high. With a fork, crush Spam into chunks. Add tomatoes, whole pepper, red pepper (you can steal from the cafeteria) garlic and extra virgin olive oil (if available; if not the recipe works without it) cover with plastic wrap and microwave again for 5 minutes (if the Spam is getting dry add some more water about a 1/4 cup). Soak the ramen noodles with hot water from a coffee machine just to cover them, then cover dish with plastic wrap. After the tomatoes and Spam finish, crush the tomatoes and Spam again, stir and cook for 5 minutes more. Made sure the noodles are cooked and fluffed with a fork. Drain the water, sprinkle with the flavor pack and add oil. When the Spam finishes the last time, check to see if the tomatoes are completely broken down, then mix and crush them again, added the ramen and stir everything together and mixing well; Sprinkle cheese.

All-Nighter Dessert
From Melissa Muller of Organika
Pour a hot espresso (strong instant coffee will also work) into a container of your favorite ice cream. Avoid fruity flavored ice creams. Vanilla works best. Optional: Crumble a bar of your favorite chocolate on the ice cream before pouring the espresso on it.

How To Find A Drug Dealer
Gone are the days when men would roam Washington Square Park, barking “Smoke, Smoke!” at everyone who walked by, offering dime bags of the wacky tobacky to fiends with nowhere else to turn. These days the men in the park are more likely to be undercover cops; and when they are honest-to-goodness drug dealers, you can’t always count on them to deliver what you expect. Recently a pothead friend of ours ended up with $40 worth of crack in his
palm before he knew what was happening.
Bad scene.

The thing is, you should never buy anything off the street. Not a cell phone, not cologne and most certainly not drugs. While the bodegas on Rivington Street (and in most nightlife districts, especially where there are gay bars) are hard to walk through without having someone offer you cocaine, do your best to resist. If you’re not going to Just Say No, at least say no to the creeps trying to pawn off oregano or baby laxatives in tiny plastic bags—the only dope involved will be you.  

Five New Yorkers to Avoid

You’re going to meet a lot of people in New York: those kids in the dorm who seem great for about a week, roommates and neighbors who might become your best friends and some real bastards. Here’s a rundown of a few New York types to look out for—and avoid.

The Precious One
First, learn who St. Vincent is: The songstress is a mascot for a group of wide-eyed, aw shucks, delicate artistes who seem absolutely bowled over by their own talent and pale skin and will often destroy anyone in their path to continue their journey toward becoming Bjrk. At first, the Precious One seems delicate; you want to protect this gal and take her to dinner at Blue Ribbon. No matter what you do, however, this Precious One will screw you over. If you pony up cash for cabs, for a short film or a line of high-waisted shorts, you will not get your money back. You will be left in the corner of parties in Bushwick to talk to the European roommate while everyone else cavorts in the kiddy pool on the roof. You will grow to hate Precious Ones and come to identify somewhat-famous singers with all of the people who have wronged you. It will not be pretty. Avoid at all costs.

The Guru
Until you moved here, most of the people you hung out with were probably your own age. Now you will begin to cavort with older and “wiser” people. They have more money and bigger apartments than you do. Most gray-hairs are friendly and good for the occasional outing, but The Guru is a special breed of old who thrives on the insecurities of young people, harvesting their dreams and endless energy like some sort of Freddy Kruger who shops at Barneys. If you get the feeling that your new old friend is less interested in knowing you than in feeding on your supple young brain and living out his own unfulfilled dreams, send him back to Shady Pines.

The Islander
Ah, Manhattan! Cue the Irving Berlin track. What’s not to love about this 23-square-mile island, filled with the most amazing characters and things that life has to offer? For one, the people who won’t leave. We understand that at one point, the outer boroughs were scary places where poors ran around waiting to get hit by cars in Tom Wolfe novels, but that’s not really the case anymore. The Islander will eschew Brooklyn (“I don’t do Brooklyn,” he’ll scoff) and won’t dignify mentions of the other boroughs with a response. An utterance of “New Jersey” will cause a mild stroke. It can seem charming at first, but soon enough you’ll realize that all of your friends live in Brooklyn, that Queens is a delightful (if obnoxious to maneuver) place and that all five of the boroughs are actually locales where people live and each has its charms. Take it from us: Be the first of your friends to explore the boroughs and, whatever you might lack in Manhattan-centric snobbishness, you’ll make up for in real New York know-how.

The Party Monster
Most likely you moved here to follow a dream, make a life for yourself and, as The Smiths said, “catch something that [you] might be ashamed of.” That’s not going to happen if you sit in your dorm room Facebook flirting with the guy down the hall. It’s essential to find a scene that’s right for you and a handful of places where you can blow off steam. When you meet The Party Monster, however, you will find yourself in places that you never imagined, with your last dollar rolled up in some drag queen’s nose. The Party Monster seems to know everyone but have no other close friends. After you’ve hung out once or twice, she’s calling to see if you want to “pre-game” before a party at 1OAK. She’s telling you not to be such a bore as you pile into an elevator with some Brazilians to have one last drink at someone’s apartment at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday. This person should be kept on the sidelines without exception. Do not, under any circumstances, become a regular pal, lest you end up back where you came from, wearing sweats and milling about the Food Lion, remembering when you were having all the fun in the world until that one time you killed a drug dealer. 

The Junkie
This is less of a social pariah and more of a “do not feed the animals”-type warning. The Junkie can be recognized by his namesake slump. See a guy on the subway, possibly asleep or maybe sick? That’s the Junkie Slump. Do not approach, do not help. Of the possible outcomes of the situation, the most pleasant ones include ending up with a missing wallet or taking care of some puking, Bob Dylan–loving drug addict for the rest of your twenties. Honestly, do yourself a favor and stick to addicts who have uppers.

How to Dress for NYC

That’s right, Toto, you’re not on campus anymore, and that means it’s time to start putting an effort into what you put on your back, unless you don’t mind looking like a student—or even worse, a tourist.

Collages.jpgFirst, we should clear up a misconception; New Yorkers are usually equated with designer labels and conspicuous logos, but in truth we rarely make a big deal of showing off name brands. So don’t assume this makeover requires breaking the bank on designer goods; in fact, when used sparingly, cheap and trendy can go a long way, shops like H&M, Topshop and Forever 21 can serve you well in a pinch, just don’t expect to be wearing these pieces in two years time.

But, dear student, don’t be scared away from designer labels entirely. If you can ignore the intimidating price tags and surly sales people, you’ll find that even Bloomingdale’s has a good sale rack twice a year. Keep abreast of sample sales with, and If you only changed one thing about garment selection, it should be the fit. You’d probably do well finding denim and shorts that cut a little closer; nothing says Midwestern tourist like a T-shirt two sizes too large. Also, toss out the graphic tees altogether and collect an assortment of Polos from Uniqlo.

The most essential item in any New Yorker’s closet is a good bag, but it doesn’t matter if it’s canvas or leather, a label or a knockoff, it all comes down to the type. Guys should avoid hostel-chic look and lose the backpack for a messenger bag. Ladies, drop the messenger and sling a tote over your shoulder, something large enough to carry the next 24 hours of your life, without pinching a nerve of course.

Tennis shoes are for the gym, so save the clunky white, cross trainers for the treadmill, with a wide selection of athletic inspired kicks available, you’ll be able to find something simple and comfortable without too much fuss. A girl’s best friend and worst enemy is her heels, if she doesn’t know how to walk in them, we suggest a lower shoe; please save everyone the discomfort of watching you tromp around the city on splaying ankles and gripping toes.

Above all, when in doubt wear black. Not like a sad teenager (even if you still are one), but like you mean business and couldn’t be bothered to match. This simple trick will take you through any New York situation.