One of the decidedly mixed pleasures of peddling your wares in the New York metropolitan area is traveling to NYC for the occasional, or not so occasional, business meeting. Never having been a regular commuter, I have limited experience with NJ Transit – either the trains or the buses. I prefer to drive.
Driving into New York never represented a problem for me. I generally like driving, and enjoy figuring out the traffic patterns, and using the myriad traffic reports available to optimize my ride. For example, at the Holland Tunnel, the four left hand toll lanes (booths 1-4) merge, as do the five right hand toll lanes (5-9). In addition, because we are mostly right handed and our cars have steering wheels on the left, we tend to merge from right to left – toll lane 4 is about twice as fast as lanes 1-3.
Parking once you get to The City presents a thornier problem, especially for those of us with mobility issues.
If you live in New York, or work there full time, you can get a NYC Disabled Person’s parking permit. These highly coveted permits allow you to park for free in metered spaces and in many places where ordinary mortals would get ticked or towed. The process for obtaining this permit includes being examined by a NYC designated doctor—they don’t hand these out like the ubiquitous hang tags issued by State DMVs.
The parking alternatives for casual visitors to New York are street parking (RIGHT!) or a nearby parking garage. When I go to The City, it tends to be for something with a fixed start time. It takes me enough extra time to get from my car to the appointment that I rarely want to schedule extra time to cruise for street parking. I plan my parking by picking a garage from a NYC parking garage map (e.g., http://nyc.bestparking.com ). I may even call to make sure they will have space for me. Garages can get “full,” but I have always been able to talk myself into an even supposedly full garage. The men who work in these facilities have always gone out of their way to make room for my car, and make it easy for me to park to and get in or out of the facility. For example:
· Many facilities are down steep ramps and driveways with no elevator service. Garage attendants have:
o Offered to drive me back to street level
o Told me to call ahead when I return and they will bring the car to street level
o Admonished me for coming down the ramp and not asking for assistance
· When I use my portable travel scooter, I have never had to assemble it on my own. Even the busiest garage attendant seems to want to help remove the pieces from my trunk, and help with the easy steps to assemble the scooter (it takes Laura less than a minute to do this now). I am always most appreciative, and have a tip ready, both coming and going. When I used the same garage on Liberty Street a second time in two weeks, they had the scooter pieces out of the trunk before I could get out of the car.
Anyone who thinks that New Yorkers are unhelpful or unfriendly has not had the quality interactions I have had with the fine gentlemen who staff NYC garages.
Once I am in NYC, I find the sidewalks and curb cuts to be quite adequate. Business locations are all quite accessible, but you sometimes have to use the loading dock for ingress and egress. I will probably write my next blog entry about some of the places in buildings that I have seen because of alternative routing of wheelchairs around old architectural impediments. Small restaurants and stores may not be as accessible. I always call ahead to see if the scooter will work, or if I am better off using the walker.
NYC is fun and manageable, but it always pays to plan ahead, have a strategy, and have a backup plan.
June 11, 2010