We have been to New York City a few times and love it. This trip, part of two weeks that saw us in Washington and Boston for the first time, was all about lower Manhatten, the new 9-11 memorial, a gorgeous hot sunny day in Central Park and several days spent discovering Brooklyn !
Where did we stay ?
The Holiday Inn Financial District and the Sheraton Brooklyn. Both hotels were costly disappointments, particularly the aweful Sheraton. The Holiday Inn was cramped, a poorly equipped wet room, no room to manoeuvre the wheelchair between two large and I have to say comfy beds, with a wardrobe too small to take many clothes and building site for a location…..tho once away from the immediate hotel area you are literally right on top of the superb Freedom Tower, the 9-11 memorial and Westfields amazing whole-food shopping centre alongside the breathtaking new and fully accessible transport hub.
The Sheraton Brooklyn is just such bad value it’s not true. It cost a staggering £700 for two nights. Was meant as a bit of luxury at the end of a very special holiday. The “accessible” bedroom is poor. The wet room dire. It’s way too small and there’s no room to turn a powerchair properly, no fixed shower seat or mobile shower chair. To use the loo some will have to leave the door open into the bedroom and there is no side transfer onto the loo. I had to use two child mattresses and a square Ottoman as ‘steps’ to crawl onto the floor to get into the shower, it was that poor. The staff were then decent enough to admit that the room shouldn’t be booked by disabled people unless they can walk from their wheelchair !! Ok it was an expensive mistake but don’t be kidded by this example of a supposed upscale brand, there are a lot of better more genuinely accessible hotels in the Big Apple.
What did we see and do ?
The new 9-11 memorial is just stunning. It’s all accessible. It’s moving, inspiring, wonderfully well designed and a credit to the city. A dignified and respectful way to honor those murdered on that terrible day. Pay $24 each for 60 minute tour, it’s amazing value, the insights alone add hugely to your understanding of what happened to the Twin Towers and how this great city stepped up and proudly fought back. The two memorial ‘pools’ outside are also very moving, Touch a name etched around the steel sides of the pools and keep those memories alive. Freedom Tower itself is impressive, the ride up the super fast lift a bit different ! The views amazing and the lunch at the top of the world, affordable and tasty. It’s all accessible.
We spent a fabulous day in Central Park. The gorgeous weather helped but this is a fascinating space and it’s easy to see why New Yorkers jealously protect its borders. We decided to do something a little different and did a long walk to 86th Street and the thought provoking Guggenheim museum of modern art. It’s surprisingly pricey to get in, about $50 for two. The circular ramped style design of the exhibits is unusual and accessible tho quite a push for any wheelchair user without an engine under their bum ! The art is, well, it’s all in the eye of the beholder as they say and I made it up to the very top floor to look quizzically at the famous Jackson Pollack……don’t ask me to critique it !
How did we get around ?
In truth, we walked, a lot. Easy for me in the powerchair tho in some areas the lack of dropped kerbs and terrible state of the sidewalks made life tough, particularly the Canal Street area. We did try the stunning new transport hub at the World Trade Centre and experienced a NYC Subway train for the first time – it was an adventure, just about wheelchair friendly, but few stations can be used and frankly it remains a risky if lively way to get around the city. The buses are all accessible which is useful. But walking and navigating your way around the famous NYC grid system is interesting, not too difficult and you quickly find yourself caught up in the frenetic lifestyle ! We did use the new Uber wheelchair accessible cabs via their App. It was hit and miss. Not overly expensive and mostly reliable but some long waits. The rear access ramps were great, the drivers knew their stuff and honestly we’d use Uber again whilst trying to forget about the many criticisms of them as a company, which is hypocritical but frankly this accessible service can be a life saver.
How was Brooklyn ?
Very different ! Felt like a real neighbourhood. Lots of side pavements and narrow ones towards the river. Local shops and local people, it had something about it that was really not Manhatten. I bravely had my hair cut in a Latino barbers, big cutthroat razers, loud chatter, and a very good no3 !! Everywhere we went we got a friendly welcome. Juniors restaurant off Flatbush Avenue served up huge tasty meals at reasonable prices. The pancakes for breakfast was a Slimming Workd disaster, piled high and oh that Maple Syrup ! The walk down the harbour side is well worth the effort, we came across a film crew putting together some scenes from Sesame Street!
The view of Manhatten is just sensational from Brooklyn. Overall even just a couple of days allowed us to feel comfortable in this cosmopolitan place and we jealously looked on as casual diners cooked their steaks in a family BBQ area with quite simply a view to kill for !
Some top tips for visiting NYC :
Dont stay at the hotels we did !
Visit the new 9-11 memorial museum and do wander around Central Park.
Give the subway a miss until more stations are made step-free.
Try Brooklyn, it’s really worth the visit and it’s people are friendly !
Stay midtown and walk the city in blocks, not too many each day, the planning pays off.
Wheelchair users watch out for aweful sidewalks and in some places disappearing drop kerbs.
Cheers, Rustyman, and don’t hesitate to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like any other feedback on our trip to the States.