Get the Most Likes on Social Media with Sights by Sam Tours

With a city as large and diverse as New York, residents and guests love to share their home with those outside of the five boroughs. In this age of social media posting, this has never seemed easier. Picture-aggregation site Instagram has consistently rated the city as the most pictured place by its users. Other media services also record high numbers of New York attractions appearing in its collections. With so many places to see, Sights by Sam is the perfect way to snap that selfie or get that perfect photo of New York. Among some of the sites Sights by Sam can show:

Times Square can be seen on a tour of “Midtown Manhattan”, by day or by night. In addition to seeing the bright lights and the waves of people and traffic flowing through the bowtie-shaped intersection, guests will also be able to take their pictures with WWI hero Father Francis Duffy or with Broadway composer virtuoso George Cohan. Guests will also learn why this intersection is called “Times Square” and be able to understand the rise, fall, and new rise of this storied junction.

For those who like nature in the city, Central Park is often a great spot to snap and share photos. Sights by Sam’s “Central Park” tour shows off the emerald jewel of Manhattan in all its glory. Guests will learn about the purpose behind the formation of the park, its decline, and its great resurgence that continues to this day. In addition to learning about the park’s history (and the plants and critters that make the park their home), guests can also get pictures on the Oak Bridge, Bethesda Terrace/Angel of the Waters, and the Mall, among other iconic spots. For something different, visitors on Sights by Sam can even snap pics with a castle in the middle of Manhattan or with some of the most pampered trees in the city.

On Sights by Sam’s “Architecture: Building New York” tour, guests will learn about New York architecture, including some of Midtown’s highest peaks, and learn a bit of environmental and industrial history along the way.. Perhaps the biggest star of the tour is the ground the group actually walks upon—the High Line linear park, a repurposed train viaduct through the Far West Side and the Meatpacking District. This park has quickly become the new star attraction in Manhattan, connecting the new Hudson Yards area with the Whitney Museum of American Art. There is no perfect spot for selfies and pics; indeed, the entire tour is perfect for them.

In addition to all of these main sites, Sights by Sam provides a plethora of great places to photograph such as the Unisphere in Queens, Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, or the birthplace of hip hop in the Bronx (along with the NYC version of the Champs Elysees). Find your perfect spot with a Sights by Sam walking tour.

Subway Shuttles of New York City

New York, like London and Hong Kong, has subway shuttle lines.  These lines, unlike the others in the system, shuttle between only two (or sometimes up to five) points on the system.  While many of the regular numbered and letter trains of the NYC subway system function as shuttle trains after hours, there are three dedicated shuttle services on the system: one in Brooklyn, one in Queens, and one in Manhattan.  The three services also correspond with the former subway companies that serviced the city: the BMT, IND, and IRT.

The Brooklyn service is the Franklin Avenue Shuttle.  This line links about two miles between Prospect Park and Franklin Avenue.  The train links BMT, IND, and IRT services together between four stops and provides a great way to get to Prospect Park and Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Once part of a late 1800s railroad, this shuttle was truncated in 1963.  Known for most of its history for its low ridership and accidents from time to time, the Franklin Avenue Shuttle was rebuilt extensively and is unique as it is the only line on the system that is single-tracked.  The service also uses two-car trains due to its diminutive ridership levels.

The Queens shuttle is important, linking a stop on Broad Channel to Rockaway Park, a distance of two whole miles being covered with only five stops.  This shuttle has been in operation since 1956 and connects some of the farthest-flung communities in the city to the rest of the system.  While the shuttle could be impacted by hurricanes (as happened during Hurricane Sandy), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority worked hard to bring the line back up to code and operational again.

In terms of the shortest shuttle ride—and the most famous—there is the 42nd Street Shuttle.  This line operates at all times, excluding late nights, and covers 2700 feet in less than two minutes.  Originally part of the IRT subway line, the 42nd Street Shuttle was configured in 1918 and has kept its form since then. The shuttle’s line was part of the original IRT line that ran between City Hall and Lower Manhattan to 145th Street in Upper Manhattan via Grand Central and Times Square on 42nd Street (where the shuttle currently operates).  One of the more interesting proposals for the line that never came to pass was the idea to replace it with a conveyor belt system.  A fully automatic train was put into use on the shuttle for a brief time in the 1960s, but was withdrawn due to cost issues and a fire in the shuttle passage.  The shuttle today is known for its train interiors wrapped in advertisements, as it is one of the busiest in the system.

The shuttles on the NYC Subway are some of the more unsung heroes of the system.  Although they are not the subject of famous songs (such as Take the A Train), these lines help to alleviate pressure on the others of the network and to get people between lines more expediently.  The rides on these trains are also unique among the various subways of New York for their scenery and riders.  Catch the best tours of NYC (transit-focused upon request) with Sights by Sam.

Public Art

In addition to having some of the greatest museums in the country and the world, New York is blessed with an abundance of public art. Many artists are drawn to the city (and arts are funded by both private donors as well as the local government). This leads to many great public art displays (sanctioned by the government, companies, property owners, and some unsanctioned displays). Public art can be seen in all five boroughs.

The city has been the site of several large public art installations. These have proliferated since the early 1980s when the city passed a “Percent for Art” law in 1982 that mandated that city-funded construction projects must have a set-aside of one percent of the budget for public artwork. This is also supplemented by a similar program by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA Arts and Design). What this means is that there are many art installations and pieces in front of city-owned buildings and in subway stations. Over the years, several have been controversial, such as a sculpture in the Civic Center called Tilted Arc, which was a 120’ long block of cor-tenn steel across a plaza, which was removed after a court trial. One of the most famous pieces was done in 2005 by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude in Central Park called The Gates, which contained 7,503 orange gates spread throughout the park.

Much of New York’s public art not found in front of city-owned buildings or sponsored by companies can be traced to the work of the city’s Public Art Fund. Founded in 1977 by Doris C. Freedman, the Public Art Fund is a nonprofit organization that seeks to bring public art to spaces across all five boroughs. The goal of the organization is to bring contemporary art to the population of the city. A popular space for the public art fund to exhibit its works are at the entrance to Central Park at Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan and at Brooklyn Bridge Park near the eponymous bridge. Some of the most famous/most talked about pieces include New York City Waterfalls in 2006 and the 2017-2018 Good Fences Make Good Neighbors sculptures by Ai Weiwei.

As New York is full of art, visitors are able to see art on any Sights by Sam tour. Reserve your place on one of the exciting Sights by Sam walking tour by calling +1 (917) 242-8421, or through today.

Sunset Park

New York is a city full of great parks. Every borough contains such treasures, but one of the best can be found in Brooklyn. Although Prospect Park is the most famous of the parks in the Borough of Champions, Sunset Park sits on a beautiful, nearly-25-acre plot that provides commanding views of the surrounding neighborhood and views of Manhattan.

The neighborhood developed in the 1800s with the creation and development of the port of Brooklyn and nearby Industry City. When the port was working at full steam from the middle of the Antebellum Era through the end of World War II, it attracted many Scandinavian immigrants who settled in the immediate area (so that they could work at their jobs at the port). This settling activity led to the spread of cooperative housing in the neighborhood (and later throughout the city). There was a lot of port activity at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. The neighborhood began to decline after World War II with a downturn at the port and the completion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

The Scandinavian population left and the neighborhood became populated by Latino people. They would be joined by Chinese in more recent decades who have established a lively commercial district along 8th Avenue. The main attraction of the neighborhood is of course the park, which was established in the 1890s. It is perhaps most famous for its grand vistas and recreation center built in 1936. This is the type of information that you will learn on a Sights by Sam walking tour. To see the fabulous park and to explore this great neighborhood, contact Sights by Sam at +1 (917) 242-8421 or through to book a custom tour today.

Red Hook

On the western edge of Brooklyn lies Red Hook, a former shipping area. Known for its starring role in movies and for its industrial appearance, this neighborhood is now on the rise after decades of neglect. The neighborhood is now sporting many new businesses between older industrial facilities that once served the main port of the East Coast of the United States.

The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle the area in the mid 1600s—naming the area as “Red Point” for its red soil. The name was anglicized to Red Hook, as the Dutch word for “point” is similar to the English word for “hook” in appearance. With the construction of the Gowanus Canal, the area became very industrial and served great commercial ships. This neighborhood was the location of the famous 1954 film On the Waterfront. This movie was filmed at a time when containerization and changing economic times were forcing the port around Red Hook to become gradually abandoned. With the combination of deindustrialization and the building of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the neighborhood was literally and figuratively cut off from jobs. This led to a deep depression in the area—especially among residents of the very large housing projects dominating the section.

With falling crime and increased investment throughout New York, Red Hook has benefitted. The neighborhood is the site of an IKEA furniture store and an upper-end Fairway grocery store, in addition to other new shops. An increasing population, gentrification and better transportation connections with the rest of the city are the top issues for local residents. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sight by Sam tour. To see Red Hook on a walking tour, please contact Sights by Sam at +1 (917) 242-8421 or through


Brooklyn is the most populous of the five boroughs of the city. For most of its storied history, the borough was known for its industry. Facilities such as the Brooklyn Navy Yard and several factories producing items that included sugar, brillo pads, and pencils (to name but a few of the many commodities) dotted the landscape of Kings County. Among the most famous industrial areas (which has changed and is no longer such) is Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass—or, DUMBO.

Long a manufacturing area, the DUMBO neighborhood was known by many names throughout its history. The tall lofted buildings were ideal for factories when they were built, but they became obsolete in the era after World War II. In the postwar period, the lofts were abandoned but gradually became used by artists, writers, and other creative types starting in the 1970s. Not only were the lofts sought after, but there are also cobblestone streets in the district. The great views of the Manhattan skyline, access to the subway, and the bridge led to the gradual rising popularity of the neighborhood. The DUMBO name moved from a term used by realtors to one commonly used by many in the city. A citywide reduction in crime starting in the 1990s helped to make the area more desirable to visit and live.

As the neighborhood began to increase in popularity, the rents and cost of land gradually increased. This neighborhood is now the site of several corporate headquarters such as West Elm and Etsy. DUMBO is becoming more popular with the recent completion of Brooklyn Bridge Park, bringing more people to this great part of the city. In addition to learning about this neighborhood on a Sights by Sam walking tour, see the area on our “Borough of Brooklyn” tour.

Pizza in NYC

It is not surprising that since New York has people from all over the country and world, our food would match the uniqueness and variety of the city. The cuisine of the city consists of dishes and snacks like hot dogs, General Tso’s chicken, bagels, and coffee—among many others. Perhaps the quintessential New York dish is pizza. Owing to its status as the major entry point for many Italian Americans and as a major center of culture in the United States, pizza spread from New York in the late 1800s and throughout the country.

While there is dispute as to which great American city has the best pizza (Chicago and Detroit come to mind), New York has a style typified by a thin crust, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. This type of pizza is also often cooked in a coal-fired oven. It has been said that the water in New York has unique properties that make the pizza dough tasty, although this has not been conclusively proven. In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi founded Lombardi’s Pizza, considered by historians and pizza enthusiasts to be the oldest pizzeria in the United States. Many pizzerias descended from Lombardi’s. One of the most prolific but unrelated pizza restaurants in the city is the preponderance of “Ray’s” locations throughout the city that are seen and patronized by natives and visitors alike.

For individuals looking for a New York experience, there are dozens of different and great options for pizza in the city. Some of the best pizza joints originated on Staten Island, but good pizza can be found throughout the other boroughs as well. To experience pizza the proper New York way, it is customary to fold the pizza slice inward and consume. Food tours can be requested through Sights by Sam tours, where you can eat and learn many things on a special request tour.

Commuter Rail– A Primer

New York is a major magnet for people coming in to work and visit. As I have mentioned before, Manhattan has a daytime population of over 4 million people. While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bus and subway services carry millions of people around the city, thousands come into the city by train from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut every day. Although some consider the Port Authority’s PATH trains to be commuter rail (this system is covered in another Sights by Sam blog article), this post will cover the three main commuter rail systems converging on New York City: the Long Island Railroad, Metro North Railroad, and New Jersey Transit railroads.

Carrying over 350,000 people into the city every week on 12 routes, the Long Island Railroad was founded in 1834 and is one of the oldest railroads in the U.S. (it is believed to be the oldest railroad retaining its original name). The railroad helped to develop Long Island and led to the increased settlement of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. While the Long Island Railroad was once an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Railroad, it is now an arm of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The railroad terminates at Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan in addition to major terminals in Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens. In the next decade, the Long Island Railroad will begin to serve Grand Central Terminal as part of the massive “East Side Access” tunneling project.

Bringing commuters from Upstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the Metro North System carries over 300,000 people into the city daily via three lines fanning out from Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan and two additional lines that go into Upstate New York (going through New Jersey and terminating at the Hoboken Terminal in nearby Hoboken, NJ). Metro North service has been improved in recent years with new rolling stock. Before being taken over by the MTA, Metro North services were operated by the New York Central Railroad and other services. This commuter system is known for its ornate terminals at Grand Central and Hoboken Terminal.

The third major commuter railroad serving New York comes from New Jersey. The New Jersey Transit system, carries 240,000 people into New York daily on ten of its 11 lines (one rail line goes from Philadelphia, PA, to Atlantic City, NJ). Commuters arrive from all corners of New Jersey through Penn Station. Other services arrive at Hoboken Terminal or terminate at the massive Secaucus Junction. New Jersey Transit, headquartered in Newark, NJ, was formed in 1979 and unified rail services previously run by other operators and the bus services of the Public Service Enterprise Group (a major electric company in the Garden State).

These three systems help to bring thousands into the city daily. Due to the high price of land and housing in New York, these commuter rail systems allow people to work in Manhattan (or in the outer boroughs) while living further afield. While these railroads help people come into the city and take thousands of cars off of the street, they are under increasing strain from high use and aging infrastructure. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam Walking Tour, with major rail stations of the city being shown on tours of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

City Government, A Primer

New York City is by far the largest city in the United States. Overseeing hundreds of square miles of territory and providing for the safety of over eight million people is no small task. The city has a budget of well over $70 billion and an army of over 300,000 municipal workers (including but not limited to police, firefighters, sanitation workers, and park workers) to help maintain the city. So how does the city work?

The mayor is elected every four years by all of his citizens of the city and is responsible for executing their laws. The mayor is the nominal head of 32 city agencies and sits as a board member on 29 cultural attractions in town. Since the 1930s, the mayor has often delegated power to deputy mayors in an effort to run the city smoothly. If the mayor is unable or unwilling to perform his duty, the public advocate, a citywide elected position which functions as an ombudsman, would take that role. All city voters also elect a comptroller who is the chief financial officer of the city.

In terms of legislation, New York City residents are represented by 51 councilmembers. Each member has a district containing over 150,000 residents. The council is divided into several committees and passes legislation for the city. The council elects a speaker to act as the body’s leader. Like in the federal House of Representatives, bills are sent to the mayor for signature to become law. The council can also override a mayoral veto.

Because New York is made up of five boroughs, both the city and state of New York have courts in each of the five boroughs. The voters of each borough elect a district attorney. Federal courts are located in Manhattan and in Brooklyn. Each borough also has an elected borough president (who in turn has an advisory committee made up of council members and community members). While these offices are ceremonial, the borough presidents can introduce legislation in the city council and work as cheerleaders for their respective borough. Each neighborhood in the city is also part of one of 59 community boards that meet periodically to discuss local issues and recommend action, but are merely advisory in nature.

This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour. See where the city government meets on our “Foundation of New York” tour.

Brooklyn Heights

Billed as America’s first suburb, Brooklyn Heights is right across the East River from Manhattan. The area is steeped in important moments in American History and is a charming area to visit today.

Although there were scattered settlers in the area since the arrival of Europeans to what is now New York City, the area now known as Brooklyn Heights was the scene of General George Washington’s retreat to Manhattan during the American Revolution in 1776. On the run from a numerically superior British force, Washington organized a retreat of the Continental Army to Manhattan by deceiving the British that the Americans had camped in Brooklyn Heights for the night while they were actually moving across the East River to New York. The area was settled as a suburb of New York after the American Revolution and was marketed as a place where well-to-do businessmen could be close enough to go to work in the city (by regular ferry service) and live in a more bucolic location. In the lead up to the Civil War in the 1850s and in 1860, abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher held court at the Plymouth Church, where he expounded upon the evils of slavery and urged his congregants to do the same. By 1900, the area was full of wood or brick row houses.

This neighborhood became more middle class after the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, but it has since become a more upscale area as property values in the city have edged ever upward. You are able to see Brooklyn Heights on the “Borough of Brooklyn” tour conducted by Sights by Sam, as well as the type of information you will learn on any Sights by Sam tour.