New York for business travellers

by Jeff.Mills

If you have to travel on business, there's nowhere better to do it than New York, as vibrant and exciting as cities come

 

New York is one of the few truly 24-hour cities to be found anywhere. The choice of hotels is as large and varied as you could wish and you could spend years in the city and never have to visit the same restaurant twice, though you may well want to.
 
Take a walk through New York and you really can imagine you are on the set of a blockbuster movie. Pipes rising mysteriously from the streets billow out steam from the subway and give the impression that you’ve just wandered through a controlled explosion on set. A sound effect that is thankfully, but surprisingly, not as frequent as may be expected, though, is the sound of police sirens – testimony perhaps to the success of former mayor Giuliani’s groundwork on cutting down crime.
 
European this city is certainly not - the old adage “size isn’t everything” doesn’t seem to have made it across the Atlantic. New York’s roads, for example, have around four lanes. And even the off-road 4x4 trucks, not unlike our own dear Chelsea tractors, don’t really cut it any more, at least not without modification. One of the latest crazes is stretching even these, limousine-style, as a mobile status symbol.
 
As anyone already familiar with New York will know, the city is built on a peninsula, with trendy residential districts such as SoHo, Greenwich Village and Chinatown on its southern tip and the main theatre and shopping areas on either side of Central Park in the north. Times Square and the Empire State Building sit in the centre of all this. New York was clearly constructed for people who can just about get around their own home without resorting to a map. The gridiron road pattern makes finding your way around very easy indeed. Just remember: avenues, including Fifth, Madison and Park, run up and down the city while streets run across it. If only getting around London were so easy.
 
GETTING AROUND
You don’t need a car in New York, of course - the transport system is geared up to move masses of people round the city quickly, cheaply and easily. And it works. Even if you don’t fancy the subway system or a bus, almost every other car in the city seems to be either a limousine or a cab. And there’s a good choice of suburban trains if you need to get out of Manhattan.
 
TOP BUSINESS HOTELS
Hotel Plaza Athénée, at 37 East 64th Street, is an excellent choice for business. Stay here and you will not only be right in the centre of much of the corporate action but also well-placed for the theatres and other forms of entertainment.
 
The Peninsula New York, sister to the Bangkok and Hong Kong versions, will fit the bill nicely if you fancy a touch of Asian style. It has a great location by Central Park and superb service, provided your expense account can stand it.
The Mandarin Oriental, similarly, is a sister to hotels in some of the smarter parts of Asia, not to mention London. It has an equally superb location, again with impeccable service.
 
ONE FOR YOUR TIME OFF
It may not be your first thought for time off but this hotel, right on Avenue of the Americas, is worth checking for special weekend rates it offers from time to time. Alternatively, take a look at the Chelsea Savoy Hotel on West 23rd Street, which is another one that often offers special rates and leisure packages at weekends.
 
EATING AND DRINKING
There are so many options in this fast-changing city that your best bet is often to simply ask locally for recommendations. However, as a guide to the right direction for business entertaining, try the Four Seasons (which has no connection with the hotel chain) on 99 East 52nd Street (+1 212 754 9494). It’s renowned as one of the best in the US, with the added attraction that a trip there for lunch could turn into time spent star-spotting: Joan Collins, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones are said to be regulars. And if celeb-spotting isn’t your thing, check out the works by Picasso and Jackson Pollock.
 
Don’t expect too much in the way of old-style fast-food Americana in New York these days. The city seems to have learnt the error of its ways, and burger bars and pizza outlets are now far from abundant; you actually have to hunt quite hard to find them. A much better bet is to head for one of the traditional delis, which you can still find all over town - they're outstanding value and entertaining, too.
 
The Oyster Bar on the lower ground floor level of Grand Central Station on 42nd Street is certainly worth a visit for an after-work drink or casual supper (+1 212 490 6650).
 
BUSINESS ETIQUETTE
Pretty similar to that you find in the UK, though you may get a sense that timing is rather more flexible than you may be used to. Suits are the norm for business meetings, though many will shed their ties at the first opportunity, as the working day merges into after-work drinks time.
 
ESSENTIAL SIGHTSEEING
New York has so many must-see sites that it’s tough to say which really can’t be missed. The observatory on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building is certainly worth a visit, as are Chinatown and Greenwich Village. Make time, too, for a ferry trip from Battery Park to see both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
 
Excellent shopping is a given in New York. If you think Harvey Nichols and Harrods are big, try Macy’s, so large you can easily get lost on any of its 11 floors. In general, Madison and Fifth Avenues on the east side of the city, midtown, have the best department stores, boutiques and jewellers.
 
NEED TO KNOW
New York is five hours behind UK time.
 
Office hours are generally Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm.
 
You can take time out right in Central Park, where there’s a boating lake and zoo.
 
If you have time, you can easily head off to the Hamptons on Long Island for super-chic resorts and great beaches.

 

Jeff.Mills

Jeff Mills has been reporting on the business and leisure travel and lifestyle sectors for more than 30 years, during which time he has visited most countries of the world at least once. A previous editor of the leading travel industry newspaper, Travel Weekly, and travel editor of Sunday Business, London-based Mills now has a business travel column in the Spectator Business and writes on travel regularly for a number of national newspapers, glossy consumer magazines and travel websites.