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Hey Harold Ford: Insiders give potential Senate candidate tips on becoming real New Yorker

Harold Ford Jr. (Photo: AP)

He may insist he’s a New Yorker, but potential Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. is sure carrying a lot of “carpetbaggage.”

The three-year Gotham resident and former Tennessee congressman still hasn’t replaced his Tennessee driver’s license and hasn’t even voted here yet.

“If he’s coming from Tennessee, he may not understand what’s going on in New York,” said Marie Pierre, 59, of Queens, who didn’t know him by name.

It seems Ford, who thought the Flatiron District was “about a block,” not two miles, from the federal courthouse, could use a crash course in all things New York. Here’s an insiders’ tip sheet that might just give him some quick street cred with voters.


“The dead giveaway for a tourist in New York is if they ask for HEW-ston Street. It’s pronounced HOW-ston Street and it’s named for William Houston, a Georgian delegate to the Continental Congress.”
—Luke Miller, owner of Real New York Tours

“When it comes to style, New Yorkers prefer black and gray — monotone with signature accessories like big glasses or big hair. The individualism lies in the details and the accessories. For politicians, it’s great tailoring, great shoes, great neckwear.”
—Alissa Jenkins, 31, Brooklyn Heights

“As a real New Yorker, he must avoid all chain stores and big-box retailers. Head to Nolita and have a bespoke suit made just for him. Excellent shirts can be found at Seize Sur Vingt. In addition, a cool pair of sneakers for the weekend will make people see he’s in touch and down to earth. Head to Reed Space on Orchard Street for the best in footwear that can transition from the boardroom to the VIP room seamlessly.”
—Jeff Staple, founder and creative director of Staple Design and Reed Space

“Get the L from Brooklyn into Manhattan. … It goes black, white, Orthodox Jewish, black again, Hispanic, then Irish, then into Manhattan. … Try Bushwick, Brooklyn. Nobody knows that place and yet it’s a primer on urban life in America.”
—Jimmy Breslin, journalist and novelist

“To finally get your New York driver’s license, hit up the DMV mid-week, when it’s least crowded. The License X-Press Office on 34th Street has the shortest lines.”
—Sara Baumberger, amNewYork designer

“If he’s a real New Yorker than he only eats pastrami sandwiches from Katz’s — hot pastrami on rye with mustard. From there’s it’s all downhill.”
—Kevin Albinder, manager of Katz’s Deli

“If you find yourself sitting in the right field bleachers of Yankee Stadium, don’t be caught dead wearing the visiting team’s jersey.”
—Nick Swisher, Yankees outfielder

“He should try ale. Ale won’t damage his brain; he’ll have good thinking. There’s no hangover. … He’s a government official? Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, Jack Kennedy: They all drank here and they drank ale, not beer. We’re here a 156 years, and that’s all we ever sold.”
—Matthew Maher, owner of McSorley’s bar

“There’s a bit of an unspoken, friendly rivalry between NYU and Columbia. ... Choose your allegiances wisely.”
—Mike Finkelberg, 20, Greenwich Village, NYU student

“Visit Ellis Island, then take a ride on the 7 train. Immigrants are an integral part of our past, present, and future. … With 3 million immigrants in NYC, 37 percent of the population, it’s time to give us some respect — we’ve got you surrounded!”
—Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition

“From one Southern immigrant to another, you know what really works in New York? Letting ’em think you’re dumb. So don’t try to hide the accent. Low expectations are a Southerner’s best friend. That way, if you can string together a couple of two-syllable words, New Yorkers will think you’re a regional genius. Try it. ‘Vodka tonic.’ See what I mean? ‘Baby mama.’ Pretty soon, they’ll be calling you Bubba Einstein!’
—Ellis Henican, amNewYork columnist

“If I were him, I certainly wouldn’t go anywhere near Chelsea, near that whole club scene, I would hang out in Little Italy, Nolita and NoHo, just because it’s a much more upscale scene, more age appropriate.”
—Chris Hoffman, CEO and founder of Shecky’s lifestyle Web site

“You should at least pretend you take the subway, even if you drive everywhere. Familiarize yourself with the subway map, and know that if someone talks to you about the ‘H’ line, they’re messing with you. Also, the ‘G’ train is a myth as well.”
—Emily Hulme, amNewYork associate editor

“When asking for directions niceties and greetings are not necessary. Simply tell the cop, dog walker or unemployed artist where you need to go. They will help you but please no small talk. Move along now.”
—RJ Mickelson, amNewYork photo editor

“Take the subway and never forget to carry your MetroCard in your wallet. You’ll be asked to show it off at hearings to prove your New York credentials.”
—Heather Haddon, amNewYork reporter

“Never make any plans that leave you looking for a taxi at 4 p.m. because that’s when they change shifts and they won’t take you unless you’re already heading in the direction of their garage.”
—Borris Rasin, co-founder of the Monty Burns for Mayor campaign

“Stuyvesant Town is not in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Do not make this mistake.”
—Sara Benincasa, comedian, writer and radio talk show host

“A real New Yorker would know that the New York Giants haven’t played a game in New York since 1975 and would not go to the bathroom during “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium”
—Pete Catapano, amNewYork managing editor

“New York will hit you like a freight train with all of the choices. … Best classic chocolate chip cookie is at City Bakery.. … Viva herbal pizzeria is the best healthy pizza joint with spelt, soy, whole wheat and vegetarian options that would make a carnivore second-guess it.
—Bethenny Frankel, author of “The Skinnygirl Dish” and creator of Skinnygirl Margaritas

“No New Yorker would ever stop for the annoying guys that hawk free stand-up comedy shows around Times Square. If you really want to fit in, do what I do: Answer 'no' when they ask you if you like stand-up, and keep walking.”
—Perrie Samotin, amNewYork associate editor

 “Learn the New York lingo: 1. You wait ‘on line’ not ‘in line’ at a store. 2. We don’t refer to subway lines by their colors.”
—Lucy Blatter, amNewYork Features editor

“Radio City Music Hall and Lincoln Center are New York institutions, but real New Yorkers hear the hippest bands downtown at Bowery Ballroom and in Brooklyn and Music Hall of Williamsburg.”
—Scott Rosenberg, amNewYork associate editor

Jason Fink and Taneish Hamilton contributed to this story.

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