Former Winnipegger Jeff Swystun lives in Ottawa and commutes to New York about twice a month as the chief communications officer of DDB Worldwide Communications Inc. The advertising company is headquartered on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. “You can get a lot of things done with technology, but nothing beats face to face,” Mr. Swystun says.
What’s your favourite method for travelling to New York City?
Definitely flying into LaGuardia airport, but with customs and security, it doesn’t make for a quick commute. But often I can leave Ottawa or Montreal at six in the morning and beat many of my Madison Avenue colleagues into work.
Do you have a favourite airline?
I’m a super-elite member on Air Canada so I’m quite loyal to them. They’ve always treated me well and practically speaking, they’ve always serviced the routes that I frequent better than other airlines.
How do you get from the airport into the city?
I have the benefit of a car service which is great. There’ll be a gentleman waiting by the baggage carousel holding a yellow sign with my name written on it – usually spelled wrong given the challenge of my last name. I’ve also used the shuttle bus that takes you to different points. There’s one that drops you off right at Grand Central Terminal. Cabs, trains and subways are all right there. It’s a very reasonable amount of money to spend to get into the island There are also the ubiquitous yellow cabs queued just outside. When I’m in a rush, I don’t like relying on yellow cabs because sometimes the lineup can be 100 people long. I’ve waited upwards of half an hour or 45 minutes [to get a cab] but generally it’s efficient.
How do you get around Manhattan?
The yellow cabs are stupendous for whipping around once you’re in Manhattan. I’ve been traveling to NYC for 15 years and been on the subway once, so I’m definitely a ground transport guy. They’re also so reasonable – about half the price of cabs in Toronto. It’s a bit of a nail biter sometimes how the guys drive but they’ll get you from A to B in the quickest time possible.
Everything is so regulated now – they’ve got the rules up, you can get a receipt. There’s no sort of scamming like there was a reputation of in the past. I’m also a huge walker. Tack on a bit of time to discover Manhattan. Don’t come in just to go to business meetings and live under fluorescent lights.
One warning: If you’re walking down the street with luggage, you’ll get stopped by these cabs wanting to take you to the airport – usually black Lincoln Town Car, four-door type vehicles. Do not take a car ride with those guys. They’re not licensed, aren’t supposed to be picking anyone up and the rates aren’t what they should be.
What are your favourite spots in Manhattan?
I’m in mid-town, at 437 Madison Avenue. Every neighbourhood in New York is unique, from the restaurants to the traffic flow. You can still be a tourist while you’re a businessman in New York. There’s a great mix of business and tourists around 30 Rockefeller Center, where the skating rink is. Time Square is close too, but then you’re getting into more touristy restaurants. I like going further up Madison Avenue, about 15 or 20 blocks north, because it’s extremely quaint with great cafes and the best boutiques for shopping in New York.
What about lunch?
We usually order in for breakfast and lunch. I find I have to adjust to the time. At home, I’m very regimented to have lunch at noon but in Manhattan, they tend to eat later at 1 or 1:30 p.m. If you’re dining in, given the mass of people, reservations are required. New York has great delis and salad places for take out, such as Chop’t and Just Salad, where they toss your salad to order, but if you get there any later than 12:30, you’re in a lineup 40 people deep.
Prices are up there, even if you’re trying to do it on the cheap. Lunch can be $15 or $20 and that’s just grabbing out. Burger Heaven is $20 to $30 per person. My bowl of soup, chicken salad sandwich and a Coke came to $18. When I took my staff out yesterday to Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center, which has a large business component, lunch for four with no booze was $300 – for seafood bisque, crab cakes and cappuccinos. It was sticker shock.