My Brother Does Things

The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down


Hi. I’m JD’s brother, Karl, and I’m here to tell you about something I did so you don’t have to. In fact, you probably never even thought about doing it. To me, that’s part of the appeal.

I spent the night in in all five New York boroughs so you don’t have to.

My original goal was to spend the night in the 50 most populous counties in the United States. That journey ended with a night spent in Contra Costa County, Calif., but the route had to go through the Big Apple, and suburban New York and New Jersey counties.

People tend to have opinions, both good and bad, about New York. Ask someone about a trip to Dayton or Des Moines and they probably won’t have much to say. But visitors always have something to say about New York.

Manhattan is full of great hotels, and there are quite a few in Queens around Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. In recent years, even inexpensive Manhattan hotel tariffs have ballooned to more than $300, in turn creating new hotels in the outer boroughs at lower prices.

But a few years back this wasn’t the case. It took a little creativity and a disregard for safety to spend the night in certain places.

I didn’t want to stay at the Heroin Hotel or somewhere likely to be in the crossfire of gang warfare. I imagined being questioned by police in the hospital after being struck by a bullet, trying to explain my wish to spend the night in the 50 most populous counties in the United States.

If you’re booking a hotel online, especially if you’re seeking budget accommodations in New York, read the guest comments.

“The room was so small it was like a little box,” one description read. Or, “Small, unsafe, rude staff.” Or how about, “Mice ate my M&Ms.” One offered, “The hotel is horrible, the location is all right.” Or simply, “Don’t go here.”

My overnight in Queens on a business trip was not memorable. It was a place called the Hotel Adria in distant Bayside. I do remember driving all the way into Manhattan on Northern Boulevard.

Staten Island’s Cosmopolitan Motel on Hylan Boulevard was a little dicier. There seemed to be a lot of teenagers partying in many of the rooms, and they were high on something. And not a mellow high. The front door lock didn’t look very solid. Determined to stay, I dragged one of the flat, shapeless mattresses up against the door, to at least delay a forced entry.

It’s easy to spend the night in Manhattan, and the first time I did it was in the Edison Hotel, an old-style New York hotel just a couple of blocks from Times Square.

(For the record, Staten Island’s Richmond County (pop. 475,000) is the only New York borough that is not in the top 50.)

Brooklyn, which would rank as one of the largest cities in the U.S. if separate from New York, now boasts a Marriott in its downtown, along with smaller motels and bed and breakfasts in Park Slope. A few years back, though, choices were limited.

The Golden Gate Motor Inn charged a princely $100 for a spare, dirty room that was surrounded by noisy (and probably dangerous) neighbors. “If you want to spend the night in this borough, you’re going to have to pay for it,” seemed to be the attitude.

With Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn checked off my list, that left only the Bronx. Ogden Nash once said, “The Bronx, no thonx.” Obviously he was not interested in spending the night in the 50 largest counties.

There were a fair number of motels, but most of them were in bad areas and were probably used for activities other than sleeping. I decided to check out the Van Cortlandt Motor Inn, on Broadway in Riverdale, one of the borough’s better neighborhoods.

A man who looked like Joey Buttafuoco, with a wad of bills enclosed in a big hammy fist, was waiting to check in.

“I wanna a room fuh three howas,” he announced in a raspy New York accent.

I gave a nod to Joey, resisting the urge to mention the Long Island Lolita. I checked in and went to my room. No prostitutes, no drug dealers, no syringes in the bathtub. So far, so good.

Any unpleasant odors were masked by the strong smell of fresh paint. Maybe they repainted the room after each guest.

Having checked out the room, I left to spend the day in Manhattan, coming back to Riverdale in the evening. There was a neighborhood bar nearby, and I had a few beers and watched a Yankees game on TV.

I wondered if any other traveler ever had this itinerary: A day in Manhattan, a night in the Bronx, and then on to the Meadowlands the next day to see a Jets game.

After an uneventful night I left the next morning for New Jersey, my Bronx box checked off. I ordered fresh paint for the room.

I didn’t inquire as to whether Mr. Buttafouco had successfully completed his business at the hotel.


My awesome brother Karl is the editor-in-chief of trade publication FDM Magazine. In addition to New York, he has traveled to Germany, Thailand, Singapore, Ireland, and Scotland. So far, no mice have eaten his M&Ms.

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19 Responses to “My Brother Does Things”

  1. 1 Jeff

    FHM Magazine! Sweet! Say Karl, can I stop by the office sometime and hang out? You know, just to see the sexy magazine machine in motion? I bet you get to meet lots of model… um citizens in your line of work eh?

    Ok… I’ll be nice. But if you’re gonna write on JD’s blog you’ll need to be prepared for a few smart asses like me. Anyway, great post Karl. You’re a braver man than I for staying in da Bronx. And not because of the thugs… but the BUGS!

    Jeff’s last blog post..naethaune

  2. 2 Jaffer

    Hey Karl ! Not as rough as I expected but you’ve got good stuff there !
    Is there going to be a sequel ?

    How far did you make it down in your list of 50 counties ?

    Jaffer’s last blog post..I be spied on !

  3. 3 Tim

    And here I was hoping to hear a story where you had to light a fire on the floor in order to cook your rat for supper :) Oh wait, didn’t something like that happen to JD years ago?
    Thank you very much for completing this task for me, since I know I will never have the urge to visit those places.

    Tim’s last blog post..Relationship Advice For Men – Give Your Lady Synthetic Grass

  4. 4 Tiggy

    I like the idea that New York hotel rooms are repainted after each guest. I guess blood doesn’t wash off very easily.

  5. 5 Broadway Matron

    Well, that’s how it goes for tourists. We NY’ers in exile know where to stay when we go back to the homeland…

    Broadway Matron’s last blog post..This has always bothered me – (total crazy rant)

  6. 6 Stephanie Barr

    I’d recommend cultivating friends in all these counties.

    Did you do this for your magazine? Or was it a personal whim?

  7. 7 Natural

    hey karl, nice to “meet” you. a family of writers (editors), aye? please adopt me.

    I’m in New Jersey, no Nu Joisey accent here. Whenever you come to the City, yes there is only one City, always stay in Jersey, just tell people you stayed in NY..we’re close enough for that to be a half truth. :)

    I don’t think I would want to spend the night in a NY hotel, too much money, so glad you took care of this. Thanks for filling in for JD.

    Natural’s last blog post..Fat and Happy?

  8. 8 Regan

    Hi, Karl. My name is Regan. I normally offer witty intellegent comments. At least I think I do.

    And those people who complain about their hotel? Fun to read. They usually just complain about how their experiance was so bad because they lost $20 on an elevator. So their comment might say something like ‘dis hotel is horible. Itz elevaters have some magicaly force that make u drop all ur moeny. DONT GOOO!!!!!!’ ((Note the bad spelling, too. Why is it the people with the stupid bad reviews have such bad grammamar?

  9. 9 chat blanc

    “the mice ate my m&ms”–bwahaha! also, that’s just scary! :P

    chat blanc’s last blog post..The unsuspecting servant

  10. 10 Corrina

    That was HILARIOUS. And informative! Kudos Karl!

  11. 11 john

    This is really getting funny. I have always liked this place, particularly the great hotels here are amazing!

  12. 12 absepa

    Great post, Karl! Apparently bravery runs in your family. Your sister gets up to all kinds of things I would never dream of doing, and you’re willing to spend the night in places that could erupt in gang warfare at any moment. I’m impressed.

    absepa’s last blog post..The Tank is Empty

  13. 13 Maureen

    Oh yikes… I don’t think you could pay me enough to brave some of those areas…. I would like to visit NY one day; but it would have to be a very very safe (and therefore expensive) place….

    You are far braver than moi.

    Oh, and thanks for filling in for your nudy sis! Hope you can pop by again sometime!

    Maureen’s last blog post..Losing It

  14. 14 Kathy

    I’m with Maureen. I’m not a brave or adventurous person by nature. The scariest thing I’ve ever experienced in a hotel is no room service. {shudders}

    Kathy’s last blog post..For Those of You With Kids in College

  15. 15 Jack Nordrhein-Westfalen

    Yeah, I am from germany, and i haven´t been to NY for a long long time, So what i am reading is that staying in a hotel there can be whether expensive or dangerous. That´s cool!!!!

    i had lot of fun reading your post, thanks a lot!

  16. 16 JD

    Karl responds:

    Jeff: Well, it’s FDM, not FHM. And while there are many great people in the industry, I’ve met only a few models. You’re welcome to visit my office, but you’d better hurry. It closes tomorrow! Most of us will be working from home.

    Jaffer: A sequel? That’s up to JD. I did spend the night in all 50 of the largest counties.

    Tim: No rats were harmed – or eaten – in the production of this narrative.

    Tiggy: Each hotel has to employ a union painter. That’s the law.

    Broadway Matron: In the Internet age it’s easier for outsiders to get the inside info. But it’s not as much fun.

    Stephanie Barr: These NYC trips were usually weekends before or after a business trip.

    Natural: I stayed in Jersey City once, within a block or two of the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, which I thought was fun.

    Regan: If you give someone the opportunity to complain, they usually will.

    chat blanc: Bring sealed containers for everything, even your suitcases.

    Corrina: Thank you!

    john: Wait until I get to the “bad airline experiences” post.

    absepa: It wasn’t quite that bad!

    Maureen: Most of the places that visitors go are quite safe. NYC is a great place to visit.

    A friend once defined roughing it as staying in a Holiday Inn without a Holidome.

    Jack Nordrhein-Westfalen: Expensive or dangerous? Why not both?

  17. 17 LBUG

    Ah, now I get it – not all in the same night! I thought the 50 most populous was a bit ambitious!

  18. 18 payday loans

    I’m pretty sure I would’nt want to spend the night in a NY hotel, not only too much money but to much to be afraid of. You are a very brave person.

  19. 19 Alejandro Compañías Seguros

    Amazing! 50 counties sounds like a big amount of places to visit.
    I hope you make it then soon!


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