Health & safety
Crime rates here remain at their lowest in years. There are few neighborhoods remaining where you might feel scared (and that’s mainly in the outer boroughs), no matter what time of night it is. Subway stations are generally safe, too, though some in low-income neighborhoods, especially in the outer boroughs, can be dicey. There’s no reason to be paranoid, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so use common sense: don’t walk around alone at night in unfamiliar, sparsely populated areas, especially if you’re a woman. Don’t flash money around on the street, and keep your valuables somewhere safe. Unless you must accessorize with the real thing, leave the good jewelry at home. Carry your daily walking-around money somewhere inside your clothing (in a money belt, bra or sock) rather than in a handbag or an outside pocket, and be aware of pickpockets in particularly mobbed areas, like Times Sq or Penn Station at rush hour.
Healthcare is a major problem in this country, as there is no federal law guaranteeing medical care for all citizens, and health insurance is extremely costly. People living below the poverty line are eligible for Medicaid, which covers many costs, and seniors can apply for Medicare, which works in a similar way. But know that, as a visitor, all hospital emergency rooms are obliged to see you whether you can pay or not (you’ll just be in for an insanely long and unpleasant wait, as city emergency rooms are not known for their efficiency).
If you’re sick or injured, but not in bad enough shape for an emergency room, try one of the following options:
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center (212-271-7200; www.callen-lorde.org; 356 W 18th St btwn Eighth & Ninth Aves, Chelsea) This medical center, dedicated to the LGBT community and people living with HIV/AIDS, serves people regardless of their ability to pay.
Duane Reade Walk-In Medical Care (www.drwalkin.com) A new feature of the Duane Reade drugstore chain is the walk-in clinic, where a local-hospital-affiliated doctor is available for diagnosis and treatment. Manhattan has four locations and Brooklyn has two; a posted care menu onsite lists all fees.
New York County Medical Society (212-684-4670; www.nycms.org) Makes doctor referrals by phone based on type of problem and language spoken.
Planned Parenthood (212-965-7000; www.plannedparenthood.com; 26 Bleecker St, NoHo) Provides birth control, STD screenings and gynecological care.
Travel MD (212-737-1212; www.travelmd.com) A collection of physicians who specifically care for visitors to NYC; you can call to request a house call in your hotel room, or make an appointment to visit its East Side office.
New York City emergency rooms are like the ninth circle of hell. Avoid them at all costs. For when you really can’t avoid one, consult the local phone directory for a complete listing and prepare for a miserable visit that’ll average four hours (unless you’re in really dire shape). Following are some major hospitals with emergency rooms that have been rated among the least horrific:
Bellevue Hospital Center (212-562-1000; 462 First Ave at 27th St)
Lenox Hill Hospital (212-434-2000; 100 E 77th St at Lexington Ave)
Mount Sinai Hospital (212-241-6500; 1190 Fifth Ave at 100th St)
New York-Presbyterian Hospital (212-305-6204; 622 168th St at Ft Washington Ave)
St Vincent’s Medical Center (212-604-7000; 153 W 11th St at Greenwich Ave)
New York is practically bursting with 24-hour ‘pharmacies, ’ which are handy all-purpose stores where you can buy over-the-counter medications anytime; the actual pharmaceutical prescription counters have more limited hours. Those with 24-hour prescription counters include a downtown Rite Aid (212-529-7115; 508 Grand St at Clinton St, Upper East Side) and a Midtown CVS (212-245-0636; 400 W 58th St at Ninth Ave).
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