Luckily, I do actually have a few relatives in the city (a cousin on each side of my family), so we got to see the city from the perspective of a local. For this trip we decided to stay with my cousin Chris, who is a full professor at NYU (he seemed like a better option then my cousin who is trying to make it in musical theater). Chris lives in a "Faculty Housing" apartment building in Manhattan. And his apartment provided the most important lesson we learned about living in Manhattan... mainly that real-estate is insanely expensive.
His apartment is on the 14th floor of a giant apartment building from the 60's. He has a pretty basic 1-bedroom place that has remained completely un-renovated since it was built. That means he has some pretty retro-fantastic kitchen cabinets and flooring. His place also boasts an amazing view (the two buildings under construction are the new World Trade Centres).
The high cost of space also means that everywhere is absolutely packed with buildings. From my tour of European cities I'd come to expect broad avenues and large expanses from which I could take my touristic photos of Notre Dame or Buckingham Palace. Those expanses may exist in New York... but most of my photos were taken from pretty cramped locations.
However, that does not mean that the city is devoid of parks, in fact we started having to change our navigation routes simply to avoid stopping at a playground. Despite our best efforts, we still managed to visit quite a few playgrounds.
To finish off, here's a picture of Nikolai looking over the Lego recreation of the Rockefeller Center (I never did manage to get a whole picture of the real life version, as there was always too many people blocking my view.)