Admissions Blog

Safe and The City: A Guide to Visiting Iconic TV Series Sites, And Safety Tips Too!

By Reena Mensingh '24
Posted Jan 10 2024

As an international school, students come to SIPA from all over the world and there are some safety considerations that might only be common to city-folk or to national students. In this blog, I’ll share some safety tips for living in Manhattan and Columbia-specific safety tools. It’s also important to enjoy your time here, so this safety-oriented blog is also a guide with some iconic locations from hit TV series set in New York City.

Before we get started, these are few phone numbers to keep in mind:

  • 9-1-1 is the nation-wide emergency phone number
  • (212) 854-5555 is Columbia University Public Safety
  • 3-1-1 is the nation-wide non-emergency phone number

Beyond the information in this blog, I strongly encourage you to review the Crime Prevention tips provided by Public Safety.

Let’s begin south of Manhattan, in Brooklyn!

The 99th Precinct – 78th NYPD Precinct. 65 6th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217 Brooklyn 9-9”

Brooklyn’s beautiful outdoor spaces and scenery make this first stop of our tour well worth your time. Take a stroll through the tree-lined streets and beautiful brownstone buildings, from Park Slope, to Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO, and explore the vibrant arts and music scene.

Beyond great thrift stores, bars, and cafes, Brooklyn is also home to higher than average crime rates, particularly for armed robbery and aggravated assault. Remember to be mindful of your belongings while enjoying yourself, and to put your camera and electronics away when they’re not in use. You might consider choosing earphones that are not white, since this signals you might be using an Apple Device. According to Public Safety, Apple Devices are more likely to be targeted than other electronic devices.

The Friends Building – 90 Bedford St, New York, NY, 10014 “Friends”

You might recognize this apartment building in Greenwich Village as home to some of your closest friends. Greenwich Village is a great place to browse interesting shops, people watch, and enjoy delicious food.

This area is relatively safe, just remember to look for bikers, cars, and buses when you cross the street. It’s best to turn down your music as well so there are fewer opportunities for you to be caught by surprise and to continue to move with confidence, like a true New Yorker

McGee’s Pub (MacLaren's Pub) – 240 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019How I Met Your Mother”

Suit up and grab a drink in the bar from HIMYM! This pub is located close to Hell’s Kitchen, which is a great area to find great restaurants and fun bars, including many LGBT+ friendly places. This area is not the same as Chef Gordon Ramsay’s cooking show, but was named from its gritty reputation back in the day.

If you’re enjoying the night-life here, be extra aware of your unattended drinks and of suspicious behaviour. This area has been flagged for druggings and armed robberies, so it’s best not to wander here alone at night. Remember to carry your ID and make sure your phone’s battery level is over 50%, this might be harder during extreme weather since battery life drains faster when it’s below freezing or in a heat wave.

Magnolia Bakery – 401 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014 “Sex and the City”

This iconic bakery featured in Sex and the City is located in Greenwich Village. Magnolia Bakery is best known for its phenomenal bread pudding, but also boasts lots of other delicious treats. Greenwich Village is home to lots of cafes, bars and restaurants. With jazz clubs, brownstones, and theaters, Greenwich Village is a great place for some people watching.

This area is generally quite safe, but it’s still best to stay in well-lit areas at night.

If you plan to use a ride share service like Uber or Lyft, do your best to adhere to these safety tips. In general, it’s best to wait for your ride indoors and when you see a vehicle with the same license plate, ask them for their name and ask them who they are picking up. Assuming these answers are correct, sit in the back seat and track your route on your phone. It might also be good to share your ride with friends or family.

Grand Central Station – Grand Central Station, 89 E 42nd StGossip Girl,” “Madagascar”

The Main Concours in Grand Central station is seen in the pilot episode of Gossip Girl, where we first see Serena. The station also features in the movie Madagascar, when the animals first escape from the zoo and call for help. The station itself is enormous, serving as a hub for most trains and buses, and also including eateries, a marketplace, and of course the beautiful Main Concours.

In general, it’s best to follow specific safety tips when it comes to public transit. You might lose signal and data connection, so it’s best to have a sense of where you need to enter and exit before getting on the train. Be aware of your surroundings if you need to buy or reload a metrocard, and remember not to get too close to the yellow line while waiting for the trains. Avoid taking underground transit alone late at night. Remember to adjust your personal belongings to be against the front of your body to prevent robberies. In general, avoid eye contact and give lots of space with anyone behaving erratically or belligerently and do your best not to respond to verbal harassment.

Morningside Park – W 114th St, New York, NY 10025Only Murders In The Building”

When you visit this part, you might wonder why you’re missing red glitter. Remember the “glitter bomb” from Season 2, when our favourite podcasters tried to track down the person framing them for murder? Well, it was filmed at this park!

In this area of Manhattan, you’ll find residents with a strong sense of community, and is also very close to Central Park, Riverside Park, and Morningside Park. There are also so many options for street food and sit-down restaurants which accommodate a broad range of budgets.

Morningside Park is incredibly lush, with cascading (and steep!) staircases cutting through Harlem and Morningside Heights.This park is very beautiful, but like all parks in the city, it should be treated with caution.

Even if you’re with a friend or two, avoid entering parks at night. Not only is it easy to sneak up on someone in the park, but it’s also difficult to be heard if you need help, and for emergency services to access you in the park. Do not walk through parks at night, especially Morningside Park. Walking here during the day is great, but do be aware of your surroundings.

There has been a recent uptick in crime in some areas of the Upper West Side but in general the same safety strategies apply, especially when it comes to being aware of your surroundings, avoiding situations where anyone is exhibiting suspicious behavior, and doing your best to stay in well-lit areas with a general sense of where you are heading. Do your best to walk with confidence and avoid walking and texting at the same time. If you’re moving to the city or even staying in a hotel, do your best to remember faces and be aware of suspicious behaviour.

Dylan’s Candy Bar – 1011 3rd Ave, New York, NY Gossip Girl,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Fill up on sugar when you venture North into the Bronx for Dylan’s Candy Bar! Beyond being featured in several TV series, this spot is definitely worth the hype.

Also home to Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Zoo, and the botanical gardens, the Bronx is a very special place.

In the, hopefully unlikely, event that someone tries to rob you, give up your property to avoid further confrontation. It’s best to keep your belongings close to you and to travel in well-lit areas with other people. Even as you enjoy your time in the city, be aware of a possible exit strategy in the event of a confrontation. And like in Kimmy Schmidt, keep an eye out for mischievous children in the candy store!

Columbia University – 116th and Broadway, New York, NY 10027 “How I Met Your Mother,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Ghostbusters,” “Gossip Girl,” “Suits”

Of course, our last stop in this “Safety Series” is our very own, Columbia University. The campus has been featured in many films and TV series. This stunning campus, full of history and beautiful architecture is truly a sanctuary in what can sometimes be an overwhelming city.

Remember to use the On-Demand Evening Shuttle and other Columbia shuttles, request a safety escort, download the Lion Safe app, and take advantage of safety resources offered by the university. Remember to use these public safety phone numbers, designated for Morningside campus Emergency: 212-854-5555 Main: 212-854-2797

Any establishment with the image of a Red Lion is a registered Safe Haven. There are over 130 businesses trained to contact Columbia University's Department of Public Safety or the police and wait with you for security personnel to respond. If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing specifics, you can just tell the employees you feel unsafe or, if applicable, that you’re being harassed, and they’ll connect you to the appropriate resources.

Above all else, remember that confidence and awareness are your safety friends, and you’ll have a great time in the Big Apple!