Three Perfect Days: New York City
Story by Nicholas DeRenzo and Justin Goldman | Photography by Mark Hartman | Hemispheres September 2016
Everyone knows New York City. You've heard the names: the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps. You've heard Sinatra sing, “Start spreading the news," Biggie Smalls rap, “It was all a dream." You've seen King Kong climb the Empire State Building, Robert De Niro steer a taxi down Broadway, Meg Ryan moan in Katz's Deli.
And yet New York, perhaps more than any other city, is impossible to know, because it changes so fast. The last 15 years alone have seen downtown Manhattan rebuild and flourish, Brooklyn become so hip that it's now a cliché to use the borough as a cultural reference point, and the immigrant hub of Queens become lauded as a tourist destination.
Impossible to know? Maybe—but that's just what your humble correspondents have set out to do. We're both children of the outer boroughs (the Bronx for Justin, Staten Island for Nicholas) who spent our adolescent years in sunnier climes (California and Florida, respectively) but were drawn back here as adults. Each of us has spent the last few years rediscovering a city that both is our home and isn't, with the sort of hunger that only an outsider trying to establish himself as an insider can display. Can we call ourselves real New Yorkers? Who knows. But we can share what we've found—what's putting the new in New York—with you.
Manhattan: In which Nicholas and Justin take in the galleries at the new Whitney Museum, stroll the High Line, and drink cocktails in an old opium den
It's early morning, and we're standing under the Washington Square Arch, Manhattan's own Arc de Triomphe. The world's greatest city is at our feet—where to go? We look up Fifth Avenue, at the Empire State Building, then south across Washington Square Park, at the new World Trade Center. Maybe let's start with breakfast.
We cross the park, passing a TV shoot where Paul Giamatti poses for photos with elderly fans. We stop for a bit at the West 4th Street basketball courts to watch an early game, then head up to Christopher Street, past the Stonewall Inn, recently named the country's first national monument to LGBT history. Finally, a couple of blocks up 7th Avenue, we reach Dominique Ansel Kitchen.
The balconies at the Whitney Museum of American Art, above the West Side of Manhattan and the Hudson River
Inside the sunny patisserie, we meet Ansel, the French-born creator of the most talked-about baked good since, well, sliced bread: the Cronut. Three years after its invention, the doughnut-croissant hybrid still commands blocks-long morning lines at Ansel's Soho bakery, but at this year-and-a-half-old West Village outpost the only Cronuts in sight are the ones on the chef's iPhone case.
“I eat one of these every morning," Ansel says, handing us hot-from-the-oven brown sugar DKAs, or Dominique's Kouign Amanns—a caramelized croissant-dough Breton specialty. He follows this up with a warm Applejack-glazed cinnamon spun roll, meant to taste—from end to end—like the center (read: best) part of a regular cinnamon roll.
“I've been in New York for a little over 10 years, so I'm officially a New Yorker!" Ansel says with a broad smile. “New Yorkers are so well traveled, so open-minded, really curious, and not afraid of trying new things. It doesn't matter where they're from or what they grew up eating, they're here to explore, and that's the beauty of New York."
Apothéke, a sultry cocktail lounge in a former opium den
Along with having great taste in food, New Yorkers are famously attuned to the arts; Manhattan alone is home to at least a half dozen world-class museums. The one garnering the headlines lately is the Whitney Museum of American Art, which moved last spring from its stodgy Upper East Side digs to a $422 million, Renzo Piano–designed structure in the trendy Meatpacking District. The current main exhibit,
Human Interest, is a multimedia survey of portraiture from the museum's permanent collection, such as Rosalyn Drexler's Marilyn Pursued by Death and Urs Fischer's eight-foot-tall melting-candle sculpture of Julian Schnabel.
In front of Andy Warhol's Double Elvis, we meet the museum's chief curator, Scott Rothkopf, who tells us about the Whitney's recent move. “We feel like we have not just expanded our museum but have become part of a hugely changing psychogeography of New York," he says. “The way people think about the city has really changed, and the way they move around it and the places they visit."
A few steps from the museum exit, we ascend the steel stairs of the High Line, a park built atop a mile-and-a-half-long stretch of abandoned railroad track, which has revitalized Manhattan's West Side and inspired urban planning throughout the world. We stop into Friends of the High Line co-founder and executive director Robert Hammond's office, a glass box suspended over the edge of the old railway. After waving to a group of schoolkids below, he tells us about the unexpected success of the park that he started working on in 1999 and which opened a decade later.
Robert Hammond, co-founder and executive director, Friends of the High Line
“We hoped it would have 300,000 visitors a year, and we get 7.5 million," Hammond says. “We were ambitious, but we weren't thinking it was going to be one of the top tourist destinations in New York." He glances out at the Standard Hotel, which straddles the park. “The reason the High Line works is it's not an escape from the city. You feel the city, but you're slightly removed. It's a different way of thinking about New York."
We're starting to feel peckish, so Hammond directs us beneath the tracks to Santina, another glassy Piano-designed space, which is owned by the park but run by the restaurateurs behind über-popular Italian red-sauce joints Parm and Carbone. Murano-chandeliered Santina proffers lighter fare: cecina, or chickpea pancakes, with Calabrian tuna tartare; a show-stopping crudité served in a terra-cotta cauldron; and a crispy sea-bass sandwich with capery tartar sauce.
Feeling contento, we reenter the High Line and stroll uptown, thick prairie grass and flowers on either side. We pass tourists wiggling their toes in a fountain, photographers shooting models for magazines, and Sleepwalker, a sculpture of a somnambulant man in tighty whities that's so lifelike a teenager exclaims, “Is that guy real?" At 17th Street, we perch for a few minutes on the amphitheater-style seating before a large window, looking down on the yellow cabs streaming up 10th Avenue—“like Space Invaders," as Hammond says.
“The High Line is a microcosm of what's happening in New York. It was built as a freight line, then it was wild, now it's back to the public. Why the park really works is it kept some of that industrial history. It gives an authenticity and a connection to the industrial heritage of New York City. The city's always changing, but keeping some of those connections is important." —Robert Hammond
Red-brick apartment buildings and warehouses soon give way to the blue-glassed towers of Hudson Yards, an ongoing $20 billion redevelopment of old railyards. Here, we take the long escalator down into the Hudson Yards subway station—the city's newest, but not its most opulent. That distinction belongs to the Oculus, where we exit after a brief ride downtown. The centerpiece of glossy new transit centers and a high-end Westfield mall, the Oculus is a $4 billion, Santiago Calatrava–designed terminal that looks like a hockey rink wearing the Statue of Liberty's crown. Visible through a long skylight is One World Trade Center, or the Freedom Tower, a 1,776-foot monument to the city's resilience.
Resilience requires energy, which requires sustenance, so we're off to thrumming Houston Street—the pronunciation of which is perhaps the truest test of local vs. tourist—for dinner at Estela, which fed President Obama in 2014 and is one of only three NYC spots on this year's World's 50 Best Restaurants list. Unlike most of the jacket-required establishments on that list, Estela, set above a dive bar, is decidedly unstuffy. But who needs outsized ambience when you've got Uruguayan chef Ignacio Mattos working his magic?
We ask our waitress for a recommendation, and she launches into a monologue: “You must have the cured fluke with sea urchin. You must have the mussels escabeche. You must have the beef tartare. You must have the fried arroz negro. You must have the ricotta dumplings." She grimaces at her last two suggestions: “They're both starches, but I can't imagine coming here and not getting either of them." The preparations are simple, but every dish comes with a surprise. The tartare is leavened with crunchy fried bits of sunchoke; the mussels sit atop a verdant cilantro jus that's bright and refreshing enough to slurp by the spoonful.
Nightfall has locals swarming into theaters. While Broadway gets all the press (and tourist bucks), downtown is full of cool shoebox spaces and experimental companies. We skip Hamilton and head to the hit musical's birthplace: the off-Broadway Public Theater, a city institution since 1954 that runs programs like free Shakespeare in the Park. We enter the theater's cabaret space, Joe's Pub, for performance artist Taylor Mac's A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, a work-in-progress that will eventually dedicate an hour to each decade from 1776 to today. Mac, who was named a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, represents the best of new New York: steeped in history but squarely focused on the future.
Museum patrons on a balcony at the Renzo Piano–designed Whitney
For a post-performance drink, we cab it to Chinatown's Doyers Street, a crooked alley once known as “the Bloody Elbow" for the unwholesome activities that took place here. We step through an unmarked doorway and into Apothéke, a sultry cocktail lounge in a former opium den. We order cocktails from the prescription-themed menu: From the “Stress Relievers" section, we get a Siren's Call (Ford's gin, roasted seaweed, cucumber, squid ink, ginger, black smoked sea salt); from “Pain Killers," it's a Catcher in the Rye (rye, amaro Nonino, honey cordial, chamomile bitters, peated scotch mist). They taste so good that we don't notice how strong they are until it's too late.
In need of something to sop up those drinks, we pop next door to Apothéke's Mexican-themed sister bar, Pulqueria, for roasted jackfruit tacos and tuna crudo tostadas. It would have been a great preemptive hangover remedy—except that the restaurant also serves a mean mezcal Negroni. Oops.
From here, it's a 15-minute stumble to our hotel, The Beekman, which debuted this summer in a 19th-century office building on the site of the theater that staged the North American premiere of Hamlet, back in 1761. A few drinks deep, we gaze at the night sky through the pyramidal skylight that tops the hotel's nine-story Gilded Age atrium, which is fretted with ornate ironwork. Shakespeare would have loved this place.
Queens: In which the guys see the city in miniature, munch their way through America's most diverse neighborhood, and meet the new Mets
We start today the way millions of New Yorkers do every day: on a train. Specifically, we ride the 4 up to Grand Central Terminal, where, after a quick glance up at the famed constellation-decorated ceiling, we hop on the 7 and cross under the East River into the booming Queens neighborhood of Long Island City.
We're both flagging, so we grab brews and croissants at Birch Coffee, and then drop our bags at the Boro Hotel. The family-owned property, which opened last summer, plays up the industrial-chic feel of the neighborhood with steel beams wrapping around the building like stylized scaffolding. We pause on the balcony of our 12th-floor corner room to take in the view of the city, from the skyscrapers of Midtown to the low-slung buildings of Queens and the elevated train tracks that cut through them. Time to get back on one of those.
Storefronts in Jackson Heights's Little India
After 40 minutes of watching the world whip by through the 7's windows, we arrive at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. A short walk takes us to the site of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs. It's already hot, but the mist from the fountains below the Unisphere, a 120-foot-tall steel model of the Earth, offers a cooling respite. Three fellow parkgoers climb right in, but we restrain ourselves.
Just past the Unisphere, we find the Queens Museum, in a building that was constructed for the 1939 World's Fair and underwent a
$69 million renovation a few years ago. The centerpiece of the collection here is the Panorama of the City of New York. Championed by controversial city planner Robert Moses, the Panorama is a detailed rendering of the five boroughs built to a 1:1,200 scale (so the Empire State Building is only 15 inches tall). We circle the glass walkway above the model, pointing out personal landmarks—the Bronx and Staten Island neighborhoods where we were born, our current Brooklyn homes—punctuating most sentences with, “This is awesome."
For lunch, we take a short train ride to Jackson Heights. This is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country—167 languages are said to be spoken here—and with that diversity, of course, come great eats. To help us sift through those offerings, we've enlisted Jeff Orlick, a CBS news production crewman and restaurant beverage director who organizes an annual Tibetan dumpling tasting contest here.
Jeff Orlick, beverage director, Little Tibet; organizer, Momo Crawl
“I moved here because of the food," Orlick says as we stroll along Roosevelt Avenue, his home of nine years. He pauses as a train rattles overhead. “Food is the best way to put yourself into another culture." The first culture we encounter is Filipino, in the one-block Little Manila. We stop at Fiesta Grill, a
turo turo (Tagalog for “point point") counter, named for how you order. First we point at the turon, a sweet banana and jackfruit eggroll, then we point at the bopis. “That's for the adventurous," the guy behind the counter says as he spoons a hash of pig heart and lung into a bowl. It turns out fortune does favor the bold, because the chopped offal is actually delicious.
From there, we pass a clutch of Thai spots and cross Diversity Plaza, the storefronts now bursting with colorful Bangladeshi signs. We grab a jhal muri (puffed rice, chickpeas, spicy mustard oil) from an 87-year-old street cart vendor and eat as we walk, the signage around us changing to Tibetan and Nepali. We eat Tibetan beef dumplings, or momos, while leaning against the Amdo Kitchen food truck, the winner of last year's Momo Crawl, then cross the street to Bhancha Ghar, where we eat sel roti, a sort of cross between naan and a doughnut. “This is like the food you get in Kathmandu," Orlick says. “Meeting the people here inspired me to go there. It was incredible."
Across 75th Street, Spanish signs prevail. Roughly half the people on the street are wearing Colombian soccer jerseys. “During the last World Cup, Colombia was doing well, and the street was going crazy," Orlick recalls. “People were throwing bags of flour and stuff." We stop into the Arepa Lady restaurant, which grew out of an immensely popular street cart, and we have arepas de queso and chocolo, two preparations of the fried corn and cheese staple, which we wash down with the juice of the South American lulo fruit.
“Everyone in the world wants to come to the United States. Where do you go in the States? New York. There's nothing like Queens's Roosevelt Avenue in the world. It's so intimidating. Everyone's speaking a different language, and it's just so much. But the people are really open." —Jeff Orlick
We're done, right? Nope. Orlick steers us into a bodega, and we squeeze down a narrow aisle to a seafood counter, La Esquina del Camarón Mexicano, for shrimp and octopus cocktail in a sweet tomato sauce. Then we all agree to never eat again.
Understandably, we need to sit for a while, and we've got just the place: Citi Field, the Flushing home of the New York Mets. The Yankees may be the iconic local baseball team, but the Mets have recently surpassed the Bronx Bombers in popularity, thanks to their superior stadium—which was inspired by Ebbets Field, the long-ago home of the Brooklyn Dodgers—and their exciting squad, which made it to the World Series last year. Today, the Mets have a Fall Classic rematch with the champion Kansas City Royals, and they win 4-3 behind Noah Syndergaard, a 24-year-old pitcher nicknamed Thor for his long blond locks, 6-foot-6 frame, and 98-mph fastball.
Evening is coming on as we file out of the ballpark, surrounded by happy throngs in blue and orange. We head back to the waterfront and Socrates Sculpture Park, home to a collection of inspired installations, highlighted by Jessica Segall's Fugue in Bb, which transforms an upturned piano into an active beehive.
A barista at The Lot Radio
We watch the sun dip behind Manhattan's snaggled skyline, then head off to break our halfhearted fast. Dinner is at Long Island City's Mu Ramen, a 22-seat space that reflects the area's avant-globalism. South Korean–born, Orthodox Jewish–raised, Per Se–trained chef-owner Joshua Smookler tweaks the noodle-bar formula on his menu, which includes foie-gras-and-brioche-stuffed chicken wings and cornmeal and scallion “okonomiyaki" with smoked trout, tobiko, and foie maple syrup. Under wooden slats that call to mind the ribs of a ship, we tuck into bowls of oxtail-and-bone-marrow broth served with corned beef and addictive “crack kimchi," washed down with a few green-tea-and-wasabi-infused Baird Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ales.
In search of a nightcap, we walk across Long Island City to Dutch Kills, a speakeasy from the team behind Milk & Honey, the now defunct lounge that spurred the city's cocktail revolution. Outside, there's simply a sign that says “BAR." Inside, it's all atmospheric candlelight and dark wood booths shrouded by heavy red curtains. As we're ordering Tiger Chilled Coffees (rum, cinnamon syrup, allspice liqueur, cold-brew coffee, whipped cream, absinthe) we notice that the menu offers meat pies from M. Wells, the acclaimed Québécois steakhouse nearby. We've already consumed 10,000 calories today, so what are a few more? Bring us the pies.
Brooklyn: In which the guys see the city's bridges from above and below, yuk it up with an SNL cast member, and find a bar at the end of the world
We shouldn't have had the pies. Lumpenly, we make our way across the Pulaski Bridge and down into the world's trendiest neighborhood: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Our first stop is the William Vale Hotel, a 22-story angled white tower that opened this summer. Situated across the street from Brooklyn Bowl and the Brooklyn Brewery, two early harbingers that “cool" could cross the river, the hotel is a symbolic final step in the Manhattanization of the neighborhood. But it's hard to find fault with this when you're standing on the hotel rooftop, with no other building to obstruct your view, the whole of the city at your feet.
To get our wheels turning, we walk along the edge of McCarren Park to the most “Brooklyn" coffee shop imaginable. The Lot Radio is a black shipping container plunked down in a flamingo-studded, triangular gravel lot. One side of the container sells coffee from Brooklyn roaster Luft; the other has a booth where a rotating cast of DJs spin records.
The East River Ferry passes under the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges
For breakfast, we head up Bedford Avenue and cross into Greenpoint, a Polish neighborhood that has seen its own cool quotient rise in recent years. (HBO's zeitgeisty Girls films here.) At the corner of Manhattan Avenue, across from a graffiti mural of The Simpsons sax player Bleeding Gums Murphy, we find Frankel's Delicatessen. The restaurant is the work of two Jewish brothers from the Upper West Side—one a chef, the other an indie pop musician—who wanted to recreate the classic New York Jewish deli. They've certainly got the look right: The storefront recalls the restaurant from Seinfeld, and the back-lit signs inside are a tribute to Lower East Side mainstay Russ & Daughters. And the food? Oy gevalt! We split a pastrami, egg, and cheese sandwich; an everything bagel with pastrami-cured salmon and scallion cream cheese; and mini latkes with applesauce and sour cream. As we eat, co-owner Zach Frankel comes out from behind the counter to tell us why Jewish delis matter.
“There's a grittiness to the Jewish deli that resembles New York," Frankel says. “People of every single race and religion have a relationship with this food. It's not just white Jews from New York. I get black dudes who grew up going to Katz's with their dads, Asian dudes who grew up eating this food. Being able to provide that to another generation makes me really happy."
A short stroll takes us to the condo-lined Williamsburg waterfront, where we board the East River Ferry. Alongside sailboats and jet skis, we cruise beneath the steel Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges and the stately stone Brooklyn Bridge. There's something magical about seeing the city from out here, but it's short-lived. Within minutes, we're stepping off at the Fulton Ferry Landing and into 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park, which opened in 2010 with a mission to revitalize a blighted stretch of East River piers. The park is filled with visitors snapping shots of the bridges, but it's the locals that are out in droves today. Kayakers skirt the rocky banks. Pickup ballers shoot hoops on the repurposed piers. Climbers scale artificial rock walls. Kids ride the restored 1922 Jane's Carousel. At the park's southern end, we stop at Martin Creed's 25-foot-tall rotating red neon Understanding sign, then reward ourselves for a walk well done with cones from Ample Hills Creamery, a local mini-chain that takes its name from a poem by long-ago Brooklyn resident Walt Whitman—who might be the only self-conscious-artist type who can honestly claim that he was into the borough before it was cool.
Sasheer Zamata, comedian, Saturday Night Live
In search of something a bit more substantial, we retrace our steps to cobblestoned Old Fulton Street and one of New York's best pizzerias, Juliana's. Patsy Grimaldi's place is the product of one of the city's most bitter feuds, sparked when he sold his longtime restaurant, Grimaldi's, and then, years later, after it moved next door, opened Juliana's in the original space. Nowadays, tourists line up for Grimaldi's, but locals go to Juliana's. Under a white brick wall adorned with Sinatra kitsch, we try a prosciutto-and-arugula-topped pie. It's hot, crunchy, and wafer-thin, and goes great with our Brooklyn-brewed Sixpoint ales. “So," says our waiter at the end, “you'll be back tomorrow, right?" Considering that the
Hemispheres office is right down the street, yeah, probably.
In need of another post-gorge constitutional, we take a cab down Flatbush Avenue to Grand Army Plaza. We hop out and walk under the Soldiers' and Sailors' Arch—Brooklyn's answer to the Washington Square Arch—and into Prospect Park. The 585-acre greenspace was designed in 1865 by the fathers of Manhattan's Central Park, one of whom, Frederick Law Olmsted, is rumored to have called the wilder Brooklyn version his masterpiece. The meadows are packed with picnickers, so we head for the quieter Brooklyn Botanic Garden, along the park's eastern edge. Standing on a footbridge watching carp swim in the Japanese garden's pond, it's easy to forget that the horn-honking chaos of Flatbush is barely a stone's throw away.
“The way New Yorkers speak is very funny, because it's a lot of honesty and also, like, no time. None of us has time, for whatever reason. We're all very busy and have to go, so everything is succinct and to the point. It's very truthful, and you get right to the heart of whatever you're saying." —Sasheer Zamata
We skirt the northern border of the park, past the Beaux-Arts Brooklyn Museum, and stop to admire the 40-foot gateway of the Brooklyn Public Library. We compete to see who can identify the Art Deco bronze reliefs that decorate the entrance—Moby Dick, Tom Sawyer, Poe's Raven—then continue along Vanderbilt Avenue and into the tree-lined neighborhood of Prospect Heights, where we grab happy-hour Champagne cocktails at subway-tiled Weather Up.
Prospect Park's famous designer lends his surname to the borough's buzziest new restaurant, just a few blocks down Vanderbilt. At Olmsted, chef Greg Baxtrom turns the farm-to-table model on its head, bringing the table to the farm. We start in the backyard garden, which features such rustic trappings as a quail coop and a crawfish-filled bathtub. As we snack on tempura-fried fiddlehead ferns, our dreadlocked waitress pours glasses of Azienda Agricola Denavolo Catavela, a white wine from Emilia-Romagna that boasts a barnyard funkiness that fits the surroundings. “'Grandpappy's boot' is a hard descriptor for some," she says, smiling, “but I love those skunky, funky, suitcase-and-rubber-band wines."
Back inside, we grab seats next to the open kitchen, where we chat with literary-minded line cooks about Richard Price and Jonathan Franzen as they prep radish-top gazpacho with smoked trout, dry-rubbed scallop skewers with creamed corn and green garlic, and guinea hen served two ways—roasted and confited—with morels and ramps.
From this eco-friendly spot, we take a short taxi ride to an infamous Superfund site. While the Gowanus Canal has tested positive for unimaginably foul pathogens (seriously, don't Google it), a major cleanup is now underway, and the neighborhood named after the industrial waterway has become a spawning ground for creative endeavors. One of these is the Bell House, a comedy club and music venue set in a 1920s printing warehouse. Inside, we meet Sasheer Zamata, a Saturday Night Live cast member who lives nearby, in Fort Greene.
Crashing the board at the West 4th Street basketball courts
“I'd been doing comedy in Brooklyn for years before I got on
SNL, so it feels like a nice routine," she says as we settle in backstage. “Also, I love days that I don't have to leave the borough." And, because Brooklyn is such a ripe source for comedy, she really doesn't need to. “There's a man who rides a bike with a cat on his head and holds the leash in case it falls or something," Zamata says with a chuckle. “Just the other day, I went to the park and a man brought a fake tree to put in the ground so his two parrots could perch on it."
Zamata takes her leave to complete her pre-show ritual: reciting a sonnet from Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. We join the sellout crowd, and soon she and an all-star cast of local comics—Broad City's Ilana Glazer, Horace and Pete's Liza Treyger, The Daily Show's Roy Wood Jr.—have us howling in our seats.
As our fellow comedy fans wander off to the trendy bars of Gowanus, we hail a cab, because there's really only one place for this night, this story, to end. We ride into the isolated waterfront neighborhood of Red Hook—under the highway, through a housing project, over cobblestones—to Sunny's Bar. The watering hole was once a haunt for the stevedores who plied Red Hook's long-forgotten docks, and it later became an unlicensed social club for artists and weirdos. Sunny Balzano, the bar's beloved owner, died earlier this year, and it's now run by his widow, Tone Johansen, who hosts a raucous bluegrass jam in the back. After we sing along to a klezmer-inspired, minor-key version of “This Land Is Your Land," we step outside to see the Statue of Liberty shining in the harbor. New York may be changing faster than ever, getting newer all the time, but this old bar and that old statue are here to remind us that this city was made for you and me.
Like most New Yorkers, Hemispheres editors Nicholas DeRenzo and Justin Goldman often talk about moving to a calmer town. But they never will.
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When the pandemic began, United Cargo knew it would be critical to utilize its fleet, network and industry-leading pharmaceutical handling processes to transport a COVID-19 vaccine when the time came.
Connecting vaccines to the world: United responds to mass distribution effort
On November 27, United Airlines became the first commercial airline to safely deliver the first batch of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine into the U.S. thanks to a coordinated effort between United's cargo, safety, technical operations, flight operations, regulatory and legal teams.
Now as the entire shipping and logistics industry bands together to widely distribute vaccines, United is leveraging all of its flights, including cargo-only and those carrying passengers, to transport millions of vaccines to destinations throughout our network, including Honolulu, Guam and Saipan – the first of any carrier to do so.
"United's cargo service has helped safely deliver many essential goods during this pandemic, but there is no shipment that gives me more personal pride than helping bring this life-saving vaccine to our communities," said Jan Krems, United Cargo President. "While we still face a long road ahead the promise of a widely distributed vaccine gives us hope that we are one step closer to putting this pandemic behind us and moving forward together toward a brighter future."
And United is shipping more than just vaccines to help during the pandemic in keeping the lines of commerce flowing and goods getting to where they need to be. Since mid-March, United has operated 9,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 435 million pounds of cargo. By using a combination of cargo-only flights and passenger flights, United Cargo has also transported 80 million pounds of medical supplies this year.
In coordination with our shipping and logistics partners, United will continue to distribute COVID-19 treatments to destinations throughout its network. The real heroes are the scientists who created these life-saving vaccines and the frontline workers who are not only administering them, but also helping care for and tend to those suffering from this virus. United is proud to do its part in helping to get this precious cargo to the people and communities who need them, and looks forward to doing our part in the months ahead.
United Cargo responds to COVID-19 challenges, prepares for what's next
September 30, 2020
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, United Cargo has supported a variety of customers within the healthcare industry for over 10 years. Three key solutions – TempControl, LifeGuard and QuickPak – protect the integrity of vital shipments such as precision medicine, pharmaceuticals, biologics, medical equipment and vaccines. By utilizing processes like temperature monitoring, thermodynamic management, and priority boarding and handling, United Cargo gives customers the peace of mind that their shipments will be protected throughout their journey.
With the global demand for tailored pharmaceutical solutions at an all-time high, we've made investments to help ensure we provide the most reliable air cargo options for cold chain shipping. In April this year, we became the first U.S. carrier to lease temperature-controlled shipping containers manufactured by DoKaSch Temperature Solutions. We continue to partner with state-of-the-art container providers to ensure we have options that meet our customers' ever-changing needs.
"Providing safe air cargo transport for essential shipments has been a top priority since the pandemic began. While the entire air cargo industry has had its challenges, I'm proud of how United Cargo has adapted and thrived despite a significant reduction in network capacity and supply," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "We remain committed to helping our customers make it through the pandemic, as well as to doing everything we can to be prepared for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution when the time comes."
Our entire team continues to prioritize moving critical shipments as part of our commitment to supporting the global supply chain. We've assembled a COVID readiness task team to ensure we have the right people in place and are preparing our airports as we get ready for the industry-wide effort that comes next.
In cooperation with our partners all over the world, United Cargo has helped transport nearly 145 million pounds of medical supplies to aid in the fight against COVID-19, using a combination of cargo-only flights and passenger flights. To date, United Cargo has operated more than 6,300 cargo-only flights and has transported more than 213 million pounds of cargo worldwide.
United Cargo responds to global needs, celebrates 5000th cargo-only flight
August 18, 2020
By Jan Krems, President, United Cargo
In mid-March, United took steps to manage the historic impact of COVID-19 and began flying a portion of our Boeing 777 and 787 fleets as dedicated cargo-only flights to transport air freight to and from U.S. hubs and key international business locations. More than ever, providing reliable cargo transportation was vitally important and I'm proud say our United Cargo team stepped up to support our customers.
Although we're facing the most challenging environment our industry has ever experienced, I'm very excited to celebrate a major milestone. Since March 19, United has operated over 5,000 cargo-only flights transporting nearly 170 million pounds of cargo on these flights alone. With an increased need to keep the global supply chain moving, and an even more urgent need for medical supplies, we knew we had to utilize our network capabilities and personnel to move vital shipments, such as medical kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), pharmaceuticals and medical equipment between U.S. hubs and key international destinations.
In cooperation with freight forwarders and partners all over the world, United Cargo helped transport more than 107 million pounds of medical supplies to aid in the fight against COVID-19 using a combination of cargo-only flights as well as passenger flights.
To keep military families connected, we increased the frequency of cargo-only flights between the U.S. and military bases in various parts of the world — including bases located in Guam, Kwajalein and several countries in Europe. We know how critically important it is for these families to stay connected, and I'm honored that we were able to utilize our network and our aircraft to fly nearly 3 million pounds of military supplies.
In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), our cargo teams moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
United has played a critical role in keeping global supply chains stable during the pandemic as we deliver urgently needed goods around the world. These past few months have created challenges that I have never seen in my 30-plus years of experience working within the air cargo and freight forwarding industry. However, I'm proud of our teams for staying focused on our mission to provide high-quality service and to keep our customers connected with the goods they need most.
United Cargo and logistics partners keep critical medical shipments moving
July 02, 2020
By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.
United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.
Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.
A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.
United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.
United further expands cargo-only operations to key international markets
June 9, 2020
United has played a vital role in helping keep the global supply chains stable during the COVID-19 pandemic so urgently needed goods can get to the places that need them most.
In addition to current service from the U.S. to Asia, Australia, Europe, India, Latin America and the Middle East, we are proud to now offer cargo-only flights to key international markets including Dublin, Paris, Rome, Santiago and Zurich. These new routes will connect our freight customers and further extend our air cargo network throughout the world – for example connecting major pharmaceutical hubs in Europe and perishable markets in Latin America.
"Air cargo continues to be more important than ever," says United Cargo President Jan Krems. "This network expansion helps our customers continue to facilitate trade and contribute to global economic development and recovery. I'm proud of our team for mobilizing our cargo-only flights program that enables the shipment of critical goods that will support global economies."
Since we began our program March 19, we have completed more than 2,400 cargo-only flights, transporting over 77 million pounds of cargo. We have over 1,100 cargo-only flights scheduled for the month of June, operating between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities all over the world.
United's first flight carrying cargo in-cabin takes off
May 13, 2020
United continues to keep supply chains moving and to meet the demand for critical shipments around the globe. Recently, United received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry cargo in approved storage areas in the passenger cabin.
Our inaugural cargo-in-cabin flight flew from London (LHR) to Chicago (ORD) carrying over 4,200 pounds of mail in the passenger cabin, plus a full payload of freight in the belly of the aircraft. Initially, cargo-in-cabin shipments will be loaded on the 777 and 787 aircraft operating our cargo-only flights. We will continue to evaluate additional opportunities to use this space to meet the growing cargo demand.
"We send our sincere thanks to the FAA for working with our team to enable the transport of more critical goods on United's cargo-only flights," said Jan Krems, President of United Cargo. "By loading existing cabin storage areas with cargo and mail, we can move even more critical medical equipment, PPE, and other vital shipments the world needs to manage through the pandemic."
United's cargo-only network continues to expand in order to help bring vital shipments to the people that need it most. We're now offering service between six of our U.S. hubs and 18 airports worldwide: CTU, HKG, ICN, MEL, PEK, PVG, SIN, SYD and TPE in the Asia-Pacific; AMS, BOM, BRU, DUB, FRA, LHR, TLV and ZRH in EMEIA; and SJU in the Caribbean.
Since the start of its cargo-only flights program March 19, United has operated over 1,300 cargo-only flights transporting over 44 million pounds of cargo.
For more information, visit unitedcargo.com.
United expands cargo-only flights to additional global destinations
April 16, 2020
Getting vital goods, especially medical relief supplies, into the hands of the businesses and people who need them has never been more critically important. To meet the overwhelming demand, United began operating cargo-only flights on March 19. Since we began using Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft from United's passenger fleet for this purpose, we have operated over 400 flights carrying more than 6 million kilos of cargo.
"With the global community in need, we are doing everything we can to keep supply chains moving worldwide and support the battle against COVID-19," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "We're proud to play an active role in connecting vital medical supplies like test kits and personal protective equipment with healthcare professionals around the world."
We are now operating more than 150 cargo-only flights per week between six of our U.S. hubs and 13 cities worldwide: CTU, HKG, PEK, PVG, SYD and TPE in the Asia Pacific; AMS, BRU, DUB, FRA and LHR in Europe; SJU in the Caribbean and TLV in the Middle East. We expect to add new cities soon and will continue to expand our cargo-only flights program.
|Hub||Cargo-only flights operating through May|
ORD - AMS (Amsterdam)
ORD - FRA (Frankfurt)
ORD - HKG (Hong Kong)
ORD - LHR (London)
ORD - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - PEK (Beijing)
IAH - AMS (Amsterdam)
IAD - FRA (Frankfurt)
|Los Angeles (LAX)||
LAX - HKG (Hong Kong)
LAX - LHR (London Heathrow)
LAX - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - PVG (Shanghai)
LAX - SYD (Sydney)
|New York/Newark (EWR)||
EWR - AMS (Amsterdam)
EWR - FRA (Frankfurt)
EWR - LHR (London)
|San Francisco (SFO)||
SFO - AMS (Amsterdam)
SFO - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - PEK (Beijing)
SFO - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - PVG (Shanghai)
SFO - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - TPE (Taipei)
SFO - TLV (Tel Aviv)
SFO - SYD (Sydney)
|Washington, D.C. (IAD)||
IAD - BRU (Brussels)
IAD - DUB (Dublin)
IAD - FRA (Frankfurt)
IAD - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - PEK (Beijing)
IAD - SJU (San Juan)
Flight details are subject to change, for the most up-to-date schedules, please visit https://ual.unitedcargo.com/covid-updates.
Cargo-only flights support U.S. military and their families
March 30, 2020
We are helping to keep military families connected by increasing the frequency of cargo-only flights between the United States and military bases in various parts of the world — including Guam, Kwajalein, and several countries in Europe. Last week we began operating a minimum of 40 cargo-only flights weekly — using Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft to fly freight and mail to and from U.S. hubs and key international business and military locations.
We are going above and beyond to find creative ways to transport fresh food and produce, as well as basic essentials from the U.S. mainland to military and their families in Guam/Micronesia. On Saturday, March 28, we operated an exclusive cargo-only B777-300 charter to transport nearly 100,000 pounds of food essentials to Guam to support our troops.
In addition, we move mail year-round all over the world. In response to COVID-19, and in support of the military members and their families overseas, we implemented a charter network, transporting military mail to Frankfurt, which is then transported all over Europe and the Middle East. Since March 20, we have flown 30,000+ pounds of military mail every day between Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Frankfurt (FRA). On the return flight from Frankfurt to Chicago, we have carried an average of 35,000 pounds of mail to help families stay connected.
"Keeping our military families connected with the goods they need, and keeping them connected with loved ones to feel a sense of home, is of critical importance. As a company that has long supported our military families and veterans, our teams are proud to mobilize to lend a hand." — United Cargo President Jan Krems.
Our cargo-only flights support customers, keep planes moving
March 22, 2020
We have begun flying a portion of our Boeing 777 and 787 fleet as dedicated cargo charter aircraft to transfer freight to and from U.S. hubs and key international business locations. The first of these freight-only flights departed on March 19 from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) with the cargo hold completely full, with more than 29,000 lbs. of goods.
Getting critical goods into the hands of the businesses and people who need them most is extremely important right now. To support customers, employees and the global economy, we will initially operate a schedule of 40 cargo charters each week targeting international destinations and will continue to seek additional opportunities.
With coronavirus (COVID-19) creating an increased need to keep the global supply chain moving, we are utilizing our network capabilities and personnel to get vital shipments, such as medical supplies, to areas that need them most.
"Connecting products to people around the world is the United Cargo mission," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "That role has never been more crucial than during the current crisis. Our team is working around the clock to provide innovative solutions for our customers and support the global community."
On average, we ship more than 1 billion pounds of cargo every year on behalf of domestic and international customers. For more information, visit unitedcargo.com.
CHICAGO, Dec. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- United is inviting MileagePlus members to give back on Giving Tuesday and throughout the holiday season by donating miles to nearly 40 non-profits through United Airlines' crowdsourcing platform, Miles on a Mission. Non-profits like Thurgood Marshall College Fund, College to Congress and Compass to Care are attempting to raise a total of more than 11 million miles to be used for travel for life-saving health care, continued education, humanitarian aid and more. United will match the first 125,000 miles raised for each of these organizations to help ensure they meet their goals.
"This year has posed unprecedented challenges for us all and has been especially devastating to some of the most vulnerable members within the communities we serve," said Suzi Cabo, managing director of global community engagement, United Airlines. "The need for charitable giving has not stopped during the pandemic, and neither has United. This Giving Tuesday marks an opportunity for us to all come together for the greater good and we are proud to provide a platform to support organizations with upcoming travel needs that will enable them to continue supporting the communities they serve."
The launch of these campaigns is part of United's ongoing Miles on a Mission program, which began in October 2019 and has raised more than 92 million miles to-date. Past campaigns have helped organizations travel children for life-saving medical treatment and unite parents with newly adopted children from foreign countries. Participating non-profits have 28-days to reach their mile raising goals through the platform.
The organizations that are raising miles in this campaign include:
- College to Congress: The organization provides support including travel for disadvantaged college students who otherwise could not afford to intern in Washington, D.C.
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund: This is the only national organization representing America's 47 publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and the nearly 300,000 students that attend them each year. The miles raised will cover the travel expenses to and from campus for students unable to afford them.
- My Block, My Hood, My City: This organization provides underprivileged youth with an awareness of the world and opportunities beyond their neighborhood. Miles will be used to fund educational trips for Chicago youths to help them gain a greater understanding of the world outside of their comfort zones.
- Compass to Care: The non-profit ensures all children, whose parents have a financial need, can access life-saving cancer treatment. Compass to Care is raising miles to fund travel to get children from their homes to hospitals for cancer treatment.
- Luke's Wings: This organization is dedicated to the support of service members who have been wounded in battle. Raised miles will be used to purchase plane tickets for families to visit wounded soldiers recovering in Army medical centers.
- Rainbow Railroad USA: The organization's mission is to help persecuted LGBTQI+ individuals around the world travel to safety as they seek a haven from persecution. Miles will support the organization's core Emergency Travel Support program.
This year, United's legal partner Kirkland & Ellis will also be donating $50,000 to My Block, My Hood, My City and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Other organizations launching campaigns on the platform include: Sisters of the Skies, Inc., Up2Us Sports, Airline Ambassadors International, Austin Smiles, AWS Foundation, Crazy Horse Memorial, FLYTE, Higher Orbits, Lily's Hope Foundation, Miles4Migrants, Support Utila Inc. and Watts of Love. MileagePlus members can also donate to United's 20 other existing partner charities including, Airlink, American Red Cross, Make-A-Wish, Shriners Hospitals; Clean the World, Special Olympics and more. To learn more or donate to these organizations, please visit donate.mileageplus.com.
Visit www.united.com/everyactioncounts to learn more about our pledge to put our people and planes to work for the greater good.
United's shared purpose is "Connecting People. Uniting the World." For more information, visit united.com, follow @United on Twitter and Instagram or connect on Facebook. The common stock of United's parent, United Airlines Holdings, Inc., is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol "UAL".
SOURCE United Airlines
For further information: United Airlines Worldwide Media Relations, +1-872-825-8640, email@example.com
In October 2019, we launched a first-of-its-kind airline miles donation platform, Miles on a Mission. In the inaugural year, MileagePlus members donated over 70 million miles, with United matching over 20 million miles, to 51 organizations. These miles have allowed for these organizations to do important, life-changing, life-saving work in the communities we serve around the globe.
Whether it's visiting friends and relatives, traveling for work or simply exploring a new corner of the world, we all have a reason as to why we fly. No matter the reason you fly, the miles you earn and donate help our Miles on a Mission partners soar. Take a look at how some of our partner organizations have put our MileagePlus Members' donations to work.
"To deliver life-saving cells and hope to Be the Match patients, like me!"
"These donated miles will support Born This Way Foundation's mission of supporting the wellness of LGBTQ+ youth — and all young people — by expanding access to mental health resources and promoting kindness."
"Combined Arms is uniting communities to accelerate the impact of veterans and their families."
"To help children get to life-saving cancer treatment"
"We fly to save. We fly to save lives, saving homeless veterans anywhere, any time."
"Gift of Adoption flies to unite children with their families — giving them a chance to thrive!"
"Holocaust Museum Houston flies United to educate people about the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy. Holocaust Museum Houston flies United to connect teachers with Holocaust and human rights educational resources."
"We fly today so those living with ALS can have a better tomorrow."
"At Lazarex we fly patients with cancer to clinical trials for hope and a chance at life!"
"Donate your miles to help refugees reach safe homes for the holidays."
"To get vital relief and recovery aid where it's needed most!"
"We fly to educate and empower girls in Peru."
"To collaborate with partners & promote that #FoodIsMedicine"
"United helps our medical teams deliver hope and support when people need it most!"
"We fly to bring hope to 2 million people around the globe facing food insecurity."
"To make waves to fight cancer."
"Because every LGBTQ young person deserves to be valued, respected and loved for who they are."
"My team needs me now more than ever. I will be there for them!"
"Watts of Love brings solar light and hope to those living in the darkness of poverty!"
"To bring access to clean water for everyone that needs it."
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Take your next video call from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude with United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Newly added to our collection is a background encouraging our employees and customers to vote. Our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. No matter which party you support, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and vote.
So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started.
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
To use on Microsoft Teams:
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
- /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
Watch our most popular videos
This is why we fly.
20 UCSF Health workers, who voluntarily set aside their own lives to help save lives, are on their way to New York City.
We are humbled by your selfless sacrifice.
In celebration and appreciation of all first responders and essential workers. 👏🏻👏🏼👏🏽👏🏾👏🏿
This is the story of Jason and Shantel. You see, Jason and Shantel love each other very much. They also love traveling and they love the classic Adam Sandler film, The Wedding Singer.
It all began when Jason reached out to United's social media team, hoping for assistance with his upcoming plan to propose. Some phone calls and one borrowed guitar later, the stage was set for Jason. Put all that together, mix in some helpful United employees and, voila, you have a truly memorable marriage proposal. Congratulations to this fun-loving and happy couple, and here's to many more years of making beautiful music together.
A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.