New York City NYC Moving Guide

Use This Guide to Help You Survive NYC Winters

Sidewalk in NYC covered in snow during the winter

While we look forward to new beginnings, the start of a new year also means that winter is upon us. In New York, cold weather is unlike cold in most other places. I tell everyone who's yet to experience a winter in New York City that they are in for a brutal cold they've never felt before. You might think I'm exaggerating, but I assure you, I'm not.

Of course, other regions may have lower temperatures and greater snow fall, but in NYC, you're forced to face freezing temps head on. And since owning a vehicle is considered a luxury, you'll probably have to rely on your legs to take you where you need to go.

Whether you're trudging through ice and snow to reach the subway (be careful of slippery stairs leading to the platform), hoping to luck out and grab a taxi (if they're even operating) or waiting for the bus in blizzards, navigating NYC's frozen streets and intersections sometimes piled eight feet high with snow is a feat unto itself. And when that wind rips, the real feel can be 15 or 20 degrees lower than the actual temperature (and even subzero).

Now that you know what makes us New Yorkers tough, you'll have to toughen up yourself. Are you ready for a New York winter? Here's my guide to surviving NYC winter.

How to dress for winter in NYC

A down coat will save you in January and February when the city is at its coldest and windiest. Invest in a quality coat that will last for years. You'll need waterproof boots to travel through the ice and snow, so be prepared to carry stylish shoes in your city bag or keep a few pairs at the office. I know a lot of New Yorkers have a shoe drawer at work, so you wouldn't be the first. A pair of rubber boots will also come in handy, especially when the snow melts and six-inch puddles persist until that snow water drains.

Accessories are a must too. Choose scarves that are long enough to knot and wrap around your neck several times to create a barrier between your skin and the wind. A lined wool hat that covers your ears, earmuffs, and mittens are extras that you'll need to include in your winter wardrobe for NYC. Tech-friendly gloves will be your best friend while you spend time on the streets of New York. You won't have to remove the gloves to text friends or return those pertinent work emails.

Other obvious items would be a wool dress coat for special occasions, warm sweaters, thick socks, and sunglasses because the freezing weather can dry eyes or make them tear. And if you're going to spend a lot of time standing outside, you might want to invest in thermal underwear and foot and hand warmers. These are all New York winter essentials that will provide you some sort of relief in the blistering cold.

What you should know about snow removal in NYC

Unless you own a home in New York City, you shouldn't be responsible for shoveling or maintaining sidewalks. Your super and building staff will oversee clearing your walkway so that it’s clean and safe to walk on. If you do own a home in NYC, get ready to shovel snow and scrape ice, unless you hire someone to do it for you.

When New York gets a lot of snow (a foot or more) or several snowstorms within a short period, snow tends to pile up quickly. There's nowhere to put the snow until it melts, so visibility at intersections and the simple act of walking gets challenging. All you can do is walk around the behemoth snow mounds, but you will need to allow additional time for your commute.

Avoid standing too close at interactions

Snow-covered intersections in NYC

Stand back from corners, particularly when snow and ice begin to melt. Whizzing traffic will splash the melted snow, which mixes with the dirt from the street and quickly becomes gray slush. That filthy water could land on your new dress, suit, or anything else within reach.

Where to park your car in NYC during the winter

Older woman walking by cars that are covered by snow in NYC

When snow comes in NYC, alternate side parking is usually suspended for the time being, so if you do own a car, you might not be required to move it for several days. Still, you'll have to shovel out, and your car could be plowed in and covered with six feet of snow (or more) if you can even recognize your vehicle.

While owning a car in the city has its merits, it's also a bigger hassle in wintertime. You might consider parking in a lot (if you don't already) or opting for vehicle storage from December through March to avoid digging out and moving your car when alternate side parking is in effect, not to mention finding a place to park when half of a block is occupied by snow banks. Then, there are all the other New Yorkers vying for spaces too. And in NYC, there are more cars than spaces.

Tip for NYC dog owners in the winter

Maintenance staff of apartment buildings sprinkles ice melt on sidewalks, and that salt can harm a dog's paws. When walking dogs in the cold, avoid any treated areas or be sure that your pup wears booties. Beyond the necessary precautions for your dog's feet, pooches love to romp and play in the snow, so that's yet another reason to dress warmly for the great outdoors. If your dog doesn't have thick fur, purchase a winter jacket to keep your best friend warm too.

Be ready for the snow and ice to melt

If the temperatures hover around freezing, (that can happen through March), but then spike to the higher 40s or 50s, snow will melt quickly, and cause flooding. The city will appear as if we had a massive rainstorm, except that the huge snow piles will remind you that we are still recovering from winter. Remnants of snow and ice can still linger into April.

About the author

Tracy Kaler

Tracy Kaler is a ballet dancer turned interior designer turned lifestyle and travel writer who blogs at tracysnewyorklife.com. A former Atlantan, you can now find her byline in The Telegraph, IN New York Magazine, TravelMag, National Geographic, Mabuhay Magazine, am New York and others. When she's not glued to her laptop, you'll find her wandering the streets of New York City or off discovering another part of the planet.

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