The ultimate test of New York knowledge

NEW YORK — How well do you know New York City?

I’m not just talking Grand Central and the Brooklyn Bridge. Do you know where Jackie O lived and how to reach the Bronx Zoo by subway? Do you know the difference between Peter Minuit and Peter Stuyvesant?

This is no Facebook quiz. These questions are from the ultimate test of New York knowledge: the city’s test to license sightseeing guides.

I took the test cold, on a lark, with no advance prep. As a native New Yorker who’s written about tourism for more than a decade, I figured it would be a breeze. I also volunteer with an organization called Big Apple Greeter, taking visitors on informal walks through my favorite neighborhoods.

But the tour guide test is no walk in Central Park — not to mention Prospect Park (and if you don’t know where that is, you’d never pass).

After laboring for nearly two hours over 150 questions on everything from Greek Revival architecture to why the Staten Island ferry is orange, I was humbled (and I’m sure I got the ferry question wrong). Sure, I know the best place in Manhattan to see Picassos, but I have no idea which bridges and highways allow buses. I guessed right on whether the Bronx is the size of London or Paris, but I’m terrible with pop culture: Just where was the Huxtables’ house on “The Cosby Show”?

Some things, you pick up living here — questions on Harlem, Greenwich Village, the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central seemed doable. For more obscure things, a personal connection helped. I nailed the question about a Yiddish theater on the Lower East Side because my seventh-grade best friend lived next to the site. But I never could keep those old Dutch guys straight — Minuit and Stuyvesant.

Pity the test-taker who’s not up on immigrants, tenements and water towers. If you don’t know that stuff, hit the books before putting down $100 in test and license fees. “Blue Guide New York,” a cultural guide covering art, history and architecture, is recommended test prep. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, which administers the test, also offers a study guide online.

A passing score is 97 out of 150. Despite the challenges, I got 113 correct, but fell short of the 120 required to pass with distinction. Last year, 399 of 432 who took the test passed.

City law says anyone who guides or directs people to a place or point of interest here must have a license. If you’re hiring a guide and want to check, ask to see the official sightseeing guide photo ID, or search for the name on the Consumer Affairs website.

Licensed guides complain they’ve witnessed unlicensed guides leading tours. Some wonder whether the credential matters. “I don’t think I’m any better at what I do now that I have my guide license than I was before,” said Tony Muia, who offers “A Slice of Brooklyn” pizza tours and “Christmas Lights & Cannoli” tours. “I’ve never had anybody check it. Why must we spend the time and money to get it?”

Justin Ferate, who wrote the sightseeing test for Consumer Affairs and is a guide himself, offering tours of neighborhoods around the city, says the license “is one level of quality control. Is it a perfect measure? No. But it is a process which basically declares the person has a module of knowledge. You want to know the person who is in front of you is speaking with some level of authority. It is a difficult test for many people, and passing it adds a certain gravitas.”

For sure, even those who pass find it tough. For me, the only easy questions were about food. Any self-respecting New Yorker — I daresay, any self-respecting foodie — knows the difference among baba ganoush, kimchi and a bialy.

Bagels versus bialys? That’s harder. But it wasn’t on the test.

ad-high_impact_4
Life
Kids become firefighters at Fire Station 98 open house
Henderson residents wore fire hats, learned about CPR and met firefighters at the Fire Station 98 open house Saturday, August 11, 2018. (Marcus Villagran Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
People from all over the world attend RollerCon 2018
RollerCon 2018 is a five-day convention focused on the roller derby community and culture at Westgate in Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Las Vegas police officer on being PETA's Sexiest Vegan Next Door
Las Vegas police officer David Anthony talks vegan lifestyle and how he feels about being voted PETA's sexiest Vegan next door from his home on Monday, July 9, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Bark-Andre Furry meets Capitals superfan Ovie the Bulldog
Two of NHL's furriest fans met at the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace on Tuesday, June 18, 2018, in Las Vegas. Vegas Golden Knights superfan Bark-Andre Furry and Washington Capitals superfan Ovie the Bulldog shared a plate of meatballs and spaghetti with help from Logan, "The Girl with the Hat." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like