August in New York City is Hell. Where do New Yorkers want to escape to?

Aug 7, 2018 | Insights

We StatSocial staffers, along with the remaining 8.5 million of our fellow New Yorkers, have found ourselves in near delirium as we nosedive into the steamy and sticky dawg daze of 2018. A subway platform being jam-packed or dead-empty seems to have no impact on the extent to which it achieves temperatures that one is fairly certain can only sustain human life for a limited quantity of time.

Typical New Yorkers Riding the subway after a hard day at the office.

The moisture in the air — what with the humidity working overtime to give us 110% — is usually the the only thing keeping we of the Metrocard class from spontaneously bursting into flames. Instead we smolder inside, and we don’t mean with a hidden passion to dance (in fairness some major stations are air conditioned as of the past 15 years or so, but the majority are not).

The winter getaway is a well-known and established tradition — sometimes even among those of only meager means — as sanity commands it. It’s cold at home, there are puddles the size of lakes and piles of filthy snow everywhere. Winter is novel and charming, arguably, until New Year’s Day. From then on out it’s drudgery and the year’s first quarter is more often than not its most interminable. So you slather some sunscreen on your nose, slap a Panama hat on that wind-burned head of yours, and spend a week at Sandals.

Typical New Yorkers enjoy a Caribbean beach getaway

Or some locals will choose to lean into the season, embrace it, slap a pair of skis on their numbed feet and endure cold afternoons and the risk of life and limb all for the reward of drinking cocoa in a nifty sweater at the end of it all.

Typical New Yorkers pictured enjoying a skiing excursion.

But what of the summer getaway? We know people take vacations all summer long, because the rugrats have been cut loose for 10 weeks. When you live in the concrete jungle any time out-of-doors, with crickets and a bug zapper seems like sweet relief.

It’s August. We’re all sick of showering 15 times a day and of never getting a lungful of air that isn’t heavy, hot, and putrid, or frigid and recycled.

New Yorkers — always in a rush to be somewhere other than where they are — now have places to be that extend beyond the five boroughs, and the means to get to them. Using our StatSocial social media analytics engine, we identified 500,000 New York City subway commuters on social media, and found the places on Earth they’d rather be right now than here.

Given our sincerely great city’s diverse ethnic and cultural background, one is compelled to theorize — seeing how the statistics played out — — that for as many New Yorkers as there are crowding our region’s three major airports for purposes of R&R, it’s ultimately simpler values and pleasures — home, family, loved ones — that most motivate many New Yorkers to travel.

When you engage with the platform, StatSocial’s insights may give rise to all manner of speculation. The beauty of the platform is that every question can be pursued by digging into the thousands of additional insights StatSocial has available.

Speaking of the airports, before diving into the Main Event, we took a peek at what the preferred airlines are when our commuters choose to hang from a strap in the sky.

Key for nearly all StatSocial graphs: The grey bar is the proportion of the general social media audience that displays an affinity for the corresponding line item (this is the baseline against which all StatSocial insights are measured). The blue bar is the proportion of this audience who displays an affinity for the line item. The number on the right quantifies numerically the degree to which the blue bar either exceeds, falls short of (in which case the number would be in red), or is consistent with the baseline.

Well, well, JetBlue. New York’s mass-transit-takers are four-and-one-third times more likely to fly and openly display fondness for JetBlue than what is typical for a social media user.

Yammer, yammer… It’s time to get to some straight-up StatSocialin’ ‘round here. Let’s find out to where it is these folks are booking the above-listed airlines to travel to.

One important point of clarification — the following ranking is based on what travel destinations are most over-indexed for New York straphangers compared to the average American.

1) Israel


Of all travel destinations on Earth (or elsewhere) the one to where New York’s straphangers most commonly journey is Israel. This they do to a degree exceeding the average social media user by one-and-three-quarters times.

The greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area has a larger Jewish population than the New York metropolitan area. Comparing the actual cities-proper, however, New York is the single city on Earth with the largest Jewish population (1.1 million as of 2012).

This alone makes Israel’s position as the top travel destination among the commuting throngs unsurprising.

Israeli-born rocker Gene Simmons of Kiss was born Chaim Witz in Tirat Carmel, in 1949. He moved to New York at age 8. It is unclear at what age he started to wear either armor or a wig.

Worthy of additional mention, Jerusalem is regarded as a holy land in the view of adherents to all three Abrahamic religions; such adherents being well represented among New York’s population. One of the numerous factors contributing to what we’re certain is the variety of New York commuters for whom Israel is a regular travel destination.

It is not the dry heat of the desert — preferable as it no doubt is to New York’s most humid days — nor a refreshing dip in the Dead Sea that has these particular subway riders pursuing their periodic journeys to Israel. It’s a call well beyond the petty hassle of a sweltering morning’s commute.

Also, most New Yorkers — no matter their faith, or lack thereof — can tell you that appealing to whatever, or whomever, one’s own personal highest authority may be is of little use.

Your train will be delayed, you will not be able to understand the P.A. announcements explaining what’s going on (which causes only small grief as you know already that the explanation, were it audible, would only give rise to more questions than it would provide answers), and the only solace you may find is a view of some poor sap standing on the same platform whom you’re certain is sweating even more than you.

As schadenfreude, by its very nature, runs in direct contradiction to most of the world’s major spiritual disciplines, this is comfort being taken in one’s most base instincts. A pilgrimage to a holy land of your choosing for recalibration may not be ill-advised.

.155% of the 500,000 NYC-based commuters we analyzed have recently discussed or shared content related to traveling to Israel, compared to .09% of Americans.

2) Puerto Rico

While Puerto Rico is a tropical island — and therefore not the first thing one daydreams about during the one time of year when one’s imaginings are more apt to drift toward traversing the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow — it is home to the extended families of many New Yorkers.

The Puerto Rican population in New York city is the world’s largest outside of Puerto Rico itself. For decades those from Puerto Rico made up the largest portion of New York’s Latinx population, but recent census numbers have indicated a shift in that regard which we’ll address below.

These summertime subway riders exceed the average social media dweller in Puerto Rican excursions by nearly one-and-a-half-times

A 1970s press photo of one of the fathers of Salsa music, and a Nuyorican legend, the great Willie Colón.

Puerto Ricans and New York have a history dating back to the mid-19th century. As they were still under Spanish rule at that time, Puerto Ricans were initially an immigrant population. In 1917 residents of the Caribbean island nation were granted U.S. citizenship status (with what are to this day some limitations if they stay in Puerto Rico, but full citizen’s rights if they move to anywhere within the 50 states or D.C.). Between 1970 and 1990 New York’s Puerto Rican population accounted for 12% of the city’s residents, and 80% of the city’s Latinx population. Those proportions decreased in the 28 years since, but as of 2015 over 700,000 Puerto Ricans call New York home. Or rather, there are are over 700,000 Nuyoricans.

While Caribbean travel is extraordinarily affordable this time of year, the truth is the white sandy beaches and crystal waters are awful nice during the summer months too. Nicer than Rockaway Beach, surely, or even the beaches out at your precious Hamptons (that wasn’t directed at you specifically).

.514% of the 500,000 NYC-based commuters we analyzed have recently discussed or shared content related to traveling to Israel, compared to .36% of Americans.

3) Ontario

NOW we’re talking. This is the sort of place to spend an August. While many Canadians live in New York, this is also more along the lines of where one’s mind wanders during the swampy, stinky, hazy, crazy days of New York summers.

Yes, I know it gets hot and humid up there as well, but not for so much of the year. Plus they have the CN Tower, the Maple Leafs, the nation’s capital city of Ottawa, their heartthrob prime minister, and cool, cool breezes. Good mass transit also. In Toronto, at least. Plus it’s the birthplace of The Great One, director David Cronenberg. Oh, and Wayne Gretzky grew up there too.

That the most feverish NYC commuters would seek the comfort of this province to a degree exceeding the average social media user by over one-and-a-quarter times leaves us unsurprised, and perhaps a bit jealous.

.051% of the 500,000 NYC-based commuters we analyzed have recently discussed or shared content related to traveling to Ontario, compared to .041% of Americans.

4) Rome

New Yorkers may sometimes think our humble little burg is the birthplace of Western civilization, and the world’s first true metropolis. But you can chalk that up to our proud, homespun arrogance, and the fact that our public school system could use a tweak here or there.

Rome of course can lay claim to both of those things and so much more. Straphangers travel to this gorgeous city to a degree exceeding the run-of-the-mill social media rabble by nearly one-and-one-fifth times.

New York famously has a large Italian-American population, but if anything of the background of some of the New Yorkers factored into this statistic is of especial relevance, it’s more likely New York’s 2.8 million Catholic residents. Among Rome’s many attractions, of course, is Vatican City and the Holy See. While a sovereign state, it is all the same surrounded by Rome on all sides.

.051% of the 500,000 NYC-based commuters we analyzed have recently discussed or shared content related to traveling to Rome, compared to .043% of Americans.

5) Russia

The straphanger-class being put under the StatSocial microscope here is over one-and-one-tenth times more likely to journey to Russia than social media’s average audience member.

The Brooklyn neighborhood of Brighton Beach — long a Russian enclave of a sort — in the wake of the Cold War ending became a neighborhood barely recognizable as American. Cyrillic lettering adorns every awning and storefront, and if you are not Russian — even before you’ve spoken a peep — you are immediately identified as such. The restaurants — many of which are indescribably excellent, if Eastern European cuisine is of interest to you — are all too happy to serve outsiders, however.

The point here, though, is that if you’ve ever spent time in these more remote parts of Brooklyn, and most especially Brighton Beach, Russia’s appearance among the New York City commuter’s top five travel destinations — despite few vacationing there these days — would not surprise you a bit (it’s 90 minutes to Manhattan also, so while it’s a rather self-sustaining neighborhood — much in the way New York’s Chinatown is — and many can work and live well without ever crossing its borders, those who venture to do so hang from those theoretical straps for a good long while).

.094% of the 500,000 NYC-based commuters we analyzed have recently discussed or shared content related to traveling to Russia, compared to .083% of Americans.

6) Colombia

After Florida, New York boasts the largest Colombian population in the United States. As for metropolitan areas, New York City’s — which proudly counts over 230,000 Colombians among its residents — is the one with the strongest link to Colombia.

That alone may explain how the MTA’s most faithful travelers also travel to Colombia to a degree exceeding the average social media user for one-and-one-tenth times.

Additionally the country’s staggeringly beautiful capital city of Bogotá is a popular vacation destination.

.077% of the 500,000 NYC-based commuters we analyzed have recently discussed or shared content related to traveling to Columbia, compared to .068% of Americans.

7) Dominican Republic

A popular destination for Caribbean vacationers, especially noted for its excellent surfing, Dominicans are also now the most prominent Latinx population in New York City, narrowly edging out Puerto Ricans, who have for so long been associated with New York.

The Dominican population in New York state vastly surpasses that anywhere else in the U.S., essentially equaling the population scattered across the rest of the country. Prior to the 1990s, the Dominican population here and everywhere in America was quite small. But immigration from the island nation, and neighbor to Haiti, has been explosive over the past 20 years.

So, again, little in the way of shock to be derived from finding that our fine city’s commuters contain a population who travel to the Dominican Republic to a degree exceeding the norm.

1.17% of the 500,000 NYC-based commuters we analyzed have recently discussed or shared content related to traveling to the Dominican Republic, compared to 1.05% of Americans.

8) Amsterdam

Here’s one destination where we’re not certain a specific ethnic or cultural population is driving the results, that is unless you count college kids, or those who have just graduated college. While perhaps not quite the wild virtually lawless port city it once was — and until far more recently than you might imagine — it remains a town where if inclined to do so, one can wrangle up a good time.

Great people too, and they almost all speak fluent English.

Here we have a song about the mythic port of Amsterdam of yore, composed by the brilliant Belgian songwriter, Jacques Brel. The performer is American singer and songwriter Mort Shuman, who among his many accomplishments was heralded — including by Brel himself (both are long-deceased now) — for his powerful, gritty, and often hilarious English language translations of Brel’s lyrics.

.069% of the 500,000 NYC-based commuters we analyzed have recently discussed or shared content related to traveling to Amsterdam, compared to .063% of Americans.

9) Brazil

While it’s terrifically fun to say “millions of Brazilians,” that would not accurately sum up the quantity of the natives of South America’s largest country who live here in the New York metro area, and ride the MTA trains.

Astoria, Queens has for a while boasted a sizable Brazilian population, and some of the best Brazilian restaurants you’ll find in North America. There is also a block in Manhattan called Little Brazil, with good food, and where Brazilian goods can be acquired.

Additionally, it is a vacation destination for the many. Again, more the sort of place of which one might daydream during the dreary winter months, but we’re certainly not surprised finding it on this list.

The Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey — which may find some leaving its tight-knit community and venturing into New York and upon its subways to make a living — has long been a haven for both sizable Portuguese and Brazilian communities.

To goose this with some content, an always lovely clip of one of the most famous musicians Brazil ever produced collaborating with one of America’s finest (giving a sneak preview of the indispensable album the two made together).

.057% of the 500,000 NYC-based commuters we analyzed have recently discussed or shared content related to traveling to Brazil, compared to .052% of Americans.

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Author: Matthew Quigley