Facebook Twitter

NEW YORK TOURS TAKE IN ALL THE SIGHTS

SHARE NEW YORK TOURS TAKE IN ALL THE SIGHTS

As co-owners of Stardom Tours, one of Manhattan's newest sightseeing ventures, Joanna Fabian and Michael Dzakvlin often wear disguises for their tours: She may appear as the Phantom of the Opera, he as a court jester. But it's not as easy for them to disguise New York's problems for sightseers.

With the homeless becoming legion and one sensational crime story following on the heels of another, guides all over the city have to cope with more questions and comments from visitors about these problems.As the Stardom van rolls past celebrity hangouts and ultra-expensive real estate, customers often notice the gross as well as the glitzy. "People comment on the contrasts," Fabian says. "They'll see a lot of homeless on 65th and Madison, and then on the next block there's Le Cirque and the Shah of Iran's penthouse."

They don't shy away from haves-and-have-nots questions, but neither do the Stardom Tours guides dwell on them. "We always have them leaving the van with a positive attitude ...," Dzakvlin says.

A former New York Times delivery man, Lou Singer has been conducting Singer's Brooklyn tours, which also feature Manhattan, for 20 years. "I try to put things into context," he said. When riders notice cramped living conditions in the Lower East Side, "I say, `You think it was any different when your parents were here?"' Many of Singer's patrons make a pilgrimage to New York to see where parents and relatives grew up.

When tourists ask about the homeless, Singer says, "I explain that an estimated 4 to 5 million mental cases were released from mental institutions from all over the U.S. and that this is not just a New York City problem."

Some tours drive through Bedford Stuyvesant and Harlem, he says, including "the good blocks and the bad blocks."