8 Things ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ Gets Wrong About New York City, Including Bagels

Here in New York City, our trees aren’t invincible.

We actually have children and squirrels scurrying through our parks.

And the big amusement park over in Brooklyn, one of our five boroughs, is on the southeast side, not the west.

Such things are different in Liberty City.

Grand Theft Auto IV” gets many, many things right about New York City, the metropolis upon which its Liberty City is based. And it gets some big things wrong that I can overlook.

But some of the game’s misrepresentations demand correcting. New York City, I will defend your rep, via a cheap numbered-list post.

“GTA IV” is — dare I say it — just a game. So it’s okay that it doesn’t have a Westchester County or any other land connected to its version of Queens (called Dukes)[EDIT: My mistake! I meant the Bronx/Bohan]. It’s sort of okay that Staten Island didn’t make it onto the Liberty City map. Some of these inaccuracies are forgivable, given that Rockstar Games did include authentic tai chi aficionados slowly twirling in Liberty Ciy’s parks and street preachers bellowing on the sidewalks. The developers really have made the most authentic video game city I’ve ever played darts in.

However, just as a major movie set in New York might convince some of out-of-towners to visit the Big Apple, “GTA IV” might bring some non-New-Yorkers to the real life Liberty City.

I don’t want you to come here with the wrong idea.

Here are eight things about New York City grossly misrepresented in Rockstar Games’ Liberty City:

1. We are not a car town: No sensible New Yorker uses a car as their primary means of transportation in the city, unless — maybe — they commute from the suburbs. Car ownership doesn’t make much sense. There are never any parking spots. Parking garages are prohibitively expensive. And, most importantly, the subway is a faster, cheaper and more efficient means of transportation. We don’t drive here. Niko, to be a real New Yorker, should rely on the subway. But what would he be left to grandly thieve?

2. The Met doesn’t have dinos: The big art museum on the east side of Liberty City’s Middle Park (aka Central Park) was designed by Rockstar to look like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s worth visiting. But don’t go there for the wrong reasons. “GTA” erroneously implies there are dinosaur bones on display in the Met. No way. Paintings, pottery and many an Egyptian sarcophagus, yes. Dinosaur bones? Try the American Museum of Natural History.

3. You can’t jog in Times Square at noon on a weekday: Take it from someone who works in Times Square that there are far too may tourists in Times Square to let someone jog on the sidewalks in the heart of the city. Liberty City just isn’t as crowded as the real thing.

4. We have lots of two-story tour buses: “GTA IV” includes sports cars, sedans, taxis, limos, garbage trucks, police cruisers, buses, motorcycles and more. But where are the red double-decker tour buses? This a drastic oversight. Every major thoroughfare in Manhattan has a roofless double-decker bus from Big Apple Tours or some other company. These buses are used to show visitors the sights. A guide stands on the top level with a mic in hand, pointing stuff out. Hey, Rockstar, if there was one signature New York City vehicle I wanted to commandeer right off a short pier in Liberty City, this was it. You let me down

5. We have baseball stadiums — two of them: In the Bronx and Queens we have baseball fields for two teams you may have heard of. I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I would still say that baseball is a key part of New York City culture. It divides the city into tribes. The frequent playoff and World Series appearances of the Mets and Yankees annually energize the town. Yes, the Liberty City Swingers are mentioned on in-game radio stations, but, 30 hours into the game, I have a feeling we’re never going to see a player or a field where they play. Liberty City just doesn’t feel like a baseball town. There may be no bigger piece of New York City culture missing from Liberty City than the Big Apple’s baseball heritage.

6. People don’t carry bags in their arms: This is subtle but crucial. In Liberty City, people carry brown bags full of groceries in their arms — the better to knock free in a demonstration of exceptional physics engineering. In New York City, bags are carried over the shoulder or by their handles in people’s hands. No one carries an armful of groceries, because no one carries that small amount of stuff. When we go grocery shopping, we go all-out.

7. People in New Jersey need to pay: All commuters in New York City were not created equal. “GTA IV” accurately depicts the free ride people driving from Manhattan to Brooklyn get as they cross via the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. The city does not charge for car travel between the real life Algonquin and Broker. Going from the main Manhattan to the east is free. Going from the main island to the west, though, costs money. I was born in New Jersey, the land to the west of Manhattan. I appreciate the state. But those people who live there have got to pony up. They do in real life, forking over tolls for bridge and tunnel travel to Manhattan. “GTA IV” does not depict this. The game implies that the citizens of New Jersey (Alderney in the game) are welcomed into Manhattan with no strings attached and no tolls charged — as if they were the equal of Brooklynites. That is so not true. We charge them to come here.

8. We eat bagels: Have I missed something or is it not possible to eat a bagel in “Grand Theft Auto IV”’s Liberty City? Niko can eat burgers, hot dogs and go to diners. But bagels? The most famous New York City food? Never fear, visitors to our town, we have bagels that can be eaten and enjoyed, whether Liberty City acknowledges it or not. Burgers? Waste of time. You can eat them in any town.


Those are eight differences between New York City and Liberty City. Eight truths non-New-Yorkers need to know.

Are you a local — possibly a developer at NYC-based Rockstar Games — equally motivated to address some of the gross misrepresentations of New York City in ’Grand Theft Auto IV”? Stand in silence no longer. Speak out!