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20 Interesting Facts About New York City

Updated: Mar 6, 2021

New York City is the most populous, and the most densely populated, city in the United States of America. In fact, New York City is at the centre of the New York metropolitan area, which is the largest metropolitan area globally in terms of urban landmass. The city can trace its beginnings to a trading post established by Dutch colonists in 1624 on Lower Manhattan. However, despite all we might think we know about this fantastic cosmopolitan metropolis, New York still continues to surprise us. Here are 20 interesting facts about New York you might not know.

Linguistically diverse city

As 37% of New Yorkers are immigrants, this has resulted in more than 800 languages being spoken in the metropolis! For instance, the five miles from Astoria to Forest Hills are densely interspersed with languages: Greek, Filipino, Urdu, Indonesian, Russian, Japanese, Lithuanian, and others, including more obscure ones like Chavacano, Waray-Waray, Minangkabau, and Bukharian. As a result, different ethnic enclaves are established throughout the city.

High costs of living

Time to start using that piggy bank! The average rent price for a one-bedroom in Manhattan is presently around an astonishing $3400 USD per month! In comparison, one can easily find similar accommodations in Greece for about $350-400 USD a month. A disclaimer though – this is the average price of all rentals combined. High rentals here are due to the convenience afforded to people living in New York, where entertainment, food, shopping and transportation are a stone’s throw away from most locations.

There’s still lots to do, for free!

Even though New York is known for its high cost of living as mentioned previously, there are still multiple things that locals and tourists alike can do for fun! Such activities include walking across Brooklyn Bridge (originally the longest suspension bridge in the world when it first opened in 1883), riding the Staten Island Ferry as pictured above, and visiting buildings like Grand Central Station & Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

Easy to navigate

Although Manhattan seems to be very confusing to get around with so many skyscrapers in the concrete jungle, Manhattan is divided into numbered streets from north to south and avenues from east to west – making most places easily accessible. Buses are handy for navigating around Manhattan, as is the subway, which is an excellent transportation mode to other boroughs. Also, don’t forget to try out the famous yellow taxis of New York!

A City of Museums

New York boasts an impressive array of museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) which has America’s largest art museum and is the fourth-most visited art museum globally; the Guggenheim Museum which boasts numerous renowned modern and contemporary exhibits displayed through semi-permanent thematic exhibitions. On another note, the American Museum of Natural History is also widely renowned.

Home to the world’s most famous city-centre park

Central Park is the 5th-largest urban park in New York City, covering 341 hectares. 38 million people visit it annually, making it the most visited park in the USA. Furthermore, it is the most filmed location in the world. Highlights within the park include:

1. Sheep's Meadow: A massive meadow that is perfect for relaxing and taking in the picturesque scenery. 2. The Lake: Where one can try out rowing boats. 3. The Rambles: A thickly forested woodland which distinguishes it from the rest of the park 4. Strawberry Fields: The tribute to John Lennon

Pizza Principle

New York City is home to Lombardi’s, the first pizzeria in the United States which opened in 1895. It still serves one of the best pizzas in America. In fact, the pizza in New York is special because the price of a pizza slice and a single subway ride has remained relatively equal for more than 5 decades, resulting in what economists call “The Pizza Principle.”

Breaking Wind in Church

Fascinatingly, farting in a church could result in a misdemeanour. This is because there is a law that states that a person is guilty of disruption or disturbance of a religious service, funeral, burial or memorial service “when he or she makes unreasonable noise or disturbance while at a lawfully assembled religious service, funeral, burial or memorial service, or within one hundred feet thereof, with intent to cause annoyance or alarm or recklessly creating a risk thereof.”

New York’s Taxis

Despite yellow cabs being one of the most recognisable symbols of New York City, the first gasoline-powered cab company which was established in 1907, actually used red and green cars. Even more surprisingly, yellow cabs were used elsewhere in America before New York adopted the colour in 1912. Speaking of cabs, when hailing one, try and get one on an avenue that's going in the same direction you are. Also, always remember to tip the taxi driver at least 15%.

Cowboy Patrols

Although most people associate cowboys with the Wild Wild West, from 1850 to 1941, New York’s 10th Avenue had its own unique team of cowboys. The West Side Cowboys would mount horses and ride ahead of the freight trains that ran down the middle of the street, warning people to get out of the way and occasionally wrangling them. Fortunately, they were phased out by 1941.

Packed like sardines

Famously, shoulder room, or the lack thereof, is the predominant predicament in New York. With over 27,000 people per square mile, it’s not only the densest major city (with more than 8 million inhabitants), it also accounts for more than 40 percent of New York State’s entire population. Moreover, 1 in 38 Americans calls New York City home.

Secession Crisis

In the 1980s, Staten Island politicians who were dissenting against limited representation on New York City’s City Council began campaigning for secession from the rest of New York City. However, while the majority of Staten Islanders supported the campaign, the City ultimately voted against the secession. The secession campaign has been briefly reignited several times since it was officially rejected in 1993.

Connection to nylon

An urban myth persists that the name for a family of synthetic fibres (nylon) originated from the conflation of New York and London when in fact, the synthetic fibre was invented in 1935 by an organic chemist under contract to Du Pont. The chemist, Wallace Carothers, referred to his invention as Fibre 66 but Du Pont wanted a more attractive name to appeal to customers. Thus, a naming committee that suggested over 400 names was formed until one good choice, No Run, was tinkered with until it became ‘nylon’.

A sprawling subway system

With 34 lines and 469 stops, the New York City subway system is one of the largest urban mass transportation systems worldwide. Travelling to every single stop without leaving the railway system will take you at least 21 hours and 49 minutes—the current world record. It boasts the record of being the busiest railway system in the Western hemisphere and the Western world and has mostly been open 24/7 throughout its history except for instances like the COVID-19 pandemic when operations were ceased late at night so disinfecting could take place.

Interesting backstory behind the Statue of Liberty

Gifted by the French to the Americans, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York City in 1885 in 350 pieces which were contained in 214 crates. Intriguingly, the statue’s iconic arm actually arrived a decade earlier in 1876, where it was put on display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia to raise funds for the construction project. Fun fact: It was built by Gustave Eiffel, the same man associated with the Parisian Eiffel Tower!

May Day Heyday

This is undoubtedly one of the queerest facts about New York - From colonial times through the dawn of the 20th century, May 1 was Moving Day — so almost everybody who needed to move apartments did so on that day. This odd custom engendered chaos and traffic jams as the streets became clogged with horse-drawn moving vans and furniture. Fortunately, this strange practice began to vanish in the 1920s.

Interesting backstory about the Bronx

The Bronx’s namesake is in fact derived from the first European settler! Jonas Bronck, who emigrated from Sweden to America in 1639, was the first European to settle in the Bronx. His 500-acre farm was referred to as “Bronck’s Land,” and the river was called “Bronck’s River.” As the years rolled by, people started calling the whole area the Bronx.

Dutch Background

Although the city is associated with the British Empire, New York’s first European settlers were Dutch. They established a fur trading post on Governor’s Island. Subsequently, the Dutch established the colony of New Amsterdam in Lower Manhattan by acquiring the island from the locals for the modern equivalent of $1000. Many have dubbed the transaction “the best real estate deal in history.”

Largest Gold Storage in the World

Located deep within the heart of Wall Street, New York’s financial district, the Federal Reserve Bank possesses the largest storage of gold worldwide. It holds more than 7000 tonnes of glittering gold bars 80 feet beneath ground level, equivalent to around 5% of all the world’s gold ever mined and valuated at about $90 billion USD. Remarkably, public tours are being offered.

Crustaceans in your drinking water

These tiny critters are in New York's drinking water supplies like reservoirs because they help to control the population of mosquito larvae in the water, helping to prevent dangerous disease outbreaks. Nevertheless, they are safe to consume in your drinking water unless you are very disturbed by their presence. In that case, an over-the-counter filter should suffice to remove them. The reason they are present is because New York’s water quality exceeds federal standards and so does not require any filtering.


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