Travel - Destinations
By: - at June 17, 2013

15 Little Known Facts About New York City

The Statue of Liberty in NYCNew York City is one of the most famous cities in the world. When people think of New York City, they think of Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and many other famous landmarks. It is a city that attracts millions of visitors each year. People from around the country and the world go to New York City to live. It attracts everyone from starving artists to wealthy investment bankers to immigrants trying to make it in America. As one of the oldest cities in the United States, it has a rich history. There are also a lot of secrets about New York City that both outsiders and locals may not know about.

15)  New York City is the Only Global City to Feature a 24 Hour Subway System
New York is sometimes referred to as the "city that never sleeps." One reason for this nickname is because the city never shuts down. There are activities and venues open at all hours of the day and night. According to "The City That Never Sleeps, Not Even for Transportation," the other reason for the nickname is because the subway system never shuts down except for maintenance. Even then, only part of it is shut down. Scene by Laurie, a website dedicated to finding the unique things about New York City, also affirms the fact that that New York Subway runs 24 hours a day. Even Washington D.C.'s subway system shuts down around the hours of 2am to 5am. The infrastructure needed to run and maintain a subway for that long is very impressive.

New York City Subway System

14)  New York City Features the Only Greek Temple Church to Be Made into a Regular Church, and Then into Condos
New York City features a Greek-style temple that is now being rented out as condominiums. According to, the building was built in 1846 as a Presbyterian church made to look like a Greek temple. The building almost burned down twice, once in 1855 and again in 1902. Each time the church was rebuilt, a new organ was brought in, according to the New York Chapter of American Guild of Organists. The Presbyterian Church merged with two other churches before closing its doors in 1975. Later, a developer applied to buy the property and develop it into condominiums. The developer initially ran into strong protest because the church is located in the historic district of New York. Any commercial renovation of a historic building generally requires permission from the city and/or the city's historical society. The developer got permission for the renovations and completed the renovations in 1982. It's described as one of New York City's most interesting condominiums.

Presbyterian church made to look like a Greek temple

13)  Part of New York City is Built Over Gold
Gold bullionNew York City and London are two cities in the world where the most financial dealings occur. According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, New York beats out London as the world's financial capital. It is the home of Wall Street, as well as the Federal Reserve Bank. The Lower Manhattan Federal Reserve Bank holds over $2 trillion of the world's assets, according to the Federal Reserve website. A substantial portion of these assets are in gold bullion. Six stories or 80 feet below the streets around the bank is the world's largest storage of gold bullion. The bank's vault holds approximately 37 percent of the world's gold, according to the Bundesbank. As of 2012, there are 530,000 gold bars located in the vaults, according to New York Fed. Bundestank, the Federal Bank of Germany, owns most of the gold stored below the Federal Reserve Bank building. The Federal Reserve Bank actually owns none of the gold it stores.

12)  New York City is the Only City in the World Made Up of Boroughs

NYC Boroughs:
NYC Boroughs Map
Photo By Matthew Trump on Wikimedia Commons

Major cities all over the world are made up of parts and sections. For example, Paris is divided up into 20 urban quarters. However, there are no cities in the world quite like New York City. It is made of five distinct boroughs. Each of the boroughs is separated by a major waterway. The five boroughs are Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island. Each of these neighborhoods is not only a borough of New York City, they are all distinct counties. The distinct boroughs brought a sensible distinction geographically. Additionally, because of the vast size and population of the city, it was necessary to distinguish the different areas of the city.

The boroughs were created in 1898 when the city's official boundaries were established. Prior to this, Brooklyn was its own city, rivaling New York City. Each of the neighborhoods has a distinct reputation and characteristics. The largest borough is Queens, and Brooklyn has the greatest population. If you ask any New York City resident which borough is the best, he'll probably respond that the one he lives in is the best.

11)  Each New York City Neighborhood Has Something Unique
Manhattan is what most people think of when they think of New York City. In reality, this is just one portion of New York City. It is where Times Square, Central Park, and most of the major entertainment and shows occur. Lower Manhattan is home to places like Little Italy and Wall Street. It has most of the classic and traditional culture of New York City, and it is also one of the most expensive.

NYC - Manhattan

Brooklyn, on the other hand, is widely recognized as the trendiest area of the city. With the greatest population of all the boroughs, there is a lot of cultural diversity to be discovered. People can explore areas like Coney Island and Prospect Park. According to "Fashion Insider," this is also one of the best places to get great deals on discount fashion.

Coney Island:
Coney Island

It takes a little more effort to get to Staten Island. You'll have to take a ferry. More parks and reserves stretch through this borough than any other place in New York City, totaling more than 9,300 acres of parks on Staten Island. A major attraction of Staten Island is the New York Wheel, a huge Ferris wheel that can be seen for quite some distance.

NYC Wheel:
NYC Wheel

When it comes to distinctive culture and sandwiches, the Bronx is the place to go. According to, the Bronx is the farthest north borough of New York City and has the most old fashioned delis per block of any other borough. It also is where Yankee Stadium is located. This is one of the most laid back boroughs, and it has a reputation for being a great place for jazz and street performances.

Yankee Stadium:
Yankee Stadium

Queens is New York City's largest neighborhood, and it is also the most culturally diverse. With a wide selection of culturally diverse cuisine, and cultural options, New Yorkers are predicting that Queens will soon take over Brooklyn's title as the cities trendiest neighborhood. For free festivals and events, Queens takes the prize. It also has some of the finest up and coming art and cultural exhibitions.

10)  New York Once Belonged to the Dutch
The name "New York" can easily be identified as a colonization of Great Britain. However, the English conquered New York in 1698. For several years before this, the region belonged to the Dutch. The Dutch had purchased the land in 1626 from the Algonquin Native Americans for a small price. The whole area at the time was called New Netherland. The area which is now modern Manhattan was christened New Amsterdam by the Dutch, who managed to successfully colonize it. Throughout the 17th century, the control over the area remained tumultuous. English settlers arrived and co-habited there with the Dutch. Control over the area was switched between the English and the Dutch for decades. In 1686, it officially became an English colony and took the name New York. The following century, after the American Revolution, the United States took control of the area officially.

New York City Colony by the Dutch:
New York City Colony by the Dutch

9)  People Are Expected to Be Rude on the Road
According to Travel and Leisure's website, New York was named America's Rudest City in 2012. Part of the reason for the rudeness is, according to one New Yorker quoted in Travel and Leisure, that drivers are expected to just put up with it. If you try to make a fuss about it, then you are being rude. Another possible cause for the rudeness is the mixture of different cultures. Some cultures consider certain hand gestures as simple communication. Others view those same gestures as extremely offensive. When the two cultures collide, you get friction and road rage.

NYC Traffic Jam

According to psychologists there are a couple of psychological forces at work when driving in New York City. The first one is the self-serving bias. The self-serving bias condemns others when they perform certain actions, but makes excuses or rationalizes it when that person makes those same actions. Everyone in New York City is trying to get somewhere, often in a hurry. Therefore, it is easy to rationalize what you do while at the same time becoming frustrated when others do the same stuff. But this doesn't explain why the Official Response described it as a compliment. Mob mentality also plays a big part in rude drivers. Mob mentality describes the tendency of an individual to act just like everyone around them even if the individual would not normally act that way. The bigger the mob, the bigger the mob mentality. Since New York City is one of the biggest cities in America, it is not surprising that New York City beat out the field. Just be careful when you're walking as a pedestrian. You have to run quickly as the drivers don't always follow the rules of the road.

8)  Several City Parks are Actually Burial Grounds
New York City is known for its great parks located within the city. Although millions of people frequent these parks regularly, most people do not know that many of the parks were actual burial grounds. Before the city was vastly industrialized in the 1900s, generations of people were buried in the ground below the city, according to "Secrets of New York City."

Washington Square Park in NYC
TonyTheTiger at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0, GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], from Wikimedia Commons

The area that is now Washington Square Park was originally farmland. After 1797, it became a potter's field, according to "The Encyclopedia of New York City." The area was transformed into a burial ground for the city's homeless, unknown people, and prisoners named Potter's Field. It was easiest to bury these people there, rather than having to transport them off of the island. In the early 1800s, when the city's population was plagued with yellow fever, people died quickly. In order to prevent contamination of the unaffected population, the Washington Square Park area was then used as a mass burial ground for yellow fever victims. According to the "NYC Parks Department Official History," the land was designated as a public park in 1827.

Washington Square Park was not the only city park that was used as a burial ground. Madison Square Park and Bryant Park were also used as mass graves before they became the beautiful parks they are today. Eventually, burials became banned from Manhattan for health reasons, and eventually the lands were transformed into parks. The ground is sufficiently deep over these sites to prevent people and their pets from accidentally disturbing the dead though.

7)  New York City is Known for the Only Monument to Welcome Immigrants (Statue of Liberty) But It Does Not Actually Own the Land
One of the most iconic structures in New York City is the Statue of Liberty. One might be tempted to think of the Statute of Liberty as something that makes New York unique. The original model of the Statue of Liberty, according to the plaque on its base, is located in the Jardin de Luxembourg in the country of Luxembourg. It was a gift to the Luxembourg museum by the creator of the statue, Fredric Bartholi.

The Original Statute of Liberty in Luxembourg:
Statute of Liberty in Luxembourg
By Yair Haklai (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The shocking part though is that despite the fact people generally associate the Statue of Liberty with New York City and New York State, the Statue of Liberty is actually completely within the boundaries of New Jersey. New Jersey has always been the territorial holder of the Statue of Liberty, according to "OMG Facts." Not surprisingly, this has been a tense spot between New Jersey and New York for quite some time. New York actually gained its claim because it had water rights though the land and water as a whole belonged to New Jersey. Ultimately, it was settled by giving both states the right to have jurisdiction over Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, but New Jersey still feels as if it got the short end of the stick on that particular agreement.

6)  New York Has One of the Best and Most Used Subway Systems in the World
The New York City subway system is one of the best in the world. It is one of the only ones that run 24 hours. According to "NYC Subway Statistics," 4.9 million people ride the system daily, with an average travel time of 140 minutes each day. There are a total of 656 miles that cover passenger service. Even the buskers and musicians that play in the New York City subway must undergo an audition process in order to be authorized to play within it. Despite people's complaints, this particular subway system is considered to be much more comfortable and easier to navigate than many others. It far exceeds Boston's T chaotic mazes, and it is comparatively clean when compared to other subway systems in the world. Add to that the fact that it never shuts down, and it's obvious why this is considered one of the best subways.

New York City Subway System

5)  There Are Many Hidden Subway Stations
In addition to the current sophistication of the subway system, most people are not aware that the city has many abandoned and hidden subway stations. Beneath City Hall is one of the hidden subway stations. It has been inactive since 1946. Despite being abandoned, the station is an architectural wonder. It boasts high ceilings, skylights, and antique tiling. People can still witness the hidden station for a subway, according to If someone takes the Six Train to the City Hall Station and waits for the train to turn around, they will get a glimpse of the former City Hall station. Certain tours go to see this station, but any person who lingers on a train at the station will be able to see it when the train goes through the City Hall loop. These tours are quite popular, so make sure to get your reservation sent in in advance.

New York City Hall Ghost Station:
City Hall Ghost Station

Above the Broadway stop of the G train, we can glimpse an ambitious, but unfinished, attempt to expand the New York Subway. In the 1930s, the city began expanding the tracks in that station, according the The half-finished project remains. Along the walls and ceiling are graffiti art and other signs of urban explorers.

Graffiti art in this abandoned NYC Subway station:
Graffiti abandoned NYC Subway station

There are many other abandoned and hidden subway tunnels and stations throughout the city in addition to these. The New York Transit Museum is actually another abandoned station. The Fulton Street Subway once started its line at Court Street, which now holds the Museum. Other more derelict subway stations can be found on the lower level of the Port Authority at 18th Street, as well as many other locations throughout the city. For graffiti artists and enthusiasts, these abandoned tunnels are a gold mine for artistic opportunities and inspiration.

NYC Transit Museum:
NYC Transit Museum
By David Shankbone (David Shankbone (own work)) [CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

4)  New York Has an Egyptian Monument

Cleopatra's Needle:
NYC Egyptian monument

Cleopatra's Needle (Colin Smith)

In New York City's Central Park, there is an Egyptian monument. It is an obelisk nicknamed "Cleopatra's Needle." Millions of people pass by it everyday without giving it a second thought. It does not attract a lot of attention from locals or tourists, mainly because it has been around so long. Cleopatra's Needle is one of a set of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks. The two others are situated in London and Paris. It is a twin to the obelisk in London. Its name is a misnomer, because it has no actual connection to Cleopatra. The obelisk predates Cleopatra's time by over a thousand years.

In the 1870s, European powers Great Britain and France were looking to take over the Egyptian government. The aim was to secure the trade route of the Nile River. At this point in time London and Paris both already had their obelisks, with the third of the set located in Alexandria, where it had been located since 18AD, according the It was granted to the United States by Mehmet Ali Pasha, the Egyptian Khedive, all thanks to the United States. The gratitude was expressed for increasing trade between the countries, and subsequently for supplying the funds needed to modernize the ancient country.

Cleopatra's Needle is buried above a time capsule. The Bible, Webster's Dictionary, complete works of Shakespeare, an 1870 U.S. census, guide of Egypt, and a replica of the Declaration of Independence are held in the time capsule, according to the Central Park website. Some other treasures are rumored to be hidden in this time capsule as well.

3)  Brooklyn Bridge Has a Bomb Shelter
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of New York City's major landmarks. It attracts tourists visiting the city, as well as acts as an essential traveling route for residents to get to from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Thousands of pedestrians and cyclists cross the bridge each day. Of those people, most never notice that the Brooklyn Bridge has an interesting addition: a Cold War era bomb shelter. It was not until 2006 that City inspectors even noticed the shelter. The shelter is located on the East River shoreline of Lower Manhattan, just below the entrance ramp.

Brooklyn Bridge:
Brooklyn Bridge

The bomb shelter was discovered when city workers were doing a regular inspection of the structure. They came across the shelter and opened it. Inside the vault was a large supply of survival necessities. According to the New York Times, the vault was filled with water drums, crackers, drugs, medical supplies, and blankets. The bomb shelter was built amidst the peak of when the Cold War threats brought tremendous anxiety to Americans. The walls of the vault were lined with boxes that were stamped with the dates 1957 and 1962. These were the years when the Soviets launched the satellite Sputnik and the year when Americans were most worried about the potential for nuclear destruction during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

City workers moved the contents of the bomb shelter and disposed of them safely. What surprised experts most was that none of the city workers or the hundreds of thousands of people who crossed the bridge in the previous years noticed the existence of the bomb shelter.

2)  Pneumatic Tubes Used to Deliver Mail Are Installed Throughout New York City
Pneumatic Tubes in NYCBefore the days of e-mail and even hand delivered letters by USPS workers, the mail in New York City was delivered via pneumatic tubes. In 1897, the pneumatic tube system was installed in New York City. These tubes delivered mail through a vacuumed tube system throughout the city.

The first pneumatic tube delivered a Bible, flag, and a copy of the Constitution, according to the "The Pneumatic Mail Tubes: New York's Hidden Highway And Its History." Initially, it only delivered mail between the General Post Office, which is now Moynihan Station, and the Produce Exchange, which was located on Bowling Green. Eventually it grew to connect 23 post offices, covering a 27-mile route. The routes covered stretched from Wall Street to East Harlem and even crossed boroughs to Brooklyn through the Brooklyn Bridge. The system was capable of delivering up to 600 letters per tube while traveling at approximately 30 miles per hour. Almost 100,000 letters were moved through the system daily. The pneumatic pipes were located about four feet below the ground. This caused a lot of installations problems for the city, according to the "Smithsonian National Postal Museum." Due to the fact that water and gas pipes had already been installed below the ground, the size of the pneumatic tubes was restricted.

Companies privately owned the pneumatic tube system. Rent and labor costs were paid by the City. It was used until 1953, according to the book "The Works," which uncovers the anatomy of New York City. The system eventually ceased being financial viable for the city to continue using, but this doesn't make it any less intriguing.

1)  New York City Hosts the United Nation Headquarters
According to "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader," over 85% of adults believe that the United Nation (UN) headquarters are in Italy or a separate island. The United Nations has its headquarters in New York City. The headquarters is where the UN Ambassadors meet and discuss UN business. Under the UN Charter, the United Nations can hear complaints from, and settle disputes arising in, any country in the world.

United Nation (UN) headquarters in NYC:
United Nation (UN) headquarters in NYC

The decision to host the headquarters in New York City was based partially on the city's long history of welcoming immigrants and temporary travelers from other countries. As a result, millions of travelers from other countries regularly pass through the city. Whether for work, a new life, or just visiting, New York is equipped to be a true international city, and as the host city for the UN headquarters, it fulfills this role.





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