As one of the most popular cities globally, New York is a place full of surprises. Even well-established New Yorkers don’t know every secret it holds, and there’s plenty to be discovered among its varied streets. Today, we’re taking a break from the usual talk about purchasing strategies and market reports to get a closer view of what makes this city so special. These are 15 interesting facts you may or may not know about New York City.
Table of Contents
- There are over 600 languages and dialects spoken here.
- The oldest building in the city dates back to 1652
- New York was originally known as New Amsterdam.
- More than 200 bird species visit Central Park every year.
- The term “Big Apple” comes from horse racing.
- We’ve got more gold than Fort Knox.
- It would take almost 24hrs to navigate the entire NYC subway.
- Staten Island once tried to secede.
- Cowboys used to patrol 10th Avenue in Manhattan.
- There’s a wire hanging above the Manhattan skyline.
There are over 600 languages and dialects spoken here.There are over 600 languages and dialects spoken here.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language, NYC might be the place to go. According to one study, there are about 650 languages and dialects spoken across the entire metropolitan area. It’s an incredible number for any major city. It becomes even more interesting when you learn that some languages, like Quechua or Garifuna, are extremely rare or dying out in their countries of origin. About a third of New Yorkers are foreign-born, making for an incredibly diverse melting pot where cultures and ethnicities from almost every corner of the globe can be found.
The oldest building in the city dates back to 1652The oldest building in the city dates back to 1652
If you’re ever in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, take some time to visit the entire city’s oldest building. Known as the Wyckoff House, the simple colonial style home was built by Netherlands native Pieter Claesen Wyckoff on land he purchased in 1636 from the local Lenape people. Best estimates put its construction date at 1652, only 27 years after the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam was established. In 1965, it was declared an official city landmark and now serves as a museum dedicated to the city’s Dutch heritage. Speaking of which…
New York was originally known as New Amsterdam.New York was originally known as New Amsterdam.
This one gets thrown around a lot, but the actual story has many interesting tidbits that reveal other details about the city’s founding. In 1624, the colony of New Netherland was established by the Dutch West India Company on land that would later encompass all of present-day NYC. The story goes that in 1626, the settlers bought the island of Manhattan from the native inhabitants in exchange for traded goods with a value of 60 guilders (about $1,143 today). In 1664, as part of a series of ongoing wars between England and the Netherlands, New Amsterdam was captured by an English naval squadron. The city’s name was changed to New York in honor of the Duke of York, who had sponsored the mission.
More than 200 bird species visit Central Park every year.More than 200 bird species visit Central Park every year.
If you’ve never seen it in person before, the sheer scale of Central Park can catch you off guard. It can take about two hours to walk its entire length with an area of 843 acres (1.137 square miles). With all that green space, it may come as little surprise then to know that it’s a prime spot for birdwatching. Out of approximately 800 known North American bird species, more than 200 have made appearances in Central Park. Every spring, migration brings hundreds of them out into the open. Not a bad way at all to spend a day with the family.
The term “Big Apple” comes from horse racing.The term “Big Apple” comes from horse racing.
Everyone’s heard the words “Big Apple” when referring to NYC, but how many people know where the phrase comes from? Although it’s still a matter of debate, the most common explanation for the city’s famous nickname is that it comes from horse racing commentary. Yes, you read that correctly. In an article written in 1921, journalist John F. Fitzgerald made the first known use of the phrase when he wrote, “There’s only one Big Apple. That’s New York.”
We’ve got more gold than Fort Knox.We’ve got more gold than Fort Knox.
For all the gold that Fort Knox has (about 147 million ounces at last count), it doesn’t hold a candle to the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan. Located about 80ft below the streets of Manhattan, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York holds what they claim to be the largest gold bullion reserve in the world. Roughly 212 million ounces, about 50% more than Fort Knox. As you’d expect, the place is a veritable fortress, with steel-reinforced concrete walls, every type of surveillance system you can imagine, and only a single entrance that’s blocked by a nine-foot-high, 90-ton steel cylinder set into a 140-ton frame. There are free tours available for the curious, but don’t expect to walk out with any free samples.
It would take almost 24hrs to navigate the entire NYC subway.It would take almost 24hrs to navigate the entire NYC subway.
New York City has an extensive public transportation system, with its subway system being one of the world’s biggest. There are 34 lines, 469 stops, and more than 665 miles of track. That’s enough to stretch all the way from NYC to Chicago if it was laid end to end. For anyone who’s ever wondered how long it would take to travel the entire thing, a 25-year old lawyer found out in 2016 when he rode to every single stop in just 21 hours, 49 minutes, and 39 seconds. It’s an amazing feat and not one that many of us would ever care to emulate, even if you could get the L-train to run on time.
Staten Island once tried to secede.Staten Island once tried to secede.
Out of all the five boroughs, Staten Island tends to be the one most people forget about. In the early ‘90s, after years of neglect and poor management from the city council, things came to a head when it voted to secede from the rest of New York City. Despite 65% of Staten Island residents voting in favor of the move, it was ultimately blocked by the state assembly. Since then, the secession campaign had reignited a few times in 2014 when Bill de Blasio became Mayor. As outlandish as the idea sounds, it does start to become understandable once you learn about its sordid history with Manhattan.
Cowboys used to patrol 10th Avenue in Manhattan.Cowboys used to patrol 10th Avenue in Manhattan.
It sounds like something out of a cheap fantasy novel, but if you went back to 1941, you would have found cowboys on horseback along 10th Avenue. The reason being a now-defunct train line that many locals appropriately referred to as “The Butcher.” This was no tram; it was a full-sized railway line that ran from 1846 to 1941 between 10th and 11th Avenues, with no barriers, fences, or platforms. Due to the dangers, real cowboys were shipped in from the west to help manage the situation. Their job was to ride their horses ahead of the trains while waving red flags to warn people away. Despite their best efforts, more than 430 people died before the line was finally shut down in 1941. Interestingly, this old train line is still around today, though you’ll probably know it now as the High Line.
There’s a wire hanging above the Manhattan skyline.There’s a wire hanging above the Manhattan skyline.
Above the skyline and stretching for 18 miles around Manhattan, there’s a translucent wire that you’ve probably never noticed. It’s called an eruv, and it exists due to the Jewish Sabbath. Under Jewish law, observant Jews cannot carry anything in public on the Sabbath, be it groceries, children, or books. To get around this, the eruv encircles much of Manhattan, acting as a spiritual boundary that turns the public spaces into private spaces. Like most things here, the eruv doesn’t come cheap. A group of Orthodox synagogues pays $100,000 a year to maintain the wires, which are inspected by a rabbi every Thursday before dawn to confirm that they’re all still attached. The whole thing is taken very seriously. In 2011, a wire broke near the United Nations building, and there was a bit of a panic when repair crews couldn’t get past security to fix it.