200 New York City Facts from a New Yorker
New York City, which I am privileged to call home, is an iconic and vibrant city that I learn more about – and continue to be surprised by – even after 20+ years of living here. With a population of over 8.3 million people that speak 800+ languages, it truly is a melting pot that creates unforgettable experiences and memories, both as a local and as a tourist.
I love bumping into usual, unusual, little known, well known, offbeat, unique, obscure, interesting, amazing, random and fun facts about NYC that deepen my understanding of it, especially Manhattan since that is where I live. Here is a compilation of 200 New York facts that have caught my attention over the years.
Facts about New York City (NYC)
- New York City is composed of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Bronx is on the mainland, Manhattan and Staten Island are islands, and Queens and Brooklyn are on Long Island.
- Brooklyn voted to become part of NYC with a margin of under 300 votes in the 1980s. Brooklyn is big enough to be the 4th largest city in the US on its own.
- NYC covers an area of 468.9 square miles.
- NYC has 520 miles of coastline, which is longer than the combined coasts of Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco.
Ten Interesting Facts about Manhattan
- Manhattan is an island in New York City with a total land area of approximately 22.82 square miles. It is approximately 13.4 miles (21.6 kilometers) long and 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) wide at its widest point.
- The island of Manhattan was originally home to the Lenape people, a Native American tribe who called the island “Mannahatta,” meaning “island of many hills.”
- In 1609, the Dutch explorer Henry Hudson arrived in the harbor and claimed the island for the Dutch and called it “New Amsterdam”
- Dutch West India Company purchased Manhattan Island from the Lenape people for 60 guilders, which is equivalent to around $24 today.
- New Amsterdam remained a Dutch colony until 1664, when the English took control and renamed it “New York” in honor of the Duke of York.
- All official distances are measured from Columbus Circle.
- Avenues run from north to south in Manhattan, and Streets from east to west even though Stuyvesant Street is the only compass-tested east-to-west street in Manhattan.
- Broadway cuts across Manhattan, and follows the original Wickguasgeck trail, which was then called Bredeh Wegh – Broad Way – in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, and called Broadway under the British.
- Marble Hill, located in the Bronx, is a part of Manhattan Island.
- Manhattan is also called the Big Apple, which was inspired by horse racing prizes being referred to as at the big apple in the 1920s, the City, and often (incorrectly) used interchangeably with New York City.
- The East River is actually a saltwater estuary.
Facts about New Yorkers
- New York City is home to over 8.3 million people.
- There is a birth in NYC every 4.4 minutes.
- About 1 in every 38 people living in the US lives in NYC.
- About 1 out of 3 people living in NYC were born outside the U.S.
- NYC has the largest Chinese population outside Asia.
- New York City is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with a population density of over 27,000 people per square mile. The world’s population could fit in the state of Texas if it were as densely populated as New York City. However, it is notable that ancient Rome was 8 times more densely populated than modern NYC.
- Manhattan is home to over 1.6 million people. If Manhattan had the same population density as Alaska, only 28 people would live there.
- The 2010 census recorded 2,126 NYC residents who were 100 years or older.
- Over 800 languages are spoken in NYC.
- There are 700 native Seke speakers in the world and 50 of them live in the same Flatbush apartment building
- In 1790 the first census documented 33,131 people in NYC.
- Theodore Roosevelt was the only US President born in Manhattan, he was raised on a Flatiron District brownstone.
- There are more undergraduate and graduate students in NYC than there are people in Boston.
- Over 600,000 dogs live in New York City. There are more dogs in NYC than people in Cleveland.
Cool Facts about New York City Landmarks
- The Empire State Building was completed in 1931, and its height is 1,454 feet (443.2 meters) from the ground to its antenna tip, including its spire. Without the antenna, the building stands at a height of 1,250 feet (381 meters).
- The Empire State Building has its own zip code.
- Lightning strikes the ESB more than 100 times a year.
- On a clear day, you can see five states from the Empire State Building’s observatories.
- The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, was dedicated on October 28, 1886, and stands 305 feet tall. It was delivered in 350 pieces in 1885, with an arm arriving before in 1876.
- The Statue of Liberty’s sandals are the equivalent of a size 879 shoe.
- The Statue of Liberty’s full name is “Liberty Enlightening the World”.
- World Trade Center is 1,776 feet tall including its spire to pay tribute to the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.
- The United Nations headquarters is located in New York City.
- The New York Public Library is the second-largest public library in the United States, and has over 56 million items including Charles Dickens writing desk and the original Winnie the Pooh toys.
- The NYPL’s Rare Book Division holds the first book printed in North America dating back to 1543.
- The city is home to some of the world’s most famous hotels, including the Plaza Hotel and the Waldorf Astoria. When the Plaza Hotel first opened in 1907 rooms were $2.50 per night!
Little Known Facts about Times Square
- Times Square, also known as “The Crossroads of the World,” has lights that can be seen from outer space.
- Times Square is named after the New York Times. It was originally called Long Acre Square.
- Times Square has a secret sound exhibit under what looks like a subway grate since the 1970s. It is managed by Dia Beacon.
- Times Square has the longest running digital art exhibit called Midnight Moment, which can be seen on most of its billboards from 11:57pm – 12:00am every night. The exhibit changes every month.
- Times Square has a map of all the Broadway theaters called the Great White Way in Duffy Square.
- The clock at the top of the Paramount Building has stars for the hours, which are from the Paramount logo.
- New Year numerals are displayed at Duffy Square in December before they are placed under the Times Square Ball for New Year’s Eve.
- New Year’s Eve confetti has wishes written by people on it. This is collected in Times Square every December.
- The Times Square Ball used to be lowered by men and rope till 1995.
Amazing Facts about the New York Subway
- The New York City Subway is the largest subway system in the world and has 472 stations.
- NYC has over 840 miles of subway track.
- The designer of NYC’s subway map rode all the lines with his eyes closed to get a sense of their turns.
- When the subway opened in 1904, the NYC mayor was at the controls for the inaugural ride.
- City Hall Station, which opened in 1904, is a gorgeous abandoned station with stained glass skylights and a chandelier that can be visited only on official tours organized by the New York Transit Museum. The tickets for the tours get sold out within a few minutes of going on sale.
- The New York Transit Museum is located in a subway station that was last used in 1936.
- 1% of the cost of new stations is spent on art, so look around when you travel in the subway as it includes art by notable artists such as Kusama, Alex Katz, Sol DeWitt and Roy Lichtenstein.
- At 88 feet above street level, Brooklyn’s Smith/9th St stop is the highest subway station in the world.
- An Englishman who moved to NYC as a child is the voice nehind ‘stand clear of the closing doors, please’ in subway trains.
Random Facts about NY Cars and Cabs
- Jaywalking is unofficially permitted in Manhattan.
- Yo Yo Ma once left his 18th-century, $2.5 million cello in an NYC taxi. It was safely returned.
- New York taxis used to be red and green before their color changed to yellow in 1912.
- NYC had a fleet of electric taxis in 1900.
Unique Facts about Grand Central
- Grand Central was saved from being demolished by Jackie Kennedy.
- The Departure boards at Grand Central are 1 minute wrong by design.
- Grand Central has a whispering gallery.
- Grand Central windows are walkways for its employees.
- Grand Central’s central information booth has a hidden staircase for its employees to go up and down between levels.
- Grand Central’s iconic ceiling is painted as a mirror image of the actual skies. Some say it is the view of the Gods looking down at earth.
- There is a little black patch in the Grand Central ceiling to show how dirty it was from smoke before it was cleaned and restored to its current color.
- Campbell Apartment at Grand Central is a bar in what used to be the private offices of John Campbell.
- The chandeliers at Grand Central all have exposed lights, which was intentional to show that Grand Central had electricity when it was built.
- In 2018, a diner at the Grand Central Oyster Bar found a pearl in his oyster dish.
- 80 percent of the items turned into Grand Central’s lost and found make it back to their owner.
- Grand Central Madison, extends the LIRR to the East Side, opened in 2023. It was originally conceived in 1963.
- Grand Central Madison escalators are 182 ft long and 90 ft tall, making them the longest and steepest escalators in NY.
Soaring Facts about New York Airports
- NYC has three airports – John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens, LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in Queens and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey.
- LaGuardia Airport was conceived in 1934 because Mayor LaGuardia landed in Newark Airport, and refused to get off the plane as his ticket listed the destination as New York but he was in New Jersey.
- LaGuardia flights must be under 1,500 miles unless it’s Saturday or they’re going to or from Denver.
Precious Facts about NYC Museums
- New York City has 145 museums! The city is home to some of the world’s most famous museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History.
- The Metropolitan Museum opened to the public in 1872. It is home to over 5,000 years of art history with a collection of over 2 million objects, including the world’s oldest existing piano dating back to 1720.
- The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the building is as much of a draw as the exhibition it has.
- The Whitney Museum is in a new building since 2015 in the Meatpacking District. Interestingly it sells honey produced by two beehives that sit on its roof.
Amazing Facts about Manhattan Bridges and Tunnels
- There are 21 bridges and 4 tunnels connecting Manhattan to the rest of the world .
- The Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883, was the first bridge to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn.
- The Brooklyn Bridge was the first bridge to be lit using electricity.
- The Williamsburg and Brooklyn bridges are nearly equal in length, but the former is 4.5 feet longer.
- The Brooklyn Bridge is older than the Tower Bridge in London.
- A rooster was the first animal to cross the Brooklyn Bridge in the lap of engineer Emily Warren Roebling a week before opening.
- 21 elephants from the circus crossed over the Brooklyn bridge in 1884 to prove it was safe.
- Construction began for the Holland Tunnel in both NYC and New Jersey and met in the middle.
- The George Washington Bridge was supposed to be covered in stone, but was left unfinished due to the depression.
- The Holland Tunnel was the first mechanically ventilated underwater tunnel when it opened in 1927.
- The Queens Midtown Tunnel opened in 1940 to ease congestion over the bridges.
Winning Facts about NYC Sports
- NYC has two teams for every major sport, making it difficult for New Yorkers to choose between them!
- Baseball – New York Mets and New York Yankees
- Basketball – New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets
- Football – New York Giants and New York Jets
- Ice Hockey – New York Rangers and New York Islanders
- The New York City Marathon is one of the world’s most famous marathons and attracts thousands of runners each year.
- The Jets were founded in 1960 as the Titans of New York.
- New York Highlanders is the original name for the New York Yankees.
- The full name of the Mets is New York Metropolitan Baseball Club.
- The actual name of the New York Knicks is the Knickerbockers.
- Harry Frazee, owner of the Red Sox, sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees to pay for No, No, Nanette, a Broadway musical. This is believed to have caused the ‘curse of the Bambino’, where the Red Sox did not win any championships from 1918 to 2004.
- The oldest public golf course in the country is the Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course in the Bronx dating back to 1895.
Stock Facts about New York as the Financial Capital
- Wall Street, located in Lower Manhattan, is the financial center of the world.
- The New York Stock Exchange, located on Wall Street, is the world’s largest stock exchange by market capitalization. It was originally founded in 1792.
- The Federal Reserve has about 5,620 metric tons of gold at their headquarters in New York City.
Strong Facts about New York’s Finest
- The New York City Police Department is the largest municipal police department in the United States.
- The New York City Fire Department is the largest municipal fire department in the United States.
Fun Facts about Arts & Entertainment in NYC
- The film industry was based in New York before it moved to Hollywood.
- New York City is the setting for many famous movies and TV shows, including “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” and “Sex and the City.”
- More than 250 feature films are shot in New York City each year.
- There are 41 Broadway theaters in New York.
- The difference between a Broadway show and Off-Broadway show is the number of seats in the theater. Broadway theaters have more than 500 seats, Off Broadway Theaters have 100-499 seats, and Off Off Broadway theaters have 99 or fewer seats.
- The first kinetoscope parlor, the predecessor of the movie theater, opened in Manhattan in 1894.
- The New York City Ballet can go through up to 11,000 pointe shoe in a year.
- The State of New York owns the Apollo, and rents it out to the Apollo Theater Foundation for $1 a year.
- Ella Fitzgerald’s career began after a performance at the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night.
- Phantom of the Opera is the longest running Broadway Show, though it is scheduled to end its historic run on April 16, 2023.
- George R.R. Martin was the first registered participant for the inaugural 1964 Comic Con in NYC.
- Balloons replaced live animals in the Macys Day Parade in 1927.
- Most Broadway theaters skip row ‘I’ to avoid disappointing people who might think they’re sitting in row 1.
- The IFC Theater in Greenwich Village has two peepholes that allow visitors to watch the movie playing inside.
- There is a clock in the sidewalk at the corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane. It was originally set in the sidewalk concrete in 1896.
- Battery Park has a sea glass carousel made of glowing and spinning fish.
- Salsa was developed by Cubans and Puerto Ricans in NYC in the 1960s.
Historical New York City Facts
- New York City was the first capital of the United States for a period of 5 years in 1785. George Washington was sworn into office as the first President at Federal Hall.
- The first cross-country highway formed in 1913, Lincoln Highway, ran from Times Square to San Francisco.
- There is a Portal Down to Old New York at 85 Broad Street, where there are remnants from colonial era New York visible under glass in the pavement. These were discovered during an archaeological dig in 1975.
- Washington Square Park, Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, and Union Square Park, used to be cemeteries. An estimated 20,000 people are buried under Washington Square Park.
- There were an estimated 100,000 speakeasies operating in NYC during prohibition.
- In the late 18th century, cattle herders from as far as Ohio came to the Bowery to sell their livestock.
- The flagship Tiffany & Co. building was the first commercial building in NYC with central air conditioning.
- Nikola Tesla, the inventor of AC electricity, spent the last 10 years of his life at the New Yorker Hotel.
- British and American representatives met at the Conference House Museum in Staten Island in 1776 in an attempt to end the Revolutionary War.
- Many of NYC’s early 19th century water pipes were made from hollowed-out pine tree trunks.
- Albert Einstein’s eyeballs are in a safe box in NYC.
- When assigned in the 1940s, NYC’s 212 area code required the fewest clicks on the rotary phone. It took NYC about 45 years to use all of the available 212 area code phone numbers.
- In the 1800s New York was written with a hyphen, which the New-York Historical Society still uses.
- The LGBTQIA+ movement started in New York after the Stonewall Inn uprising in 1969. The first NYC Pride March took place in 1970, a year after the Stonewall Uprising. Over 3,000 volunteers help create NYC Pride programs.
- Ellis Island was used for pirate and criminal hangings, and then a military outpost, before becoming the gateway that welcomed more than 12 million immigrants to the US.
- Ellis Island is partly in New York and partly in New Jersey.
- Coney Island had the first first escalator in 1896.
Interesting Facts about New York City Parks
- NYC has the largest municipal park system in the US.
- NYC has more than 1,900 parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities in the five boroughs spanning over 29,000 acres, which is 14% of the city.
- The Trust for Public Land found that 99% of New Yorkers are within a 10 minute walk of a park.
- An abandoned elevated train track has been turned into an urban park called the High Line.
- Gramercy Park opens to the public for only one hour a year, for Christmas Eve caroling.
- Playground for all Children at Flushing Meadows Corona Park was the first accessible playground in the United States.
- Prospect Park in Brooklyn was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux , the same team as Central Park.
- Elevated Acre is a hidden one acre park elevated above Manhattan Streets at 55 Water Street in downtown Manhattan.
- The Greenbelt in Staten Island is three times the size of Central Park.
- Manhattan has hidden waterfalls located within its City blocks, including at Greenacre Park, Ford Foundation Garden and on 48th Street between 6th and 7th Ave.
- West Harlem’s 28 acre Riverbank State Park is built on the roof of a sewage treatment plant.
Evergreen Facts about Central Park
- Central Park was the first landscaped park in the US and covers 843 acres, making it larger than the country of Monaco.
- The name of its designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, appears on a street sign in only one place at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park.
- The Bethesda Fountain was designed by Emma Stebbins in the 1860s, making it the first piece of art designed by a woman in the City. The sculpture is also known as Angel of the Waters.
- Central Park is the most filmed location in the world.
- Central Park is a great location bird watching – 275 North American bird species have been spotted here.
- The first death by a motorcar of Henry Bliss was recorded at 74th Street and Central Park West in 1899. There is a plaque to mark this spot.
- The birthday and death anniversary of John Lennon are celebrated at Strawberry Fields on October 9 and December 8 in Central Park every year with a gathering of fans that sing there all day.
- Central Park has a secret Christmas Tree in the memory of pets that have been lost over the years.
- NYC has a weather station is at Belvedere Castle in Central Park since 1920.
- One of the original bolts that marked the corners for making Manhattan a grid can still be found in Central Park. The location is secret, but it is possible to find it online. I am respecting the decision not to publish the location, though you can see a picture of the bolt below.
- The Mall is the only straight road in Central Park, and used to be a fashion parade for the rich and wealthy to see and be seen. All the other roads are winding by design.
- The arches and bridges in Central Park were built to separate different types of traffic, such as equestrian and pedestrian.
- There is a whispering bench at Shakespeare’s Garden in Central Park. Incidentally all the flowers in Shakespeare’s Garden are featured in his books.
- Bow Bridge is one of the most photographed locations in Central Park, and the site of numerous wedding proposals.
- All the lamp posts in Central Park have a code that describes their location through a series of numbers. The first two or three numbers indicate the street number, and the last number confirms you are on the West side if it is an odd number, and on the East side if it is an even number.
- The Delacorte Clock at the Central Park Zoo is a grandfather clock that announces the time every 30 minutes between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm.
- There was a thriving community of predominantly African Americans that lived between West 82nd and 89th Street called Seneca Village, which was subsequently cleared in 1855 to create Central Park. Seneca Village was largely forgotten till its history was rediscovered in the late 1970s.
Appetizing NYC Food and Drink Facts
- There are an estimated 25,000 restaurants in New York City. At a restaurant a day, that would take 68 years to eat at all of them!
- NYC has approx. 4,000 street food vendors.
- The American hot dog was invented in Coney Island in the 1860s at a cart called Feltman’s. One of his employees, Nathan, went on to form Nathan’s Hot Dogs.
- The Manhattan Social Club gave us the drink known as Manhattan.
- Italian immigrants invented spaghetti and meatballs in Little Italy.
- Chicken and Waffles was invented in Harlem at the Wells Supper Club.
- The first doughnut machine made its debut in NYC in 1920.
- Waldorf Hotel is behind the inventions today known as the Waldorf Salad, Eggs Benedict and Red Velvet Cake.
- Other food and drink invented in New York include General Tso’s Chicken, Bloody Mary, Tom Collins, English Muffins and Reuben Sandwiches.
- More recently. Dominique Ansel invented Cronuts in 2013.
- NYC is home to the first pizzeria which opened in 1905, Lombardi’s. It is operational even today and is located in Little Italy.
- Fraunces Tavern is a bar in downtown Manhattan that was frequented by Washington and Hamilton.
- George Washington’s tooth is on display at the Fraunces Tavern Museum in the Financial District.
- New York is famous for its pizza and bagels. Some say it is because of the water.
- New York charges an 8 cent tax on all bagels that have been ‘altered’ — including those that are sliced.
- New York tap water is drinkable.
- A slice of pizza and a subway ride usually cost the same (pizza principle), though pizza is starting to pull ahead quite quickly these days!
- New York was home to 73 Michelin starred restaurants in 2022.
- Six couples have been married in a pool or tub of Serendipity’s Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.
- Keens Steakhouse near Penn Station has the largest collection of churchwarden pipes in the world. Its Pipe Club members include Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein and Teddy Roosevelt.
- Manhattan used to be famous for its oysters, and their shells were used to pave Pearl Street.
10 Crazy Facts about New York City
- Honking your car in NYC is illegal unless it is an emergency.
- There is a 150 ft hole in Park Avenue between 36th and 37th Street covered by a grate.
- It is legal to go topless in NYC.
- Farting in church is a misdemeanor under a law which indicts a person who disrupts or disturbs a religious service, burial, funeral, 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.”
- Tattooing was banned in NYC from 1961 to 1997.
- May 1st was the only day people could move until the mid 20th century.
- The smallest piece of private land is a 25″ triangle which was not accounted for in surveys to demolish buildings and widen streets.
- 15,152 life forms have been identified on the NYC subway.
- In 1935 Mayor La Guardia banned the sale or possession of baby artichokes in NYC.
- Prosthetic legs and false teeth are among the items collected by the LIRR Lost and Found.
Bonus New York Facts
As a bonus, because who doesn’t love one, here are additional facts about New York –
Official New York State emblem facts
- Official flower is the rose since 1955.
- Official tree is sugar maple since 1956.
- Official gem is garnet since 1969.
- Official bird is the bluebird since 1970.
- Official state freshwater fish is brook trout or speckled trout since 1975.
- Official animal is the beaver since 1975.
- Official fruit is apples since 1976.
- Official beverage is milk since 1981.
- Official muffin is apple muffins since 1987.
- Official state shell is bay scallop since 1988
- Official state insect is ladybug since 1989.
- Official bush is lilac since 2006.
- New York State’s official marine or saltwater fish is Striped Bass since 2006.
- New York State’s official state reptile is the snapping turtle since 2006.
- New York’s official song is called I Love New York, with words and music by Steve Karmen.
- New York’s State motto is Excelsior, which translates to “Ever Upward.”
And last but not least, the “I love NY” slogan and logo was developed to promote tourism in 1977 by graphic artist Milton Glaser.
I hope this gives you all the information to win the next trivia challenge about New York!