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12 bizarre facts about New York City you probably didn’t know


Whether you are a New Yorker or a tourist—you’re likely obsessed with New York City. New York City is diverse, glamorous, arrogant, noisy, stylish, historic, ambitious and much more. Whether you love it or hate it—you simply can not ignore it. Here are 12 quirky facts about the city that make it as bizarre as it is extraordinary:

1. Priceless air

In New York City buying land and building upon it can be a costly affair. However, selling the air above a building is profitable business. Keeping in mind possibilities for future development—up, up and away is a real deal in Manhattan.


2. It’s all in the name

Manhattan is one of five boroughs of New York City and the smallest in size. ‘Manhattan’ means the ‘island of many hills.’ The name comes from the Munsi language of the Lenni Lenape people, a group of Native Americans who originally lived in New York City. The Dutch bought the island from them and called it New Amsterdam, which the British bought from the Dutch and renamed New York.


3. A bite of the big apple

New York City may be a city of sins, but that’s not why it’s called “The Big Apple.” Sports writer John J. Fitz Gerald for the New York Morning Telegraph first used this term in the 1920s. The name was then popularized in the 1970s by a campaign run by the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau.


4. The Central Park

The Central Park, located bang in the center of Manhattan, spreads across 136 acres of forested land and 250 acres of sprawling lawn. It’s home to 25,000 trees and seven lakes. If you so wish you can cover a distance of 58 miles by foot along walkways that include 36 bridges. As you take in the natural beauty of the park, you might find it odd to know that it was artificially constructed through and through.


5. Legally topless

Though many cities around the world have strict laws when it comes to nudity in public places, going topless for women is perfectly legal in New York City. Even though the rule has existed since 1992, not many are aware of it. New York is home to annual events like the Go Topless Day Parade to fight shame associated with exposing the female body.


6. A capital city

New York City was officially made the first capital city of United States in 1789. However, this lasted only for one year. The commercially oriented milieu of the city, its aristocratic leaning, and suspicion over morally decadent ways of city life—are some of the reasons why Congress might have been forced to set up office outside New York.


7. Hell’s kitchen

From the mid-1800s to 1980s, midtown from 34th street to 59th street between Eighth Avenue and Hudson River was called Hell’s Kitchen. There are many anecdotes that try and reveal the origin story behind its peculiar name. According to one story, when two policemen saw rioting break out amongst an Irish mob, one said, “it’s as hot as hell.”  To which his colleague replied, “It’s hotter. It’s hell’s kitchen.” Even if it weren’t for the riots, Hell’s kitchen was notorious for gangsters, disappearances, and murders. Of course today, its got a facelift with luxury apartments, fine dining eateries, and Off Broadway theaters.


8. Intelligent eyeballs

New York City is home to many riches. This literally includes gold in the largest quantity in the world, locked away 80-feet below street level in the Federal Reserve Bank. The city is also home to other rare treasures, such as Albert Einstein’s eyeballs. When Einstein passed away in 1955, his brain was sectioned into 170 pieces and examined. 20 years later the brain was returned to Einstein’s granddaughter. However the doctor studying Einstein’s brains had also removed his eyeballs, which were passed onto the genius’s eye doctor, Henry Abrams. Today these eyeballs are carefully preserved in one of the New York’s safe deposit boxes.


9. Teeming with diversity

Just walk the streets of NYC to hear a smattering of different languages, to see immigrants from across the world leave imprints of their foreign lineage in now well-known neighborhoods of New York, such as Little Italy, Koreatown, or China town. Do not be surprised if you were to find out that 800 languages are spoken daily in New York City. And do not raise your eyebrow if you discovered that Queens, New York City’s largest borough, is the ethnically the most diverse urban settlement in the world—with 48 percent of its inhabitants foreign born.


10. The Empire State building

New York City’s skyline is impressive with skyscrapers of different size and shape trying to dominate as the tallest tower in town. The Empire State building has been there and done that. It’s been the tallest between 1931 and 1972 at 1250 feet without its antenna and 1454 feet with. When the World Trade Center collapsed in 2001 it was the tallest once again for another year. The building has a colorful crown that changes color. It’s sometimes the color of the French flag when it stands in solidarity with the French, a rainbow during the annual gay parade, and the color of the American flag during the Labor Day weekend. You’ll be surprised to know that the building has so many businesses that it had to rely on its own zip code. And even though it has 103 floors, which include 6,514 windows—it took only 410 days for construction—start to finish.


11. The Flatiron building

The Flatiron building, true to its name resembles a flatiron. The building was so thin compared to others on the block, that when it was constructed, New Yorkers were scared that it might easily crumble. It was also seen as an eyesore with The New York Times calling it a “monstrosity” and the Municipal Art Society calling it “unfit to be the center of the city.” When the building was first opened to the public they forgot to make toilets for women and so had to alternate restrooms by floor for men and women. The same rule continues till date.


12. Stories about stories

New York City’s buildings and statues have many bizarre stories associated with them. Some are common knowledge, such as the building of the Statue of Liberty. Many know that Lady Liberty was not an invention of the Americans but a gift from the French to celebrate friendship between the two countries and to commemorate 100 years of American independence. What you may not know is that the statue was parceled in 350 parts and 214 crates from France to USA. It was like a mega jigsaw puzzle that took 4 months to put together at Ellis Island where it stands today.

Varuni Sinha

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