FASCINATING FACTS: 15 Facts About New York City

New York city is one the largest city in the world. Home to numerous iconic landmarks such as Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Empire State building and a buzzing culture. New York is a city that wears many hats with elan. It is a vibrant city with a blend of history and modernity offering feasts for all. Check these 18 facts about New York to know why it stands tall among the plethora of other cities.

1. Empire State Building which was opened in 1931 had a great difficulty in finding tenants to fill its office Space. The continued vacancy led the people to nickname it as “Empty State Building.” The Building turned profitable only in 1950.

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The Empire state building was built in 1931, 12 days ahead of schedule. It was the tallest building in New York dwarfing the newly completed Chrysler Building. Due to the Great Depression, the building had difficulty finding tenants. The tallest skyscraper of the ’30s was located far away from public transportations such as the Grand central station, this was another factor that contributed to the high vacancy rate of the building.

In the first year of its operation, the Empire State building observatory made as much money (2 Million USD) as the owners made in rent. The difficulty in finding tenants for the building lead the New Yorker’s to sarcastically call it as “Empty State Building”. The building became profitable nineteen years after its construction, in 1950.(source)

2. Roosevelt Island has AVAC(Automated Vacuum Collection) – An underground system of garbage collection that sucks the trash and sends them through pipes at 60 mph to a central disposal point to be packed in Big Silos. 

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The Avac designed in the late 1960’s is New York’s only pneumatic garbage collection system. The system runs under all the high rise buildings in the Roosevelt Islands. The Avac was used to facilitate garbage collection from the housing developments in the Roosevelt Islands.

When people throw their garbage through garbage chutes, the trash accumulates for a while. A trap door opens sucking the trash down a huge pipe. Then, a huge gust of air dispelled through air valves pushes the garbage down the pipe at 60 mph. The garbage comes out at the Avac center. They are dumped into two Silo-shaped cyclones where the trash is spun like cotton candy. The ‘cotton- candied’ trash zips through a chute into the huge containers.(source)

3. Under the law, A New York police cannot arrest a woman who goes topless in public places. But he can take strong action against the crowd who gather to watch the topless women.

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In February 2013, A memo issued by New York City police explicitly states that a woman cannot be arrested citing indecent exposure, public lewdness or other laws for exposing her bare breasts in public places. The police memo emphatically asks its officers to disperse the crowd gathered to watch the topless woman using strong-arm tactics if necessary but not to arrest or intimidate the topless woman at any given point of time.

The memo probably followed due to the suit initiated by Hally Van Voast, who is  known for baring her breasts regularly. Van Voast was arrested after every ‘topless’ act but the complaint was dropped due to the state’s highest court ruling that allowed women to be bare chested as a man in public as long as the exposure was not for commercial purpose.(source)

4. 20,000 bodies buried in Washington Square Park alone. Most of them are Yellow Fever victims. The Park was built on top of their graves.

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Washington Square Park was the homeland of Native American Tribes. The Dutch India company forcibly evicted them from the land. The Dutch gave it as farmland to African American slaves. The farms occupied by African slaves served a strategic purpose for Dutch India Company who used it as a buffer zone between the hostile American Natives and Dutch Settlers. The land known as the Village of Greenwich remained a farmland until 1797. Minetta Creek bisected the area.

In 1797, the common council of New York purchased a tract of land east of Minetta, which was intended to be used as potter’s field or  burial ground. The cemetery was for the indigents who could not afford burial plots. Shortly after the purchase of the burial land, an epidemic of Yellow fever struck New York causing thousands of deaths. Fearing for health and safety, the city council decided to bury the Yellow fever victims outside the city precincts. The city buried them in the newly acquired Potter’s field. 20,000 bodies were buried in the cemetery. The burial ground remained active until 1825. Washington Square Park is built on this cemetery.(source)

5. In New York, the price of a slice of Pizza has always equaled the price of a subway ride since 50 years.

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The “Pizza Connection” or a “Pizza Principle” is a rule that states that the price of a slice of pizza will almost always equal the price of the subway ride.  The Pizza principle is a tongue in cheek, but accurate law propounded by Eric M.Bram.  Eric Bram, a New Yorker observed that from the ’60s the price of a slice of pizza uncannily matched the price of New York Subway ride. The Pizza Connection or Pizza principle has interested several learned pundits and has featured prominently in New York newspapers.

The term “Pizza Connection” was coined by New York Times Columnist Claude Haberman in 2002. The New Yorker magazine in May 2003 graciously accepted the validity of Pizza connection which they promptly renamed as Pizza principle. The validity was accepted after it was proved that the Pizza connection accurately predicted the rise of the subway fare to $2.00 the week before.Haberman noted that the price of a slice of pizza was rising in 2005 and 2007. Citing the Pizza connection, Haberman alerted his readers about the probable rise of subway fares. The subway fares did rise once in June 2009 ($2.25) and once in 2011($2.50).(source)

6. New York City ranks as the nation’s safest big city. Violent crime has come down by 40% in the previous decade.

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The 1980s and 1990s saw the crime rate spiking in New York due to the crack epidemic. New York city accounted for 63% the crime reported in New York State. The crime wave began to ebb after 2000. 2009 saw the percentage dropping to 43%. Violent crimes have seen a sharp fall of 40% in the previous decade. The city now boasts 1/10th the murder rate of New Orleans and 1/6th the murder rate of Detroit and Baltimore.

New York ranks as the county’s safest city but New York is not entirely crime free. There are boroughs that keep the police on their toes and there are some neighborhoods considered to be the most dangerous neighborhood in the country.(source)

7. New York City helps the homeless by giving them a one-way ticket to anywhere, provided they have a guaranteed place to stay.

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The Bloomberg administration long struggling with the issue of homeless people has hit upon a novel solution. The administration willingly pays for a one-way ticket to the family to send them on their way out of New York thus reducing the financial burden on the city. The city administration has paid for more than 500 families as a last resort of keeping them out of the expensive shelter system. The maintenance of a homeless family drains the exchequer of 36,000 USD per year.

A one-way ticket is given to those homeless family that has a willing relative living elsewhere and one who is willing to take them in. People who have fallen upon hard times, immigrants disenchanted by the city life, people who are finding it harder to find a job are availing of this facility. The city employs a local travel agency for domestic travel and the Department of Homeless Services employees take care of the international travel. New York spends $500,000 a year on this program.(source)

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New York delivers more than 1.3 billion gallons of water every day through its system of pipes, tunnels, aqueducts, and streams. Widely regarded as an engineering marvel, the New York Water System collects water from streams like Birch Creek, Esopus creek for its daily consumption. The water from the Catskills flows into Birch Creek, Esopus Creek, and Ashokan reservoir. The Ashokan reservoir collect melted snow and rain water as well. The reservoir is one of the 19 reservoirs that supplies water to New York city.

The water from the reservoir flows through the sluices and valves into the aqueduct. The water is treated with fluoride and disinfected with ultraviolet rays that remove harmful microbes. The treated water flows to Hillview reservoirs in Yonker. The water undergoes further treatment here. The Hillview serves two other critical functions, first, the reservoir balances the daily requirements and second, the reservoir elevates the water so that the force of gravity propels it into people’s home. If your building is less than six stories, gravity does the work of pushing the water up otherwise a pump is installed to push the water to the topmost floor.(source 12)

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The Central park is the first landscaped urban park for the public in the United States. The idea for the park germinated in the salons of rich and wealthy who admired the public grounds of London and Paris and wished to have the same facility in New York City. The Project spanned a decade. The park was constructed at the cost of 10 million USD. In 1853, the state legislature authorized the City of New York to use the eminent power of domain to acquire more than 700 acres of land.

The construction began in 1857 based on the winner of the park design contest. The “Greensward plan” of Frederick Law Olmstead was the winning design. An unfriendly terrain full of swamps, bluffs and punctuated by rocky outcroppings between Fifth and Eighth avenues and 59th and 106th streets were chosen. About 1,600 people who had made the swamp their home were evicted. Some of them were Irish pig farmers, some were squatters. Included in the group was a convent and a school, bone boiling plant and a Seneca village comprising of 270 individuals and boasting of a school and a church. The community of Seneca was destroyed irrevocably. The city paid inadequate compensation to the people whose land fell within the boundaries of the upcoming park area.(source 12)

10. The Federal Reserve Bank holds largest deposits of Gold. The vault contains about 25% of the world’s gold and about 5% of the American gold.

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The Federal Reserve Bank opened for business on 16th November 1914. The Federal Reserve Bank has a gold vault containing world’s largest depository of gold. The stockpile of gold weighs around 6,700 tons. The vault is buried 80 feet under the ground. The weight of the gold is so heavy that the bank had to build the vault on top of a bedrock otherwise the floor would break.

Gold custody is one of the services offered by the bank to governments, international organizations and central banks. Several countries and organizations have availed of these services, the bank guards the gold on behalf of various governments and banks. The vault contains about 25 percent of the world’s gold reserves and 5 percent of America’s gold. Fed stores the gold for free but depositors have to pay $1.75 for each bar that’s moved.(source 12)

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The freezing winters can bring all modes of transport to a grinding halt except for the train which keeps chugging through the stations. But some winters can bring the trains to a halt. When Polar vortex blows, the switch that directs the cars between tracks freezes. A frozen switch can cause accidents. To keep the switches working without a hitch, the railway companies use the ancient method of burning kerosene or natural gas to keep the train up and running. Though there are switch heaters, most use an electric heating element. The older ones, however, require kerosene or gas for it to function.(source)

13. New York is home to 800 Languages making it a linguist’s paradise. 

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New York is home to 800 languages, providing linguists an avenue to document languages threatened with extinction. Each stop of the train journey will introduce you to a new language. One can hear Chinese, Korean, Bengali, Gujarati, Vlashki or Garifuna, an Arawakan language that originated from the descendants of shipwrecked African slaves.

Experts estimate that many of these languages may turn extinct in another decade or two. New York is considered to be a linguistically rich location in the world. The Boroughs of the Big Apple is home to every major language and also to minority voices. A project ” Endangered Language Alliance” has been set up to preserve the dying languages.(source)

14. There is a skyscraper with no windows in New York. The tower formerly known as AT&T Long Lines building can withstand the effects of nuclear blasts for up to 2 weeks.

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Long Lines Building at 33 Thomas Street, an impregnable fortress was constructed in 1974. The 55 feet building was designed by architect John Carl Warnecke. long lines building  has no windows and is built to withstand the effects of the nuclear blast for up to two weeks. Each story in the building is 18 feet high and can withstand 200 to 300 pounds of weight. The building served as an AT&T switchboard and was known as AT&T long lines building until 1999.(source)

15. A luxurious nuclear bunk was built in New York during the cold war. The bomb shelter is buried three feet under the Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, NYC.

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Jay Swayze, the resident of Plainview, Texas won a contract from Plainview to build small nuclear shelters for its citizens in case of nuclear war between USA and Russia. Swayze moved his family into the 2,800 square foot, 10-room underground lair to show buyers how attractive living underground would be but there were no takers. But Avon Founder, Jerry Henderson was quite impressed with the shelter and purchased two bunkers.

With Jerry Henderson’s backing, Swayze secured a prime spot at the 1964 world’s fair. He built underground homes, complete with fake trees and grass. The Underground bunker modeled on Swayze’s Plainview home had a concrete-steel shell 20 inches thick on the floor and between 10 and 13 inches thick at the walls and ceiling. Once the fair ended, Exhibits were either removed to another location or destroyed. The whereabouts of the bomb shelter is not known.(source)


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