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New York City | © Bud Ellison / Flickr
New York City | © Bud Ellison / Flickr
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18 Things You Definitely Didn’t Know About New York 

Picture of Julia Goicochea
Updated: 7 January 2018
Even a city as famous as New York has its secrets. From designated napping zones to disappearing islands, here are 18 things you definitely didn’t know about NYC.

New York has the biggest Chinatown in the West

Speaking of Chinatown, Manhattan has the largest Chinese enclave in the Western Hemisphere. The two-square-mile plot of land houses a whopping 150,000 Chinese residents.

Chinatown, New York City | Patrick Kwan
Chinatown, New York City | © Patrick Kwan / Flickr

In 2012, the city celebrated its first violent crime-free day in living memory

On November 28, 2012, the New York City police department got the day off—sort of. For the first time in recent history, not one murder, shooting, stabbing, or other violent crime was reported for a full 24 hours. Hey, it’s the small victories.

UPS, FedEx, and other delivery companies earn up to 7,000 parking tickets every day

Convenience has its price, one which commercial delivery companies pay in full. With its notoriously problematic parking, New York racks up to $102 million in fines from UPS, FedEx, and its peers. UPS pays the largest bill, with about 15,000 tickets a month and annual fees amounting to $18.7 million in 2006.

UPS in New York City | © Chris Sampson / Flickr

It was the Hollywood of the East Coast

Before Hollywood was born in the early ’30s, the American film industry was based in the Big Apple. Silver screen giants like Paramount Pictures called New York home then, and films, including the first Sherlock Holmes sound film, were shot in humble Queens, New York.

It’s home to a “Little Britain”

Lesser known than its multicultural counterparts Chinatown and Little Italy, “Little Britain” is an area (unofficial, for now) bringing the best of Britain to the Big Apple. This Greenwich Avenue-adjacent enclave is home to popular English tea room Tea & Sympathy (famous Brits David Bowie and Kate Moss have been known to be fans), fish-and-chip shop A Salt and Battery, English emporium Myers of Keswick, and more.

You can go surfing in the city

If you’re attempting to choose between a beach or a Big Apple vacation this summer, then get to know Rockaway Beach and Long Beach a bit better. Located in Queens and Long Island, respectively, these sandy spots are New York’s only two surfing beaches.

It has wildlife

Some New York City residents bring new meaning to the phrase “urban jungle,” such as the world’s highest concentration of peregrine falcons, one of the largest freshwater turtle species in the world, coyotes, opossums, and many others. While sightings of the city’s most surprising locals may be exciting (you can spy these species in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island), these are some New York neighbors you may want to avoid.

There’s a secret train station used as an escape route for presidents beneath the Waldorf Astoria

Most subway riders have never even heard of Track 61, and that’s just how the White House would have it. Hidden from view beneath New York’s famous Waldorf Astoria hotel, this train station has provided passage for President Franklin D. Roosevelt (who used the discreet hotel entrance to hide his polio condition from the public), President George W. Bush, and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson.

The Empire State Building has its own zip code—sort of

Actually, the iconic tower belongs to Manhattan’s 10001 zip code, which covers the area from 25th Street to 35th Street east of Fifth Avenue. In true New York fashion, however, the Empire State Building set itself apart in 1980 when it established its unique code of 10118.

Empire State Building | © ahundt / Pixabay

There’s a good chance your favorite park used to be a graveyard

Space has always been an issue in New York, meaning areas of land are often repurposed. Such is the case of Washington Square Park, Union Square Park, Bryant Park, and Madison Square Park, all of which used to be potter’s fields, or cemeteries housing unknown bodies.

Times Square is named after The New York Times

Many New Yorkers would be surprised to learn the city’s biggest tourist trap gets its name from a beloved local icon. When The New York Times moved to Midtown Manhattan in 1904, little-known Longacre Square was renamed, becoming Times Square.

Times Square | © ahundt / Pixabay

In 1920, one of the first acts of domestic terrorism took place in New York and involved a horse-drawn carriage

According to FBI archives, September of 1920 marked one of the first acts of domestic terrorism, in which a horse-drawn carriage loaded with explosives was detonated on Wall Street, killing 30 people and injuring 300. Though a man was observed driving the cart, no one was ever caught in connection with the crime.

The price of a slice of pizza and the cost of a single subway ride is always nearly equal

Over the past 50 years in New York, a phenomenon known as the “Pizza Connection” (a term coined by The New York Times) has emerged. This connection holds that the price of a slice of pizza in New York and the cost of a single subway ride is always equal or nearly equal, meaning when your favorite slice joint hikes its prices, you can bet a fare increase will follow suit.

New York pizza | Chun Yip So Flickr
New York pizza | © Chun Yip So / Flickr

The Empire State Building once had an entire floor dedicated to napping

You read that right: one of the busiest office buildings in the country once dedicated an entire floor to sleepy staffers. From 2004 to 2008, the Empire State Building’s 24th floor hosted pod-like electronic beds featuring soothing audio recordings and plush cushioning.

Up until World War II, May 1st was moving day in New York—for the entire city

Moving house is never fun, but up until World War II, the process was an even greater headache, thanks to New York’s now-defunct moving day custom. Each year on February 1st, landlords would inform their tenants of their rent increase, scheduled to take effect three months later. When the new rent was due on May 1st, tenants across New York City would vacate their old premises and move to their new addresses—all on the same day.

Moving day in New York City, 1831 | Wikicommons
Moving Day in New York City, 1831 | © H.P. Finn / WikiCommons

New York’s Hog Island was never seen again after the storm of 1893

When a Category 2 storm came ashore in 1893 near the current home of John F. Kennedy Airport, several local entities were completely washed away, including some resort hotels, saloons, and an entire one-mile-long island. The storm reduced the Rockaway Beach-adjacent Hog Island to a few patches of sand and water. By the end of that decade, the island was no more.

There are small shrimp called copepods in the city’s drinking water

Any local will tell you that New York tap water tastes as fine as any bottled variety around. What they won’t tell you about is the secret ingredient in the city’s drinking water: copepods, or tiny crustaceans known to eat mosquito larvae. Before you spit out your drink, know that, while a bit creepy, these microscopic New Yorkers are clean.

In 1857, toilet paper was invented by New York resident Joseph Gayetty

While the first documented use of toilet paper dates back to early medieval China, modern toilet paper wasn’t made commercially available in America until 1857. That’s when New York resident Joseph Gayetty of Gayetty’s Paper introduced Gayetty’s Medicated Paper, which was sold in packages of flat sheets as late as the 1920s.