New York. They call it the Big Apple because of racing. It was the big city with the big prizes and stable hands in New Orleans called it the Big Apple because of it. A New York reporter overheard this and liked it. He started using it in his racing beat articles and the name stuck. It’s just one of the many obscure facts that New York can lay claim to. There are plenty of others, too.
10. New York Paid More for Central Park Than America Paid for Alaska
One of New York’s biggest landmarks is Central Park. People in other countries who have never been to New York recognize it right away thanks to all the movies and TV shows that have shown the world what it looks like.
Every year, 42 million people visit the massive 843 acre park. It was originally designed to give New York a swanky park like high class European cities while also conveniently raising property values nearby. The park itself is full of rocks so it had little value in a development sense. It was considered impossible to dynamite, so instead it became a park.
The cost for the park was staggering. Buying all 842 acres cost $7.4 million back in 1853. About 20,000 engineers, builders and others were involved in its construction. By 1876 it was done and the cost was $14 million. Adjusted for inflation, that’s over $400 million.
Compare the price of the park to what America paid Russia for the state of Alaska. In 1867, while Central Park was still being built, the US paid the relatively small amount of $7.2 million for Alaska.
9. NYC Has More Trees Than Any Other American City Has People
Speaking of Central Park, it’s ensured New York can lay claim to another record, too. There are more trees in New York City than there are people in any other American City. There are 5.2 million trees inside New York City. Trunk to trunk in a single file line they’d span a total of 118 miles.
New York itself has a population of nearly 9 million people, but it doesn’t count since New York is what we’re talking about. The next most populous city in America is Los Angeles with just around 4 million. Keep in mind that’s Los Angeles proper, not the metro area which is much larger. But, on a per city basis, the trees in New York still win out.
8. NYC has a Higher Population Than Most States
While we are talking about populations, it’s worth appreciating just how massive New York City really is. New York City has a higher population than most of the other states in America. The US Census says that New York City has a population of about 8.3 million.
Only 12 states in the country have a population above 8.3 million. Obviously, New York state has to be one of those. California is the number one state with nearly 40 million. Texas and Florida are both over 20 million. America’s 13th most populous state is Washington, which has a population of 7.8 million. That means that it is dwarfed by New York City, as is every other state in the Union.
That also means that New York City has a higher population than over 100 countries around the world. Denmark has a population of 5.9 million. Laos is 7.6 million. At just over 2.7 million residents, you can fit Qatar’s population into NYC three times over.
7. NYC Has More Skyscrapers Than Numerous Countries
The New York skyline is pretty famous thanks to film and TV. Downtown Manhattan has been featured in many movies, and the skyscraper-filled vista is a ubiquitous scene in any show that takes place in the city.
New York is no longer the city with the most skyscrapers in the world Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China both have more. But New York still has 314 buildings over 150 meters or 492 feet. It also has 16 that are more than double that height.
If you were going to rank all the countries in the world based on their number of skyscrapers, and you include New York City in that ranking, New York City is still third. China takes the number one spot with the most skyscrapers. The United States ranks second. And then New York City would rank third all by itself. New York has about 24 more skyscrapers than its nearest competitor, which is Japan.
Details on exact numbers are a little sketchy but by some estimates it seems like NYC actually has more skyscrapers than the entire continent of Europe.
6. NYC’s GDP is Bigger Than Many Countries Including Canada
So by now we know that New York City is really big. There are different ways to measure bigness when it comes to cities and countries, however. One of the most influential statistics to look at is GDP. Just how much money is a place making, relative to everywhere else? Once again, New York City is putting up impressive numbers.
New York City has a nominal GDP of $1.7 trillion. If New York City was its own country, it would have the 13th largest economy in the entire world. New York is relatively on par with Canada, and has been so since at least 2017. The latest data has Canada just ever so slightly above New York City in terms of GDP.
5. There Are Almost No Alleys in Manhattan
Remember that scene in the first Tobey Maguire Spider-Man, when he’s hanging upside down in an alley and he kisses Mary Jane for the first time? It’s an iconic scene that probably could have never happened in real life not just for, you know, reality sake. It’s geographically unlikely. New York, despite what decades of movies have taught the rest of us, has almost no alleys.
The vast majority of New York alley scenes are filmed in the same alley, called Cortlandt Alley, because it’s one of the few ones available. It has the dark and dingy appeal of a New York alley as created by movies because it literally is the dark and dingy alley created by movies.
Most of Manhattan follows the 1811 street grid which maximizes real estate. Buildings were designed and constructed as blocks with no gaps between. The very few alleys that exist in Manhattan are relics from before that, which are few and far between.
4. There are No Walmarts in New York City
There are 4,616 Walmart stores in America. There are few places you can go and not find one nearby. That said, one place you will absolutely not find them is in New York City where not a single Walmart exists.
The company spent years trying to establish itself in larger cities but New York was not budging. Unions were at the forefront of the fight to keep the company out of the city. Most stores in New York are unionized, and the unions had no interest in Walmart trying to horn in and put those companies out of business with the introduction of stores paying lower wages to non-unionized employees.
Even 10 years after it seemed to give up wanting to take New York, Walmart was still hitting walls as NYC officials pointed out the company simply has a bad reputation and no one wanted it there, even as new Target stores were opening.
3. NYC Has Some of the Cleanest Tap Water in America
New York has long had a strange reputational dichotomy. It’s the big, glitzy center of capitalism with Wall Street and skyscrapers and glamorous people. But it’s also a crime-addled, filthy city full of trash and rats. Somehow, no one had a problem with the contradiction. It can be two things, after all. And, flying in the face of that reputation as a dirty city, New York is actually well known for having incredibly clean tap water.
In 2019, New York City’s tap water was called the cleanest in the state. It also routinely ranks as the best tasting tap water. This is all thanks to decisions made over 50 years ago about how to supply water to the city. While some wanted to use the notoriously disgusting and polluted Hudson River as a cheap source, it was rejected. Instead, water from further upstates in the Catskill Mountains has been pumped in from fresh, unpolluted aquifers. The water needs far less pollution treatment and is far more clean and tasty as a result.
People have long questioned why this particular water tastes so good and it could be anything from the minerals to just the perception people have. But, on the other hand, there’s also the possibility that it’s all the microscopic shrimp that live in the water.
2. After Uber Came to New York, Drunk Driving Accidents Dropped by Over 25%
Uber is known the world over these days and not always for the best reasons. The company has been on the receiving end of many complaints from the way it treats its drivers to egregious safety concerns from passengers. But not everything from Uber is always bad news.
When Uber came to New York, it made a noticeable difference. The results were not repeated everywhere but, in the Big Apple, Uber has been cited as a cause for a 25% to 35% drop in drunk driving accidents.
A 2017 study showed the drop in accidents had occurred since 2011, when Uber came to New York. That meant about 40 fewer accidents a month. The data seems to only align with New York, however. Across 100 cities there was nothing much to support a noticeable drop in accidents.
Even taken city by city, results were mixed. Crashes in Portland and San Antonio decreased but not in Reno. So there may be other factors at play that are harder to account for but at least New York is reaping the rewards.
1. New York Buildings Over 6 Stories All Need Water Towers
If you have never been to New York, you may not have noticed this curious phenomenon that relates to building size. That said, even if you haven’t visited you have probably seen movies in which someone is on a New York rooftop alongside one of those big, wooden water towers. You may have even wondered by, in this modern day and age, those things still exist.
To start with, the vast majority of apartment buildings in New York are six stories. The reason for this relates to why so many other buildings have wooden water towers on the roof. Those towers aren’t dusty relics, they are used every day. That’s because of how New York sits on the water table. The city is built on shallow rock and electric pumps can’t be used to provide water pressure.
Above six stories, it’s too difficult for pipes to get water up to more apartments due to this lack of pressure. Larger buildings use water towers to supply water to the buildings. Residents bathe in this water and drink from it every day.
Most people think the water towers are antiques because even new ones look old. They have to be made with untreated wood to not taint the water so they have that rustic appearance no matter the age. Each one holds 5,000 to 10,000 gallons include reserve water to fight fires if needed.