Ten Arcane Facts About New York City

New York City Seal1,     Beavers on New York City Seal:   New York City seal has two beavers between the arms of a windmill denoting that the city was founded by Dutch fur traders. The date on the city seal had been 1664 when Dutch surrendered the city to British. In 1974 the City Council decided to change the date on the city seal to 1625 rightfully granting the distinction of founding the city to Dutch.



2,    Broadway: The thirteen mile stretch of Broadway traversing through the length of Manhattan predates Dutch settlers of the city. It used to be an Indian     Trail called Wickquasgeck which was carved through the island by Lenape tribe. Broadway was the first electrically lighted street in the United States. It is also known as The Great White Way and is most commonly associated with stage shows and plays. In 1880, the stretch of the Broadway between 14 and 23 streets was lighted by arc lamps and was filled with electrical signs and marquees.

Canal Street Entrance to Subway Station

Canal Street Entrance to Subway Station

3,     New York City Subway: NY subway is one of the largest and the oldest rapid transit systems in the world. It started out as a collection of privately operated transit lines later incorporated in a single public transit system. The subway system has 468 stations and 840 miles of track. In 2013 the system served 8.7 million riders a week, adding up to 1.71 billion rides a year.

4,     Otis Elevator Breaks: New York City so noted for its sky scrapers owes all of it to a tinkerer mechanic Alisha Graves Otis. Initially he designed the elevator brakes for hoisting platforms to safely lift heavy loads to upper floors of a 3- to 4-story warehouse. In 1854 he demonstrated his elevator brakes at the New York Crystal Place in Bryant Park at New York’s World’s Fair. He stood on the elevator platform and asked his assistance to cut the rope holding the platform, the elevator brakes stopped the platform from falling. This demonstration won the confidence of everyone and from that point on elevators were used without any fear of them plunging from the top of buildings to the ground floor. Otis’s elevator brakes were such a monumental innovation that their extensive use allowed the construction of higher and taller buildings in New York and many other cities. 

Chrysler Building New York City

Chrysler Building New York City

5,    Chrysler Building: Chrysler building’s shimmering top is one of the most distinguished and iconic Building tops in the city of New York. The building at the corner of 42 street and Lexington Avenue was designed in Art Deco style by William Van Allen. The founder of Chrysler car manufacturing company Walter P. Chrysler wanted the building to represent his company’s products which were made of stainless steel and lots of shiny chrome. There were stainless steel gargoyles on 31st floor shaped like radiator caps, and eagles on 61st The top of the building has a conical crown of seven radiated sun bursts arches also made of stainless steel. Its long metal spire made it the first building to surpass 1000 foot mark in the city and was the tallest building until 1931 when the Empire State building claimed that title.

Robert Moses

Robert Moses6,

6,     Robert Moses: Robert Caro in his book Power Broker called Robert Moses, New York Parks Commissioner the greatest builder since Mosses who supposedly oversaw the construction of Pyramids. Hyperbole aside between 1930s to the 1960s, Robert Moses was responsible for the construction of the four bridges connecting different boroughs of New York City. These bridges included Triboro Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, the Henry Hudson Bridge, and the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge. He was also responsible for the construction of other transit infrastructures including Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, 35 mile long Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Staten Island Expressway, and the Cross-Bronx Expressway.

Robert Moses was also instrumental behind the construction of Shea Stadium, Lincoln Center, New York Aquarium and the construction of the United Nations headquarters. He created Flushing Meadow Corona Park, the city’s fourth largest. The park was established on the Corona Ash Dumps, which was described as “a valley of ashes” in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The site was filled with ashes from coal-burning furnaces, as well as with horse manure and garbage. It was cleared by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses in preparation for the 1939-1940 World’s Fair. The original name for the new parkland was “Flushing Meadow Park.” Faced with having to dispose of the mountains of ashes, Moses used significant portions of the refuse into the bases of the Van Wyck Expressway running along the eastern side of the park, the nearby Interboro Parkway (now Jackie Robinson Parkway), and the Long Island Expressway that divides the park into north and south halves.

7,     New York City Public Housing Authority (NYCH): The NYCHA was established in 1934 and is the largest public housing agency in the United States. Its housing projects spread over all five boroughs include 345 developments with 181,581 apartments. The combined demographics of all public housing developments in New York City is about 46% Black, 44% Hispanic, 4% White, 5% Asian, and 1% other, comprising almost 400,000 residents almost the size of Atlanta’s population. It has approximately 13,000 employees serving about 176,221 families with an approximate yearly budget of $3 Billion.


8,    Diversity: New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world. In 2000, 36 percent (2.87 million) of the city’s 8 million people were foreign born. Over the past 30 years New York City has changed from a predominantly European population city to a city where 46 percent of the population speaks a language other than English at home and no single ethnic or racial group dominates the city. The Borough of Queens is probably the most diverse patch of earth in the United States. The Elmhurst Hospital in Queens has language coordinators who can provide interpreters for more than 100 languages.

9,   New York Parks: New York City has the distinction of having two large parks designed by Fredrick law Olmsted, Central Park (843 acres) in Manhattan and Prospect park (585 acres) in Brooklyn. Fredrick Law Olmsted (d 1903) was a prominent landscape architect who designed many public parks across the United States and Canada.

Central Park: The Central Park was opened to public in 1857. It was initially built on 778 acres of city owned land right in the middle of the Manhattan, later expanded to 843 acres. The park is a New York City landmark which is visited by 37 million people a year. It is 2.5 miles long stretching from 59th Street to 110th Street, and is 0.5 miles wide between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West. In 2005 the real estate firm Miller Samuel appraised the value of Central Park close to an estimated land value of $528.8 billion.

Prospect Park: Prospect Park is one of the most prominent physical features of the Borough of Brooklyn and is visited by 8 million people a year. The park was opened to public in 1867, ten years after Central parks opening. The total cost for the construction of the park was almost nine million US Dollars, $4 million for the land acquisition and $5 million for the construction.

Tom Cruise attending the Empire Magazine Film Awards held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. Picture date: Sunday 30 March 2014. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire

Tom Cruise attending the Empire Magazine Film Awards held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. Picture date: Sunday 30 March 2014. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire

10,  Some famous New Yorkers: Michael Jordan (basketball player), Tupac Shakur (rapper) , Jay Z (Musician), Jennifer Lopez (actor), Tom Cruise (actor), Vin Diesel (actor), Robert Downey Jr. (actor), Sylvester Stallone (actor), Woody Allen (actor), Fiona Apple (singer), Robert De Nero (actor), Duke Ellington (musician), Billy Joel (singer), Jacqueline Kennedy (first lady), Al Pacino (actor), J. D. Sallinger (writer), Sonia Sotomayer (Supreme Court Judge),



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3 Comments on “Ten Arcane Facts About New York City”

  1. Anne-Miriam Hart August 12, 2015 at 1:47 pm #
  2. Naif Littles April 27, 2016 at 11:16 pm #

    You left out the fact that Robert Moses was a unabashed racist who razed entire neighborhoods for his construction projects.


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