Even if you’ve not been to New York City, you probably feel like you know a lot about the place already - whether that’s from the information you’ve picked up via books and magazines or its many starring roles on television and in film. That said, a city like New York has some amazing quirky facts – and not all of them are well known. As Gray Line New York tour guides, we always need to stay on top of our New York City knowledge – and that means the lesser-known facts, too. So, here are some of our favorite and fascinating facts about New York – the place where we get 15 times more snow than the South Pole and where we drink 7 times more coffee than anywhere else in the USA.
New York’s railways hold some quite intriguing secrets, it seems. Grand Central Terminal – arguably the most famous railway terminal in the world – houses a little-known whispering gallery, just outside the Oyster Bar and Restaurant. If two people stand at either diagonal corner of the archway and whisper softly, you’ll be able to hear each other. I can vouch that it works.
Grand Central Station’s near neighbour – the Waldorf Astoria also holds some secrets of its own. It has a secret train station that lies under the building. Named Track 61 – it’s been used as a back up plan by one president and a discreet entrance and exit of another. For instance – in a book about little known NYC facts, author Christopher Winn suggests George W Bush kept a train on standby whilst staying at the hotel, in case he needed to make a swift getaway. Similarly, Franklin D Roosevelt made plans to use this railway platform and its associated secret entrance to hide his polio condition from other guests and patrons.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a sight that’s synonymous with this city. The image of it against the Manhattan skyline is one that lives long in the memory. It is a feat of engineering, but when it was first built, New Yorkers didn’t completely trust the strength of this, the first, and the longest, steel suspension bridge in the world. So – to convince the locals, 21 elephants were led across the bridge when it opened – as a way to attest to its strength.
For a city that’s known for its structures like the Brooklyn Bridge to the Empire State Building – we do also have a beautiful array of fine green spaces, too. In fact 14% of our city is parkland and we’re due to inaugurate our first underground park this year. However, some of our best-loved parks - Washington Square Park, Bryant Park and Union Square Park were also cemeteries at one stage. 20,000 souls are said to lie under Washington State Park, alone. I always think this fact points to the depth of history we have here in New York and how Manhattan has developed and adapted over the years.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Central Park New York – isn’t it beautiful? It’s an ecological sanctuary in the middle of the city – our parks are full of fascinating facts. Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash
I’m asked regularly about what makes New York special. It’s not any one thing – but perhaps a mix of that history, the atmosphere it creates, the incredible surroundings and sights – and of courses our people. New Yorkers are proud of our city and its unique identity. Our population is bigger than 39 of the 50 states in the USA. We have the largest Chinese population outside of Asia, the largest Jewish population outside of Israel and the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw. There are around 800 languages spoken here. That diversity is what created this special city, and makes it so unique today. That, and the welcome it provides – whether to tourists or new residents. There is quite simply no city like New York City.
When you visit the Big Apple, we look forward to helping you!