14 Facts That Show How Unusual NYC Really Is

NYC has many nicknames: the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, the City of Dreams, but I’m surprised that there is no nickname highlighting how unusual this city is. How about the City of Oddballs or the Uncommon City? Why would I say that? Take a look at these unusual facts about NYC to get a taste of how quirky New York really is.

1. It’s legal to go topless in NYC.

Yes, you’ve read right. It’s legal for anyone to free the nipple in public places in NYC. But there are some restrictions: you can’t be topless for a commercial reason or if you’re trying to be sexually suggestive.

2. NYC has nearly 400,000 more women than men.

That’s probably why it’s so hard to date in this city.

Unusual facts about NYC street food from halal cart

3. Queens County Farm Museum is the largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland left in NYC.

It has passed through several hands but this farm has been in existence since 1697.

4. You used to find all kinds of food sold on the street in NYC.

These days, halal carts dominate the street food scene, but at one time in New York’s history you could find street food vendors selling oysters, crabs, roasted apples, pies, corn, and even pig feet. It seems like if you could eat it on the go, you could find it being sold on the street.

Wyckoff House Unusual Facts about NYC
via Wikimedia Commons

5. Brooklyn is home to the oldest building in NYC.

Built all the way back in 1642, the Wyckoff House was home to Peter Wyckoff, his wife, their 11 children, their descendants, and workers (enslaved and otherwise) until the early 1900s—and this house was a far cry from being a mansion. The Wyckoff house was donated to the city in the 1970s and converted to a museum highlighting the Dutch history in New York.

6. On Nov. 28, 2012, not a single violent crime was reported in NYC.

That’s right: no one reported any murders, any shootings, or any stabbings. Nada. Of course, that doesn’t mean that none of these things didn’t happen that day. But no one bothered to call the cops.

City Hall Unusual Facts about NYC

7. Although modern air-conditioning was invented all the way back in 1902, it wasn’t until 1993 that nearly all subway cars had air-conditioning.

Meanwhile, subway platforms are still sweltering in the summer and freezing in the winter.

8. For one glorious year—1789—New York City was the capital of the United States.

And if you visit City Hall or Federal Hall in lower Manhattan, they’ll never let you forget this fact.

East River Unusual Facts about NYC

9. The East River is not a river.

It’s a salt water tidal estuary, which is basically a zone where salt water from the ocean meets fresh water from streams and other tributaries.

10. From the early days of the city, up until World War II, New York renters all moved to new dwellings on May 1st.

Sources date this May Day tradition back to old New York housing laws which required landlords to tell tenants of rent increases on February 1st. The tenants then had the next three months to decide whether to pay the higher prices or find more affordable accommodations. With all the leases expiring at the same time—9am on May 1st—thousands of New Yorkers were simultaneously on the move to more favorable housing. NYC’s Moving Day met its end during World War II, as there weren’t enough moving men around to (literally) carry out the tradition.

Bergen Street Subway Station

11. It would take nearly 22 hours to ride to every NYC subway stop in the transit system.

This feat would take 21 hours, 49 minutes, and 39 seconds to be exact. Matthew Ahn set the current record one weekend in 2016, but considering that the MTA’s weekend service is spotty, that time can probably be cut down by a savvy weekday straphanger. Want to try?

12. Think it’s impossible to find cheap real estate in New York? In 1975, someone purchased NYC’s South Brother Island in the East River for 10 dollars!

Surprisingly, the unnamed buyer didn’t build a private East River McMansion; instead, they turned the island over to the Parks Department to be used as a nature sanctuary.

Gramercy Park Unusual Facts about NYC

13. There is a statue of John Wilkes Booth’s brother in Gramercy Park.

One of John Wilkes Booth’s older brothers, Edwin Booth, was a beloved nineteenth century Shakespearean actor, who wasn’t at all connected with his younger brother’s plot to assassinate President Abe Lincoln. Clearly his younger brother’s crimes didn’t put a damper on his career, and the elder Booth later went on to found the Booth Theatre and the Players Club in Gramercy Park South. The Players Club later donated a statue of its founder to the park in 1918.

A permit to operate a hot dog stand in NYC can cost as much as $200,000 a year.

You see, the closer you are to a high-traffic area results in a higher price for the permit. But one has to wonder, if the average price of a hot dog in NYC is $2, how many hot dogs do these vendors have to sell in order to make a profit?

What are the most unusual facts about NYC that you’ve heard? Share them in the comments below.

Want more interesting facts about NYC? Read the essential ones here.

9 thoughts on “14 Facts That Show How Unusual NYC Really Is

  1. I look forward to the weekly blog because there is so much I do know about the city I live in, because, all my energy was put into my many jobs. Now that I am semi retired I have more time to take it all in. Hope I will be able to get about soon once the coronavirus is no more. Keep up the good work. Thanks for the knowledge and history.

  2. This was a wonderful post! I lived in NYC for 15 years and never even heard of the Wyckoff house or the Queens Farm Museum. Two things to add to the “to do” list once we’re allowed to roam. Speaking of subway air conditioning … are you sure it has reached the C train ?

  3. Great post Shiloh! I just learned a bunch about NYC. But why are there so many more women than men in the city? Do all the men commute in, or can you really notice the gender difference!?

    Can you imagine if the May 1st moving date was still a thing!? Here in Vancouver almost everyone moves on the first of the month, so it is already hard to find moving vans on any 1st day of each month…I can only imagine how hard it would be if everyone moved on the same day in a big city like New York!!

    1. Really? I didn’t know places still did that. Sounds like a frustrating day.
      Regarding the gender difference, I’ve been researching but I can’t seem to find a satisfactory answer. But it is definitely something I’ve noticed walking around day-to-day.

      1. Occasionally they have apartments available from the 15th, but most people move on the 1st of each month here. It was a bit annoying when we first moved here as we had to stay in a hotel for two weeks before we could move in!!

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