29 Little-Known Facts About New York City

1. New York City was the first capital of the United States. Imagine how different (or boring!) New York might be today if it were still the U.S. Capitol. [Source]

2. Unlike every in other city and state in America, in New York you can’t buy wine with your groceries. When I first moved to Richmond, Virginia, I was stunned to see grocery stories teeming with aisles and aisles of wine. [Source]

3. In 1926, New York City launched a cabaret law that requires any place that serves food or drink to get an additional permit to allow dancing. Without this license, it was illegal to dance on the premises and the law is still in effect today. It’s what helped Mayor Giuliani clean up ruin New York. Giuliani created the Social Club Task Force that cracked down on clubs like Bungalow 8 for allowing dancing without a cabaret license. [Source, Source]

4. Located at 120 Broadway, in 1915 the 38-story Equitable Building, one of the earliest skyscrapers in New York, was constructed and it was an exciting moment in the creation of skyscrapers. But given its heft and size, at the time, New York City residents were concerned about living in a city full of dark tunnels and alleys created by skyscrapers. The building blocked views and hovered over windows. As a result, a brand new zoning law was passed that required future skyscrapers to “set back” to allow sun to pass through. This law impacted the design of future skyscrapers in what is known as the “wedding cake” pattern as seen in the Empire State Building and any other building in the city that looks like a wedding cake. [Source]

5. Land in New York is priceless to own and even more expensive to develop that people are looking up — way up. In New York City, it’s possible to sell the air above a building for future development. Air, people. Air! [Source]

6. The famous Fashion Institute of Technology is the only school in the country where you can study for a Bachelor of Science Degree with a Major in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing. [Source]

7. Both the game of Scrabble and the Teddy Bear were invented in New York! [Source]

8. In 1853, the New York State Legislature used “eminent domain” to displace a small but prosperous, property-owning village of black people. It was one of the earliest sites where black people could own land and enjoy the benefits of having property — like voting. Starting in 1856, this land would be earmarked for a little area known as Central Park. [Source]

9. The Commissioners Plan of 1811 was an ambitious plan to create an orderly path for growth for New York City, at the time largely a woodsy island. The Commissioners Plan gave us the gridded streets and wide avenues we have today. [Source]

Luciano Mortula / Shutterstock.com
Luciano Mortula / Shutterstock.com

10. It is illegal to wear masks in public gatherings of two or more. [Source]

11. In 1857, a man named Joseph C. Gayetty invented toilet paper in New York, because of course. New Yorkers have an answer to everything. [Source]

12. In 2005, the highest-paid CEO in New York was Lew Frankfort, the CEO of Coach. [Source]

13. There is 400 billion dollars worth of gold just sitting in the Federal Reserve. [Source]

14. Though today the Bowery is home to art galleries, expensive condos, boutiques, and Whole Foods, in the mid nineteenth century the Bowery was known as the worst slum in the country. In 1907, 25,000 homeless people a night slept on the streets or in the local flophouses. The Bowery was so run down that in 1845, the locals successfully petitioned to have the small strip of land between Cooper Square and Union Square renamed from Bowery to Fourth Avenue. [Source]

15. The building right next door to the New Museum at 227 Bowery is a homeless shelter, and it has been there since 1879. [Source]

16. It is not illegal for women to go topless in the city. [Source]

17. The Holland Tunnel, known for its pioneering ventilation system, has been a National Historic Landmark since 1993. [Source]

18. In the beginning, there were 2000 farms in NYC. [Source]

19. New York invented the world’s first and greatest luxury hotel — the Waldorf Astoria — which invented the velvet rope and its meaning. [Source]

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

20. New York was the first state to require license plates on cars. [Source]

21. Our Chinatown is the world’s largest Chinese society in the Western Hemisphere. [Source]

22. There was once a socialite so powerful that she maintained a list of the only 400 people that mattered in the whole city. If you weren’t on her secret list, you were basically no one. [Source]

23. You can get fined $25 for flirting with someone. [Source]

24. You can’t throw a ball at someone’s head for shits and giggles. [Source]

25. You can’t call your son “faggot” or “queer” to get him to man up and stamp out his effeminate traits. Wish my dad knew this! [Source]

26. There is a castle in Central Park! Since 1919, the National Weather Service has used the top of this castle to measure temperature, wind speed and direction. [Source]

27. There will probably never be a Walmart anywhere in New York. But whatever, Secausus isn’t really that far away. [Source]

28. With the decline of rail travel at the end of the 1940s, in 1954 there were plans to demolish Grand Central Terminal and replace it with an 80-story office tower that would be taller even than the Empire State Building. But with much protest and after Grand Central became a Historic Landmark, the station was saved and the Pan Am/Met Life building built instead. [Source]

29. There are more beauty salons in New York than parking lots, garages, laudromats and dry cleaners. We gotta keep it cute! TC mark [Source]

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