47 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Manhattan
How Oscar The Grouch got his name and other fun facts about the only 24 miles of New York City that really matter.
1. Twice a year around May 28 and July 12, the sunset aligns with the east-west streets of the main street grid of Manhattan, filling the horizon with an unrivaled cityscape. This event has become known as Manhattanhenge–as coined by NYC native Neil deGrasse Tyson.
2. The subway musicians are known as buskers and they have to audition in order to play here. That’s because the subway stop at Time Square can see 173,000 pass through, which is 10 times the audience of a sold out show at Madison Square Garden.
3. Buskers have been auditioning to fight for a two-week permit that allows them to play at prime locations throughout the subway since 1985. Some of them have gone on to play Carnegie Hall.
4. Times Square uses 161 megawatts of electricity every year.
5. That’s enough energy to power approximately 161,000 average US homes and twice the electricity required to power all of the casinos in Las Vegas.
6. To compare the difference of life here before the “Disneyfication” of the city, just look at the facts. 1992 saw 2,154 murders occur, while 2012 cut that number down to 414.
7. Times Square is named after the New York Times building.
8. It take approximately 75,000 trees to print a Sunday edition of The New York Times newspaper.
9. The largest printing of the New York Times was a Sunday edition that was delivered on September 14, 1987. With 1,612 pages, the paper weighed a whopping 12 pounds. That’s twice the size of the average weight of a newborn baby.
10. When you think of large, sparkly lights in Manhattan, you probably think of the famous New Year’s Eve ball, but you should probably think of the star at the top of the beloved Christmas tree at 30 Rock. This 550 pound Swarovski star is made from 25,000 crystals, 720 LED bulbs, 44circuit boards, and about 3,000 feet of wire and is worth an estimated $1.5 million.
11. The first Christmas Tree went up in Rockefeller Center in 1933 during the Great Depression. The workmen were so grateful to have the job, they decorated the tree with strings of cranberries, garland made of paper, and tin cans. On Christmas Eve, they lined up under the tree and received the greatest gift of all: paychecks.
12. How does Rockefeller Center manage to find the perfect seven-story spruce tree each holiday season? They conduct aerial searches by helicopter, of course, and have it shipped to the city during the night when the streets aren’t as gridlocked.
13. After the Rockefeller tree is taken down for the year, it continues to get put to good use. In 2005, Habitat for Humanity used the wood to make doorframes for houses for the needy and in 2012, the paper went towards publishing a book called The Carpenter’s Gift.
14. It costs $1 million to be licensed to operate a cab here. No, that is not a typo.
15. When Philippe Petit walked 61 meters between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on a tightrope nearly 1,300 feet above the street in 1975, he not only broke records, but he broke laws as well. It has since been called the “artistic crime of the century.”
16. Philippe Petit planned his tightrope stunt for months. He conducted internal research on the buildings by dressing up like a construction workers and office employees and forged ID cards to get through security. He and his team used a bow and arrow to pass large ropes across the divide of the buildings so that they could string the steel cable which he used.
17. Petit was offered to be cleared of all charges in exchange for doing community service in the act of a public performance for children in Central Park. He did a high-wire walk over Turtle Pond and has gone on to perform all over the world, including New York City, numerous times.
18. Permits to sell hot dogs from the much beloved food carts in the city can cost as much as $289,000 per year in the Central Park area.
19. The Empire State Building has its own zip code, 10118.
20. Madison Square Garden’s lease is set to expire in 2023. If the lease is not extended or renewed, the venue that has been there for generations will be forced to move.
21. The price of a slice of pizza versus the cost of a ride on the subway has stayed equal to each other for the past 50 years.
22. The difference between an On-Broadway show and an Off-Broadway show has nothing to do with location, but rather the seating capacity. Broadways shows must have seating of 500 or more, while Off-Broadway falls under any seat capacity that falls in the 100-499 range.
23. Women can walk around Manhattan with their shirts off just like any guy can and it’s perfectly legal, according to a 1992 landmark ruling by the New York Supreme Court. Although the very high majority of women keep their shirts on, every August, a group of half-naked women gather in Central Park to celebrate International Go Topless Day.
24. The 10021 zip code of Manhattan has generated more money for presidential campaigns than any other zip code in the country.
25. In 1994, Howard Stern made even more headlines than before by running for Governor of New York on the platform of promising to limit road work to night-only hours. He withdrew from the race, but the Howard Stern Bill was signed into law later that year, taking construction off the streets during the daytime hours.
26. Manhattan is actually made up of eight islands, each with its own purpose.
27. Liberty Island is home to the Statue Of Liberty only – no one lives there.
28. U Thant Island is a 100 by 200 foot-sized artificial island along the East River. It was created as a sanctuary for birds.
29. The World Trade Center actually consisted of a total of seven buildings in 2001. All seven were destroyed by the events of September 11. Six are being rebuilt.
30. The M&M store in Times Square has a two-story-high wall of chocolate that is made up of 72 candy-filled tubes and is the largest candy store in New York City.
31. There are more than 200 art galleries just for modern art in Manhattan alone.
32. The East River is actually an estuary.
33. Oscar The Grouch of Sesame Street fame got his name when Muppet creator Jim Henson and Sesame Street director Jon Stone frequented a now-defunct Oscar’s Tavern in midtown Manhattan and were served by a particularly grouchy waiter.
34. Chinatown in Manhattan is the largest Chinese enclave in the Western hemisphere.
35. Pinball was banned in the city until 1978, a law which was actually enforced with police-led raids and busts.
36. In order to go more green, the New Year’s Eve Ball, which is made up of 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs, was replaced with a more energy efficient ball in 2008.
37. The New Year’s Eve Ball is a sphere weighing a whopping 11,875 pounds and measures 12 feet in diameter. It’s covered with 2,688 Waterford Crystal Triangles.
38. Millions of people visit the New Year’s Eve festivities at Times Square every year. Because it’s so crowded and there’s such a lack of public restroom facilities, some people have been known to wear adult diapers in order to celebrate.
39. Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park was once used as a mass graveyard for the victims of those who were killed by the yellow fever epidemic. Creeeeepy.
40. Toilet paper was invented here by Joseph C. Gayetty in 1857.
41. Commercial delivery companies like UPS and FedEx are slapped with nearly 7,000 parking tickets every single day, raking in up to $120 million in revenue for The City.
42. The Gangs of New York movie was actually a fictional dramatization of real events and people. The Dead Rabbits and other gangs named in the film were real gangs during the 19th century. Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in the movie is based on the real person, Bill “The Butcher” Poole.
43. More than two million people visit the city every holiday season simply to see the world-famous Rockettes’ show at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
44. The Rockettes, who wear microphones in their shoes to amplify the sound of each step, do their own makeup and hair and actually have rehearsals in a church, not Radio City Music.
45. Contrary to popular belief, The Rockettes are not the same height. Each Rockette can vary in height between 5’6 and 5’10 1/2 inches. The disparity is offset by an optical illusion of putting the tallest girl in the center and the shortest on the ends.
46. If Manhattan had the same population density as Alaska, there would be an estimated population of 28 people in Manhattan.
47. Central Park’s rivers and streams are completely man-made, and have the ability to be turned off and on.