I had the pleasure recently to go on a holiday trip to New York. And this is what I discovered. Everything about New York is complex. To fully appreciate the magnificent place, you must know a bit about New York. Here are the top nine little-known facts about New York which I think everyone planning to go there should know:
1. Everyone calls New York City the ‘Big Apple’. But why? Where did it come from? The phrase was first popularized by a newspaper editor, John Fitzgerald, who titled his column: Around the Big Apple. He first heard the term, the ‘Big Apple’, being thrown around by Black stable boys which they used to describe New York City as place of monetary abundance and opportunity.
2. The state of New York has the most extensive and oldest transportation system in the whole of North America. New York City, itself, is home to more than 12,000 yellow cabs, 120,000 bicycles, a huge subway system, bus and railroad systems, large airports, massive bridges and tunnels, ferries, and a aerial commuter tramway (think of a oversized cable car).
3. New York hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. The US Ice Hockey team, consisting of collegiate and amateur players, was to be up against the favoured Soviet Union team, which had legendary players in world ice hockey. To put it in the words of the New York Times: “Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle…the Russians are expected to win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments.” The US won and went on to win the gold medal. This victory was one of the greatest sporting moments in the twentieth century and was dubbed “Miracle on Ice”.
4. New York State is best know for the urban landscape of New York City. However most of New York State is dominated by farmland, forests, rivers, mountains and lakes. Even in built-up New York City there are more than 12,000 acres of undeveloped natural land and 26,000 acres of parkland. Who would have thought that rivers, estuaries, beaches, saltwater marshes, forests, grasslands, sands dunes, ponds, and lakes could be found in New York City? Apart from the aesthetic appeal, these natural habitats have performed, and continue to perform, vital ecological services for the city including providing clean air and water, absorbing pollutants, lowering temperatures on summer days, and improving public health and welfare.
5. The Erie Canal was built in the nineteenth century and was an important step in creating the international trading center, New York City, that we know today. It was a marvel of its day and was often called the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Erie Canal was enlarged a number of times to keep up with increased trading. The ‘final’ achievement was a canal 12 to 14 feet deep, 120 to 200 feet wide, and 363 miles long. Today the Erie Canal is largely used for recreational purposes.
6. Who coined the name ‘New York’? The land was first explored by an Italian, Giovanni da Verrazzano, who named it New Angouleme in honor of the French king Francois I. Then, the Dutch claimed the land and called it New Netherlands. Finally, the Duke of York from England bought Long Island and took possession of the rest of the land by the brute force of an army. The Duke of York called the land New York (what a surprise).
7. New York was the first state to employ license plates for automobiles. They first appeared in 1901, however the government did not issues the plates as they do today. In fact they required the owners to make their own plates. From 1901 to 1902 the plates had no numbers – all they had were the initials of the owner. It was only until 1910 when the state of New York began issuing license plates.
8. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has been put up every year since 1931. The tradition began when construction workers of the Rockefeller Center decorated a small balsam fir tree with cranberries, paper, and tin cans. Nowadays, the Rockefeller Tree is usually a Norway Spruce which have a life span of 80 to 110 years and grows 1 foot a year. The dimensions of the tree must be a minimum of 65 feet tall and 35 feet wide to qualify for the Rockefeller Center. After the season is over, the tree is often mulched and donated to charities. One tree can yield almost 3 tonnes of mulch.
9. The Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building from 1931 to 1972. It was surpassed by The World Trade Center which became the tallest building in New York. After the bombings, the Empire State Building was announced and now remains the tallest building in New York. Just as an aside, the tallest building in the world is the Sears building in Chicago. However this record is expected to be surpassed by the Burj Dubai which will be, once completed, about 1.5 times the height of Sears!
There you have it! The top nine facts about New York I discovered on my trip to New York. Everyone knows New York is a global leader in business, finance, fashion and the arts. However this is just the ‘mask’ of New York. By reading this article, you have taken your first step to appreciating this great city.