The Top 5 Most Surprising and Fascinating Facts About New York City

by Peter Sacco on January 11, 2013

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Ask anyone who has ever lived in or visited New York City and the majority will probably use some highly descriptive words to paint a mental picture of this fascinating urban jungle. From “bizarre” and “odd” to “interesting” and “kooky,” you’ll begin to notice a variation on the same theme. You may consider yourself something of a connoisseur when it comes to NYC trivia, but chances are there are several fun facts that even you aren’t aware of. Here are the top five coolest and most surprising facts about New York City.

America’s Former Capital

The true first capital of the United States might differ in the eyes of several historians, but the fact remains that New York was America’s capital under the newly signed Constitution. From March 4, 1789, to August 12, 1790, New York served as the first official capital of the United States, but its fate as the seat of the nation was short-lived. On July 9, 1790, the newly formed Congress passed the “Residence Act,” which allowed for the construction of a national capital on the Potomac River. Eventually, that small federal complex grew and transformed into the U.S.’s current capital, Washington, D.C.

English Isn’t Always the First Language

According to the 2000 census, only 76 percent of New Yorkers five years of age and older spoke only English in their home. The census found that many New York residents spoke both English and another language while in the privacy of their home. Predominantly, the second languages spoken by the other 24 percent of New York residents were: Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, French, French Creole, Yiddish, Polish and Korean. So, listen closely for a variety of different languages as you walk through the streets of this diverse city.

An Entire Island for the Bargain Price of $24

If you’re ready to take the plunge and make it on the island of Manhattan, be prepared to spend an average of $3,418 per month on rent. This is a far cry from the price Dutch explorer Peter Minuit paid for the entire island of Manhattan back in May of 1626. In what is arguably the most lopsided real estate transaction of all time, Minuit purchased this small island from its Native American residents by offering them beads, cloth and other goods. It’s estimated the goods were worth around $24, which wouldn’t even cover the price of a burger in one of Manhattan’s finer restaurants today.

The True Origins of the “Big Apple”

From “The City So Nice, They Named it Twice” and “Gotham” to “The City That Never Sleeps” and “The Capital of the World,” there are as many nicknames for New York City as there are hot dog vendors on 34th street. “The Big Apple” is another famous moniker, but the story behind the phrase’s origin is the most fascinating. It’s believed the phrase “Around the Big Apple” was coined by writer John Fitzgerald during the early 1920s. “Apple” referred to a large prize awarded to the winner of a horse race. The term apparently caught on because the city adopted the name “The Big Apple” during a campaign to increase tourism in the early 1970s.

Yellow cab in New York City.Why You Won’t See Many Red Cabs

Step onto any crowded New York City sidewalk and you’re bound to see harried residents signaling an endless stream of yellow taxis. Did you ever stop and ask yourself, “Why are all the taxis in New York City yellow?” In 1915, businessman John Hertz founded Chicago’s Yellow Cab Company. After reading a University of Chicago study suggesting the color yellow was more easily visible to the eye than red, Hertz decided to paint every car in his fleet yellow. In an effort to cut down on the number of illegally licensed cabs throughout the city, New York took a cue from John Hertz and passed a law stating all legitimate, medallion-licensed taxis must be painted yellow in the late 1960s.

While it may cost a small fortune to rent an apartment there, if you’re interested in experiencing the Big Apple firsthand, there are several reasonably priced hotels in New York throughout the city.

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