By Harold Gray
There’s no doubt about it—New York is definitely one of the most famous and oft-visited cities on the entire planet. However, even with its legendary status in pop culture being set in stone, there are still plenty of things you probably didn’t know about New York City. And we’re here to shine a light on a few interesting examples!
Secret Train Station
The Waldorf Astoria is one of the most historically famous hotels in the world, and definitely in New York City proper. While the Empire State Building today sits on the former site of the hotel; the latter still has its share of secrets passed around by New Yorkers. For example—we bet that you didn’t know that a secret train station was situated beneath the hotel! It was called Track 61, and was basically an extension from Grand Central, which was found just a couple of streets away from the hotel.
According to rumors, the track was constructed in the ’30s for Franklin D Roosevelt. The president often stayed in the hotel, but wanted a private entrance which would keep his deteriorating polio disease away from prying eyes. The tracks had a custom lift and car, which were connected to the garage of the hotel.
The station was used for more than FDR’s visits, as you might imagine. Back in 1938, U.S. General Pershing reportedly used the tracks. Also, a locomotive exhibition was held there in 1946, as well as a fashion show two years later. Obviously, the secrecy of the station waned a couple of decades after its construction.
Grand Central Whispering Gallery
New York wouldn’t be New York if it didn’t have the biggest train station in the world. But this architectural miracle also has a couple of secrets only true New Yorkers know about. For example, one of the arches of the station, next to a famous seafood restaurant called the Oyster Bar, has a hidden secret. If two people stood at the opposite endings of the arch, they could strike a perfect conversation even through whispers. These interesting acoustics were popularized in many pop culture references, as well as cinema and literature. Plus, Charles Mingus, a national jazz legend, reportedly proposed to his girlfriend in that very spot.
All the way back at the beginning of the 19th century, the first immigrants from China arrived in New York. Back then, they situated themselves in what used to be known as the Five Points area; one of the most dangerous slum neighborhoods in New York. The place was ridden with disease, crime, and it also had a locally famous red light district. Famously, the horrible conditions of this New York area were first highlighted by the legendary Charles Dickens. The famous English author described the slums in detail in his travel diaries. After this, the local conditions started improving slowly, but surely.
These days, about 150,000 residents of Chinese origins call the Chinatown area their home. In fact, today’s New York Chinatown in Manhattan represents one of the biggest homogenous Chinese neighborhoods across the entire Western hemisphere. With New York having grown so much in the past two centuries, as you may have guessed, this is no longer the only Chinatown on its territory. While there are a dozen large Chinese neighborhoods in the tristate area, the Manhattan one is still the most historically significant of them all.
It Used To Be Hollywood
In the past half-century, we’ve all regarded Hollywood as not only the center of the world’s film industry, but also as a place eponymous with American filmmaking. However, many people forget that before the early 1930s—the East Coast used to be the epicenter of the newly burgeoning film industry. And before Hollywood came to be, all major film studios called New York their home. This includes Paramount Pictures, which is one of the oldest cinema companies both in the United States and abroad.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes, one of the early sound movie classics, was entirely shot in New York and released in Paramount. In fact, the entirety of principal photography was shot at the Astoria Studios; situated in Queens at the time. And in the late 1970s, this studio was made a national historical district by the federal government. Many classic Hollywood movies that embodied the spirit of old New York would continue to be shot here, like Goodfellas, as well as some more surprising TV shows such as Sesame Street.
It Has Wildlife
If there was ever a place that truly deserved the moniker of an “urban jungle,” it’s New York City. However, did you know that there is still plenty of wildlife to be found in the midst of all that urban hustle and bustle? Shockingly enough, New York has the world’s most highly concentrated population of peregrine falcons. These creatures have adjusted themselves to living around a city; they frequently make their nests on skyscrapers and bridges all around New York.
Also, you’ll find literally thousands of different animal species in the many parks of New York. And one of the most biologically diverse areas in the city is Staten Island, which hundreds of interesting bird species call home. If you’re lucky enough, you might even spot a white-tailed deer, or a snapping turtle.
Naturally, there are plenty of other things to discover about New York City. After all, we are talking about the most famous city on Earth. And we hope our selection of quirky facts has stoked your imagination enough to go out searching for more!
Harold Gray is a born-and-bred New Yorker, usually writing about local real estate and moving companies including tiktokmoving.com.