You may think that you’re an expert New Yorker, but we’re willing to bet there’s a lot you still don’t know about this city. Here are 10 things you’ve probably never heard:
1. The lions in front of the Public Library have names
Their names are Patience and Fortitude, and you can remember which one is which by remembering that Fortitude is closest to 42nd (forty-two) Street.
2. The closest beach is on Governor’s Island
You don’t need to go all the way to Coney Island or Rockaway Beach. On Governor’s Island, only a short ferry ride from Manhattan, there is a nice sandy beach, complete with a snack shack and plastic palm trees. You might not be able to put your feet in the water, but it’s probably filthy anyway.
3. The Brooklyn Bridge used to house an enormous wine cellar
To finance the construction of the bridge, the city rented huge underground vaults in the legs of the bridge on the Manhattan side to various wine sellers. These spaces were ideal for storing wine because they maintained a constant temperature of 60 degrees.
4. Your favorite park is probably a graveyard
In the late 18th century, the city started running out of room for public parks, so they put them on top of graveyards. Washington Square Park, Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, City Hall Park, the Waldorf Astoria and possibly Union Square were all burial grounds.
5. Traffic flows west on odd streets and east on even streets
If you’re getting off at a subway station you’ve never gotten off at before, it can be difficult to tell which direction you need to go. But if you remember that traffic flows west on odd-numbered streets and east on even-numbered streets, you can easily figure it out.
6. You can fill your MetroCard with a custom amount
You don’t have to take the suggestions that the MTA machine gives to you. You can select “other amounts” and put in exactly how much money you want to add to your card.
7. NYC used to be a huge marijuana garden
Until 1951, marijuana plants grew like weeds in New York City. That summer, 41,000 pounds of plants were uprooted and incinerated.
8. Central Park’s lampposts are a navigation system
Every lamppost in Central Park has a set of four numbers. The first two tell you what street you’re closest to, while the second two tell you how far away you are from 5th Avenue. The higher the second two numbers, the further west you are.
9. Pigs used to be the rats of NYC
In the 1700 and early 1800s, pigs roamed the streets of NYC like rats and pigeons do today. The pigs served as valuable street cleaners, but in the early 19th century, they began to be viewed as unsightly signs of filth. In the late 1850s, they were all rounded up and eradicated from the city.
10. MetroCard swipes are stored
If you ever happen to be accused of a crime you didn’t commit, you might be able to use your MetroCard as an alibi, like this guy did. Whether the government can keep tabs on you using your MetroCard swipes is unclear.
Cover photo credit: Dan Nguyen/Flickr