Ten points about New York City

It’s not all Manhattan, you should know. Most of the population sleeps in the other four boroughs. And then for even more bodies we have Long Island to the east, Jersey to the west, and Westchester-Rockland to the north.

By the way, Brooklyn – not Manhattan – is the most populous borough.

Now, for ten more bits.

  1. Ethnic diversity: It’s 44 percent white, 25 percent black, and 12 percent Asian descent. Hispanics claim about 27 percent. The city has the largest number of Italian-Americans in the nation (nearly 700,000), the largest Jewish population outside Israel (1.5 million), and the largest Chinese population of any city outside Asia (573,000). About 800 languages are spoken in the city.
  2. Open spaces: About one-fifth of the Bronx is given over to parkland, including the New York Botanical Garden. Staten Island has thousands of acres of parkland and about 2,000 wild whitetail deer.
  3. Largest borough in size: At 108 square miles, the Queens wraps around more populous Brooklyn. Its population of 2.3 million is the second-largest in the city – nearly half of them foreign-born.
  4. Smallest borough in size: Manhattan. Its 22 square miles are dwarfed by Staten Island’s 58 square miles.
  5. Restaurants: The city has an estimated 24,000 eateries – including delis, pizzerias, and take-outs. As for sit-down-and-be-served, the number’s closer to 8,000. One enterprising guess says that at one a day, you’d need 22½ years to hit them all. By the way, a fourth of them are in Manhattan. As for home cooking? We’ll have to ask a greengrocer.
  6. Runways: You think people fly straight in Manhattan? Think again. Most domestic flights work out of Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, serving nearly 44 million passengers a year. JFK, on the Atlantic shore of Queens, gets the bulk of the international flights, nearly 30 million passengers a year. LaGuardia, in a tight corner of Queens, is the most convenient option and serves nearly 30 million passengers annually. MacArthur in Ronkonkoma, Long Island, serves about two million passengers a year plus commercial traffic.
  7. Housed animals: The Bronx Zoo and Staten Island Zoo, plus Tisch Children’s Zoo in Manhattan’s Central Park, house a world of animals. Brooklyn is also home to the New York Aquarium. Brooklyn Wildlife Center and Queens Wildlife Center also offer displays. That’s in addition to rats, pigeons, and endless humanoid varieties.
  8. Stage life: The celebrated Great White Way on Broadway has 41 theaters as the heart of live American theater. Manhattan’s off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway stages offer more offbeat fare. Not all actors and actresses are working as restaurant wait staff.
  9. Professional sports: Both football teams play in New Jersey’s swampy Meadowlands. The Yankees still play baseball in the Bronx, while the Mets remain in the Queens. The Knicks basketball team and the Rangers hockey team both perform in Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden, but the Brooklyn Nets basketball squad and Islanders hockey team both call Barclays Center in Brooklyn their home. So it’s all over the place, not just Manhattan.
  10. Parking tickets: UPS, FedEx, and other delivery services receive up to 7,000 parking tickets a day, contributing up to $120 million in revenue annually to the city. The tab on unpaid tickets by United Nations diplomats, meanwhile, was put at $16 million, with Egypt as the worst offender, $2 million overdue.

~*~

Oh, yes. One out of every 21 New Yorkers is a millionaire. Or so I read. Did they mean just Manhattan? Or the whole shebang? Either way, it’s a lot.

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Soft voices in the air

While working in the driveway, I hear a faint “Hello.” I look around and it’s repeated until I see that it’s coming from a second-floor neighboring window. It’s repeated again.

I look up and see two round faces pressed to the window screen. They resemble two little owls.

Not too long ago the two girls had been too shy to respond to my waves. But now?

Just listen. “Hello, hello.”

We’re making progress.

The breakthrough came the other morning when I waved and the older child waved back. I switched hands and waved. So did she. I used both hands. Ditto. We exchanged some other arm motions and finally a thumbs up.

Well, it brightened my day.

Ten perspectives on subway systems around the globe

I’ve long looked at subway systems as a measure of a great metropolis. Not its only one, mind you, or even the defining one, but among the criteria to consider.

Here are ten items to put that in perspective.

  1. About 160 underground public transportation systems operate in 55 countries around the world – more than 40 percent of them new in the 21st century, starting a decade after my novel Subway Hitchhikers was first published.
  2. The London Underground opened in 1863 and operated its first electrified line in 1890, making it the oldest.
  3. The longest route is the Shanghai Metro.
  4. The busiest system is the Beijing Subway.
  5. New York City has the most stations.
  6. The Paris Metro opened in 1900. It has some great art deco design and a certain funky romantic air.
  7. Budapest opened in 1896, beating Paris. As did Boston, 1897.
  8. China has 32.
  9. Africa has three: Algiers (2011), Cairo (1987), Mecca (2010).
  10. The Moscow subway, with some truly impressively beautiful stations, opened in 1935 and claims the world’s highest daily ridership – nearly seven million. Tokyo, opened in 1927, has 8.7 million daily riders – more than Moscow’s – but the footnote is that subways account for only a fraction of the daily passengers. As for Beijing, 10.3 million riders daily? Go figure. Tokyo’s punctually efficient system still hires oshya to push commuters like sardines into the tin. Err, car, at peak hours.

New to the family

This pair of year-old sisters is getting adjusted to living with us. Originally named Maya and Elena by the daughter of their previous owner, we’ve been calling them Pepper and Sal … or even Salty. The are quite lively, entertaining, and enthusiastically devouring many of the weeds and branches gleaned from our gardening. And, yes, they are quite cuddly.

What’s below the pavement in Manhattan?

A compact and congested city center sits atop a spaghetti pile of underground pipes and wires and more.

Here are ten things you might find below the pavement in Manhattan:

  1. Con Edison’s 105 miles of steam pipes heating nearly 2,000 buildings. (Take care – it’s 350 degree heat!)
  2. Water mains. Many lead to buildings. Others to fire hydrants or drinking fountains.
  3. Electrical conduits and telecommunications infrastructure.
  4. Natural gas mains. Beware of the pressure.
  5. Sewage pipes. These have to run downhill in the end.
  6. Storm drainage. Ditto.
  7. Underground storage tanks containing things like Freon or fuel oil or industrial chemicals. Who knows what else.
  8. History, from cobblestones and Colonial foundations to bottles and bones.
  9. Passenger and freight train tunnels. Think PATH, Metro North, and the Long Island Rail Road when they roll into Penn and Grand Central stations.
  10. Subway tubes and stations and the air vents that support them. The city has 275 fully underground stations.

What’s actually down there often remains a mystery, even to public and utility officials. What happens when a corroded pipe bursts?