A city famous for its sartorial elegance and Bohemian chic, New York is a shopper’s paradise, hawking everything from the very latest designer fashions to flea market bargains in addition to foods and goods from every corner of the globe. Clothing is not taxed in New York and the bargains have got even better of late, as the US recession has led to widespread discounting on everything from electrical goods to designer fashion. (Read more on New York Cost of Living.)
The smartest shops are located on Madison Avenue, where most top designers have flagship stores. Nearby, Fifth Avenue is a magnet for the label conscious and well heeled. Standing at one of the most famous corners in Manhattan, Tiffany & Co, 727 Fifth Avenue, is an icon of the American Dream. Famous department stores include Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Herald Square, Bloomingdales, 1000 Third Avenue, at 59th Street, and Barney’s New York, 660 Madison Avenue, at 61st Street, which is the trendiest of this retail crop. Both Macy’s and Bloomingdales now offer free ‘personal shoppers’ on request, to help navigate their huge ranges. The famous Ladies’ Mile, which, one hundred years ago, was the epicenter of uptown fashion, with department stores stretching from 14th Street for a mile along Sixth Avenue, is now a major discount centre. However, the spectacular Victorian buildings have been restored and stores such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Old Navy Clothing Co, Barnes & Noble and Filene’s Basement have spearheaded a revival of the historic shopping strip.
SoHo is the most European of New York’s neighbourhoods and its shops resemble those at Covent Garden, with high-end clothing outlets and shoe stores, make-up and beauty salons, art galleries and antiques shops, and modern furniture showrooms. The EastVillage and the Lower East Side harbour street fashion and cutting-edge young designers, with vintage shops, music stores intermingling with designer boutiques and eclectic outlets. Discount shops selling authentic American goods, such as Levi’s, are located throughout the city, particularly along Broadway, between Houston Street and 14th Street.
There are numerous markets to appeal to bargain hunters. The Annex Flea Market, known as the 26th Street Flea Market, on Sixth Avenue, made famous by Andy Warhol, is open on Saturday and Sunday from dawn to dusk. The best bargains are vintage clothing and fine linens. Many ‘green markets’, selling locally grown produce, freshly caught fish, desserts and breads, are located around the city, the most central of which is at Union Square, opening on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 0800–1800.
Shopping hours depend on the neighbourhood. Business areas, such as Wall Street, open as early as 0800, while shops in areas such as SoHo and EastVillage open late at 1100. Many stay open until at least 1900. Department stores are open 1000–1800 and 1200–1700 Sunday.
In New York, everything but life’s most basic necessities is taxable and the sales tax of 8.5% on all consumer goods – apart from clothes under US$110 – is one of the highest in the country. Visitors to New York are unable to claim a tax refund for goods purchased..
In the 1920s, a sportswriter for the Morning Telegraph named John Fitzgerald overheard stablehands in New Orleans refer to NYC’s racetracks as “the Big Apple.” He named his column “Around the Big Apple.” A decade later, jazz musicians adopted the term to refer to New York City, and especially Harlem, as the jazz capital of the world. There are many apples on the trees of success, they were saying, but when you pick New York City, you pick the big apple.
The Bronx: How Swede It is
The Bronx was settled in 1639 and is named for the Swedish settler Jonas Bronck. There are more than 60 landmarks and historic districts in the Bronx, including the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage on the Grand Concourse and the stately Van Cortland House Museum in Van Cortlandt Park.
Why Cabs Are Yellow
John Hertz, who founded the Yellow Cab Company in 1907, chose yellow because he had read a study conducted by the University of Chicago that indicated it was the easiest color to spot.
Where the Famous Go to Rest
Green-WoodCemetery, in Brooklyn’s SunsetPark, is one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries. With a spectacular harbor view and 478 acres filled with trees and flowering shrubs, Green-Wood is the eternal resting place of a who’s who of famous folks, including Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Morse, F.A.O Schwartz, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Charles Tiffany, and “Boss” Tweed.
Looking for Main Street?
You won’t find it in Manhattan. There is, however, a Main Street in each of the other boroughs and on Roosevelt Island.
A City of Islands
Manhattan and Staten Island are islands; Queens and Brooklyn are on the western tip of Long Island. So, of New York City’s five boroughs, only the Bronx is part of the mainland. However, there is an island that ‘s part of the Bronx and yet feels like a New England fishing village: CityIsland, a marine-related community offering fishing, boating, and a wide range of restaurants and snack bars.
Statue of Liberty Stats
The Lady in the Harbor is 101 feet tall from base to torch, 305 feet tall from pedestal foundation to torch. She has a 35-foot waist and an 8-foot index finger, and she weighs 450,000 pounds.
Did you know…?
There are 6,374.6 miles of streets in New York City.
Broadway’s Original Name was the Wiechquaekeck Trail. It was an old Algonquin trade route.
The Times Square Business Improvement District (212/768-1560) dropped a ball designed and crafted by Waterford Crystal for New Year’s Eve 1999.
The Verrazano-NarrowsBridge is so long – 4,260 feet – that the towers are a few inches out of parallel to accommodate the curvature of the earth.
New York City has 578 miles of waterfront. Some of the immigrants who passed through Ellis Island and went on to illustrious careers are: Irving Berlin, musician, arrived in 1893 from Russia; Marcus Garvey, politician, arrived 1916 from Jamaica; Bob Hope, comedian, arrived in 1908 from England; Knute Rockne, football coach, arrived in 1893 from Norway; and the von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame, arrived in 1938 from Austria. (Source: “Ellis Island & Statue of Liberty,” Statue of LibertyNational Monument and Ellis Island, 212/363-7620).
The Consolidated Edison electrical substation, built in 1975, has an illusionistic mural of the BrooklynBridge by Richard Haas on one side to help it blend in with its historic neighbor.
The Bronx is the only New York borough connected to the mainland.
Since the 1920’s, Queens has been the ‘home of jazz,’ the residence of choice for hundreds of jazz musicians, including such notables as Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dizzy Gillespie (source: The Queens Jazz Trail Committee, 718/463-7700).
Built circa 1680, the Conference House (also known as the Billop House) was the site of a fateful meeting in 1776.
The British, represented by Admiral Lord Richard Howe, and the Continental Congress, represented by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge, engaged in an attempt to forestall the American Revolution.
The 2½ mile boardwalk at Staten Island’s SouthBeach (718/390-8000) is the fourth longest in the world.
The New York City Department of Transportation is responsible for approximately 5,700 miles of streets and highways and 753 bridge structures and tunnels.
The triangular shape of the Flatiron Building (an early skyscraper on 23rd Street) produced wind currents that made women’s skirts billow and caused police to create the term ’23 skiddoo’ to shoo gapers from the area.
The world’s largest gothic cathedral is the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (212/316-7540) – and it’s still under construction. Its first stone was laid in 1892.
The nation’s largest public Halloween parade is the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade (914/758-5519).
The New York Mercantile Exchange (212/299-2000) is world’s largest physical commodity futures exchange.
Macy’s, the world’s largest store, covers 2.1 million square feet of space and stocks over 500,000 different items.
The New YorkBotanical Garden (718/817-8700) is home to the nation’s largest Victorian glasshouse, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a New York City landmark that has showcased NYBG’s distinguished tropical, Mediterranean, and desert plant collections since 1902.
The Panorama of the City of New York in the Queens Museum of Art is the world’s largest architectural model, containing 895,000 individual structures at a scale of 1 inch equals 100 feet.
The Sandy Ground Historical Society (718/317-5796) offers a look at the oldest continuously inhabited free black settlement in the nation.
The oldest schoolhouse still standing, built in 1695, is situated in HistoricRichmondTown (718/351-1611).
The country’s oldest municipal golf course, opened in 1895, is in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
Number of bird species in Central Park is 215.
Most Popular Baby Names in NYC
First in the Field:
The first children’s gardening program ever established at a botanic garden was begun at the BrooklynBotanic Garden (718/622-4433) in 1914.
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum (718/735-4402) is the world’s first museum for kids.
LincolnCenter for the Performing Arts (212/875-5000), America’s first performing arts center, held its first performance on September 23, 1962.
Babe Ruth hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium in the first game ever played there.
Opened in 1633 in the Market Field, which is now the financial district, was the first public brewery in America. Colonists loved their beer and often had a mug with their breakfast.
Only in New York City:
The Cloisters (212/923-3700), a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the only museum in America dedicated exclusively to medieval art.
The CaribbeanCulturalCenter (212/307-7420) is the only cultural organization in the U.S. that represents all of the diverse artistic expressions and traditions of the African diaspora.
New York City History:
In 1898, the five boroughs – The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island – were incorporated into a single entity, known as Greater New York.
Ellis Island Immigration Station officially opened its doors to the world on Friday, January 1, 1892. Annie Moore, a 15-year-old Irish girl, was the first to be questioned in the immigration station’s second-floor Registry Room. (Source: “Ellis Island & Statue of Liberty,” Statue of LibertyNational Monument and Ellis Island, 212/363-7620).
From 1892 to 1924, 12 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island.
The Titanic was scheduled to arrive at Chelsea Piers on April 16, 1912 at the conclusion of her maiden voyage. Fate intervened, and the “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg and sank on April 14, 1912. Of the 2,200 passengers aboard, 675 were rescued by the Cunard liner Carpathia, which arrived at the Chelsea Piers on April 20th. (Source: Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex, 212/212/336-6666).
Downtown NYC Fun Facts
Courtesy of The Downtown Alliance
Downtown Manhattan was the site of the nation’s first capital.
As late as the 1840s, thousands of pigs roamed Wall Street to consume garbage – an early sanitation system
Under the Dutch, Wall Street – where there really was a wall – was the city limit.
Author Jack London once lived as a hobo in City Hall Park.
Federal Hall National Memorial was the site of George Washington’s first inauguration.
The New York Stock Exchange is the world’s largest exchange.
New York City’s first theater was on Beaver Street.
Castle Clinton was built to defend he harbor against the British during the War of 1812.
Downtown’s only remaining philately business has been here over 65 years.
St. Paul’s Chapel is Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use.
Bowling Green is the oldest park in New York City.
Castle Clinton has functioned as an opera house, an aquarium, and a gateway for over 8 million immigrants.
The New York Stock Exchange has an annual trading volume of $5.5 trillion.
46% of leisure visitors to Downtown come from outside the United States.
When built, 120 Broadway’s EquitableBuilding cast a 7-acre shadow, leading to the creation of zoning setback laws.
200 ticker-tape parades have taken place in Lower-Broadway’s ‘Canyon of Heroes.
In 1664, the city’s tallest structure was a 2-story windmill.
Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton are buried in the TrinityChurch graveyard.
Legend has it that Peter Minuit paid $24 in trinkets to purchase the island of Manhattan from Leni Lenape Indians at Bowling Green.
The vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank on Maiden Lane store more than one-quarter of the world’s gold bullion.
The WoolworthBuilding – the ‘Cathedral of Commerce’ – was the tallest building in the world from 1913 to 1929.
Without firing a shot, the British seized control of Nieuwe Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664 and renamed it New York City.
Downtown was the shipping capital of the world in the 19th century.
The first ticker-tape parade celebrated the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886.
Broadway began as an Algonquin trade route called the Wiechquaekeck Trail.
Master architect Cass Gilbert designed six Downtown buildings including the US Custom House at One Bowling Green.
A 7,000-pound bronze ‘Charging Bull’ mysteriously appeared one day in 1989 in front of the New York Stock Exchange – the bull is now at Bowling Green.
The BrooklynBridge was the first bridge to be lit using electricity.
The New York Stock Exchange began in 1792 when 24 brokers met under a buttonwood tree facing 68 Wall Street.
On completion, the BrooklynBridge was the world’s longest suspension bridge and the city’s tallest structure.
The trading area of the New York Stock Exchange is about two-thirds the size of a football field.
The New York Mercantile Exchange began as the Butter and Cheese Exchange in the 1750s.
J.P. Morgan’s former apartment on the 31st floor in 14 Wall Street is now home to a popular French restaurant.
Washington Irving, the great American writer, was born in 1783 at 131 William Street.
When it built its headquarters at 26 Broadway, Standard Oil Company was the largest U.S. corporation and its founder, John D. Rockefeller, was the wealthiest person in the world.
Phillippe Petit walked a tightrope between the rooftops of the WorldTradeCenter towers in 1974.
The northern façade of City Hall was left unfinished when the building was erected in 1803 – no one foresaw that the city would expand beyond Downtown.