Superlative NYC

by Staff


New York is a city of extremes. With close to 8.25 million people, it's the most populous municipality in the United States. Its iconic skyline contains some of the tallest buildings in the world. Deep beneath its streets, the most extensive subway system on the planet transports millions of riders, 24 hours a day. With as many as 800 languages spoken on its sidewalks and nearly every cuisine imaginable available in its restaurants, New York also has to be among the most diverse cities anywhere. In honor of the greatest city in the universe and its many matchless features, we assembled the following slideshow of NYC superlatives. It may just be the most interesting thing you read all day. —Jonathan Zeller

Tallest Building
New York City's skyline is unmistakable. Composed of skyscraper after skyscraper, NYC is famous for its dizzying heights—including those found at the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building Observatory. (What else would you expect from a town that has its own Skyscraper Museum?) There's one building, however, that soars above them all—One World Trade Center proudly bears the title of tallest building in the Western hemisphere. At 1,776 feet (symbolizing the year of American independence), the 104-floor building, fixed with a 408-foot spire, is an architectural stunner with spiraling glass prisms that shift in shape from square to octagon. It's environmentally friendly too, built with recycled materials and rainwater-collecting mechanisms meant to reduce water consumption. Set on the site of the former Twin Towers, One WTC is part of a larger complex that also houses the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. —Christina Parrella


Smallest Apartment
Despite what you may have seen on some TV shows, the majority of New Yorkers do not live in palatial apartments. Then again, most don't live in apartments as small as Luke Clark Tyler's self-described “live-in closet.” While there's no official list or record bookkeeping track, Tyler's sliver of a space in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood is, at just 78 square feet, the tiniest we've seen. The architect has designed a unique piece of furniture that does double-duty as a bed and sofa and has room for storage. Tyler does his cooking in a microwave (located in his pantry/closet) and shares a bathroom with other apartments on his floor. —Adam Kuban

Photo: Jen Davis

Biggest Sandwich
Update: Not long after we posted this slideshow, Lansky's closed. We're leaving this slide in memorarium of the biggest sandwich you'll never eat.

New York City's Jewish delicatessens are already known for generosity when it comes to sandwiches—a single order of pastrami on rye, for instance, could easily feed two to four people. But the Jackpot sandwich at Lansky's Old World Deli on Manhattan's Upper West Side is a study in excess. If you can finish this towering sandwich ($26.95), you get a T-shirt. Be warned: it's a four-pound-plus tower of meat, cheese, bread and fillings—pastrami, turkey, corned beef, salami, muenster and American cheeses, coleslaw, sweet peppers and Russian dressing. On rye, of course.  —AK

Photo: Jen Davis

Narrowest Apartment Building
Claustrophobes and those with really long legs take heed—this space's width isn't much longer than a subway car. Thankfully, 75½ Bedford Street's three floors, connected by a spiral staircase, are fit for only two or three residents, not hundreds of commuters. Decorating prowess is put to the test inside this 9.5-foot-wide and 30-foot-deep 19th-century Greenwich Village house, where the smallest part of the home measures—hold your breath—a mere 2 feet wide. Today, curious onlookers stop by to see the skinny space that was once a cobbler's shop, a candy factory and home to Margaret Mead and, most notably, Pulitzer Prize winner Edna St. Vincent Millay.

In 2011, 75½ Bedford was scooped up for $2.175 million and underwent a wide range of renovations. If living here is right up your [narrow] alley, 75½ Bedford is currently on the market for $3.95 million—a tall asking price for 999 square feet. One thing's for certain: making a home out of the three bedrooms and two baths requires an open mind. A couple who called the address home in 2002 admitted that one bathroom is so small, even hand washing was a near impossible feat for them. Clearly, those without a keen sense of humor need not apply. For anyone who requires his or her space, the shared backyard should provide some much-needed breathing room. —Alyssa Grossman

The Phantom of the Opera. Photo: Joan Marcus

Longest-Running Shows
Shows come and go, but some stand the test of time to captivate generations of theatergoers. In fact, many of the City's record-holding plays and musicals can still be seen today, in the Theatre District and beyond. Productions fall in one of three categories, based on a theater's location and number of seats: Broadway (Manhattan theaters with more than 500 seats), Off-Broadway (Manhattan theaters with anywhere from 100 to 499 seats) and Off-Off-Broadway (Manhattan theaters with fewer than 100 seats, or theaters in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens or Staten Island with any number of seats).

The Phantom of the Opera is Broadway's longest-running musical. It can be seen at the Majestic Theatre, the very same venue where it premiered on January 26, 1988. The longest-running Broadway play is Life with Father, which ran November 8, 1939–July 12, 1947. The comedy, about an NYC family, takes place in the 1880s. And Chicago, at the Ambassador Theatre, is Broadway's longest-running revival, its current stint having begun on November 14, 1996 (the musical originally painted the town June 3, 1975–August 27, 1977). The Fantasticks is Off-Broadway's longest-running musical, its nearly 42-year run having taken place May 3, 1960–January 13, 2002. A revival of the show began on August 23, 2006; it can be seen at the Snapple Theater Center, which is also home to the longest-running Off-Broadway play, the murder mystery Perfect Crime. And as far as Off-Off-Broadway goes, a revival of Israel Horovitz's 1967 play Line, which made its debut at La Mama, has been performed at the 13th Street Repertory Company since January 2, 1974. The plot revolves around five people—you guessed it—waiting in a line. With so much quality theater, you'll want to give yourself enough time to give your regards to Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. —Joanna Citrinbaum

Photo: Jen Davis

Smallest Piece of Private Property
You can't paint this property's walls or furnish it with bargain finds from IKEA, but Greenwich Village's triangle-shaped piece of land, measuring in at 500 square inches, is as legitimate as your fourth-floor walk-up. Clad in mosaic lettering, the curious marker reads “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated for Public Purposes.” In fact, the record-breaking land now belongs to its neighbor Village Cigars on Seventh Avenue at Christopher Street. And if you think paying taxes on a habitable space is a pain, take comfort in the fact that you're not paying them on an unlivable portion of sidewalk.

As the story goes, City Hall almost had its way in the early 1900s after setting its sights on expanding Seventh Avenue's width to make room for a longer IRT subway line. Three hundred buildings were torn down, including an apartment complex belonging to David Hess. But Hess had a point to prove and wasn't going down without a fight. The demolition left him with the now iconic triangle—which the City unsuccessfully tried to take away. In 1938 Village Cigars paid Hess $1,000 for this encouraging reminder that the government doesn't always win—a fact that anyone who's battled a parking ticket can seriously appreciate. —AG

Courtesy, NYC Parks & Recreation

Smallest Park
In a few corners of the Internet, folks say Septuagesimo Uno—whose benches and greenery are wedged between two Upper West Side buildings—is the smallest park in the five boroughs. Officially, they're not wrong; but they're not necessarily right, either. While Septuagesimo Uno is certainly among the City's smallest parks, the Parks Department won't say definitively which of NYC's many minuscule commons is tiniest. Septuagesimo Uno is one among many “vest pocket parks” intended to foster relaxation and recreation in densely populated areas, and, in all likelihood, there are smaller parks somewhere in the City. Regardless, the sanctuary illustrates how far a smidgen of green space can go in a crowded urban area; its impact, unlike its footprint, is massive. The park's name means “71” in Latin, and it's located at 71st Street between West End Avenue and Broadway. By the way, there's no doubt about which New York City park is largest; that would be Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. —JZ


Photo: Kent Miller Studios

Largest Store
Located in the heart of Herald Square, Macy's is a prime location for shoppers looking to peruse a range of merchandise. Founded in 1902, the Macy's flagship location holds the title of New York City's largest department store, with 2 million square feet of space over 10.5 sprawling floors. Spanning an entire block, the juggernaut is a retail paradise, stocking cosmetics, colognes, accessories, men's and women's labels, as well as upscale designer collections. It's also home to the world's largest space devoted to footwear. Macy's shoe salon is a 63,000-square-foot emporium that carries items by practically every popular brand: Michael Kors, Steve Madden, Gucci, L.A.M.B., La Fenice, Seven for All Mankind and Truth or Dare by Madonna, among others. During your visit to the store opt for a ride on one of the store's other attractions: Macy's escalators, still partially composed of wood, are among the City's oldest. —CP

Photo: Marley White

Smallest Island
According to a 2009 New York Times article, U Thant Island, also known as Belmont Island, is New York City's smallest. The tiny East River landmass, which measures 100 by 200 feet, may not look like much—but it has an important purpose as a sanctuary for endangered birds. The island is generally closed to humans (so don't plan a trip there), but in 2004 a man named Duke Riley, in a state of advanced intoxication, did row a boat to the island, plant a flag and declare it a sovereign nation. Although Riley was intercepted by an armed Coast Guard vehicle on his way back to shore, he somehow avoided arrest.

U Thant Island is named for a former United Nations secretary-general, and its other moniker—Belmont Island—comes from financier August Belmont, who finished building the island out of refuse unearthed during the construction of trolley tunnels in the early 20th century. It was initially a very small granite reef, but was expanded with said rubbish during the 1890s and 1900s. Though the public is not allowed to visit U Thant Island, it's visible from the southern part of Roosevelt Island (U Thant miss it!). —JZ

Courtesy, Museum

Smallest Museum
As anyone who's ever searched for an apartment here can attest, space comes at a premium in NYC. But New Yorkers are a resourceful lot, overly familiar with stretching, optimizing and maximizing their square footage. Consider the City's smallest gallery space: at 60 square feet, Museum—located down an alley in TriBeCa, inside the shaft of a repurposed freight elevator—is barely big enough to host an exhibition. If you visit, you will find that it is tiny indeed, but the plethora of items on display complement its size. Museum's inaugural exhibition, which opened in May 2012, included items like a collection of toothpaste tubes from industrial designer Tucker Viemeister and Polaroid photo backings courtesy of Partners & Spade quirk magnate Andy Spade. For more information about Museum and to read about its upcoming shows, visit

Tiny galleries aren't the only art spaces in the City to display tiny artworks. One of the most interesting in recent memory was called Victimless Leather, exhibited as part of The Museum of Modern Art's blockbuster Design and the Elastic Mind show in 2008. The work was a tiny leather jacket that artists Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr created out of live mouse stem cells. But because the cells were alive, the jacket kept growing; eventually it became large enough to clog its incubator, and MoMA curator Paola Antonelli was forced to pull the plug. — staff

Courtesy, Serendipity 3

Priciest Dishes
New Yorkers are used to extremes, but some of the exorbitantly priced dishes offered around town have shocked even the most jaded City residents. Consider the Frrrozen Haute Chocolate at Serendipity 3, a hot chocolate dessert drink that blends 28 different cocoas and is topped with five grams of edible gold and La Madeline au Truffe shavings—which sells for $25,000. Served in a Baccarat Harcourt goblet lined with—you guessed it—more edible gold, the drink also comes with a diamond bracelet. Yes, you're allowed to take the bracelet home.

Although it's not quite on the same bank account–breaking level, one of the world's most expensive hamburgers is also on the menu at Serendipity 3. Le Burger Extravagant, made with Japanese Wagyu beef infused with white truffle butter, sells for $295. It's topped with aged cheddar cheese, shaved black truffles, a fried quail egg and Kaluga caviar. Its bun is dusted with gold, and the whole sandwich is held together with a diamond-encrusted toothpick. Those who are famished, take note: advanced ordering is required for these items. And for those concerned with excess, take note: proceeds from both the Frrrozen Haute Chocolate and Le Burger Extravagant go to charity.

Le Parker Meridien's satirically named Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata puts an expensive spin on the brunch staple. Featuring six eggs, an entire lobster and 10 ounces of sevruga caviar this not-so-basic breakfast dish will set you back $1,000. A more budget-friendly version of the entrée, featuring only one ounce of caviar, is available for $100.

There's even a pricey pizza: the thin-crust version at Nino's Bellissima comes with a $1,000 price tag and features toppings you won't find in a regular pizza parlor. The 12-inch pie is topped with four varieties of caviar (including two of the world's most expensive, beluga and black Russian royal sevruga), lobster, chives, wasabi, salmon roe and crème fraîche. Guess the pizza principle doesn't apply here. —CP

“Looking Oceanward from Todt Hill” (1895), by Jasper Cropsey. Courtesy, Staten Island Museum

Highest Naturally Occurring Point
Not only is Staten Island home to New York City's westernmost and southernmost points, it also claims the City's highest elevation. At 410 feet, the summit of Todt Hill, located within the Staten Island Greenbelt is also the highest point on the eastern seaboard between Florida and Cape Cod. Todt is the Dutch word for “dead” and refers to the colonial cemetery at the southwestern foot of the hill that later became Moravian Cemetery. The hill is home to some of the most expensive houses on Staten Island and NYC in general. One notable home there is the former residence of the late Paul Castellano, head of the Gambino crime family from 1976 to 1985. —AK

Courtesy, JW Mariott Essex House

Most-Expensive Pet Wedding
New York is a city of opportunity for all, and that means four-legged residents too. Wendy Diamond, pet expert, author, television personality and founder of the animal-rights advocacy group Animal Fair decided to plan a wedding for her cancer-stricken pup, Lucky, to raise money for the Humane Society of New York. But her beloved Maltese lost her battle before preparations were finished. Diamond knew the best way to honor Lucky's life and give back to the animal community was to continue planning a wedding. Her new pup, Baby Hope, a Coton de Tulear, became the lucky bride and Diamond launched a contest to find a suitable bachelor.

The result was a lavish affair at the JW Marriott Essex House New York. Baby Hope and contest winner Chilly Pasternak, a poodle, trotted down the aisle to “say their vows” on July 12, 2012. It was a star-studded event that brought out tail-wagging New Yorkers and their owners in the name of Guinness World Record–breaking charitable feats.

Here's part of the pricey breakdown: Baby Hope's wedding dress was valued at $6,000. The menu included $5,000 worth of sushi and an orchestra valued at $15,000. Tickets to the swanky shindig cost $250 a pop—all in the name of the Humane Society's Critical Care Ward. Wendy and Baby Hope even earned a spot on TLC's Cake Boss after the show's star, Buddy Valastro, surprised the human-canine duo with a specially designed wedding-day confection. The total value of all donated services came out to $158,187.26. Over the top? Yes. But all that preparation had a big impact: $50,000 toward giving pets like Lucky and Baby Hope a happy and healthy life. —AG

Conference House Park. Photo: Daniel Avila. Courtesy, NYC Parks & Recreation

Geographic Extremes
New York City and New York State's southernmost point are one and the same: Ward's Point on Staten Island, where you'll find Conference House Park. There's even a “South Pole” marker within the park, which takes its name from Conference House, a late-17th-century stone manor that was the site of a September 11, 1776, peace conference whose aim was to end the American Revolution.

The northernmost point of the City can be found in the northwest tip of the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale. The farthest east you could stand and still be in NYC is on the northwest corner of Hillside Avenue and Langdale Street in Glen Oaks, Queens. For the western extreme, it's back to Staten Island, this time just above Conference House Park in Tottenville, on private property in the backyard of a home at the end of Amboy Road. —AK

Courtesy, Fraunces Tavern Museum

Oldest Stuff
Enthusiastic preservationists will tell you that New York City is always changing. Delis become bank branches. For years now, punk venue CBGB has been a John Varvatos store. There's a big basketball arena among the brownstones of Prospect Heights. The five boroughs always seem to be looking ahead. As Valerie Paley of The New-York Historical Society puts it, “New York, from a preservationist perspective, has been a victim of its own success.”

Maybe. But the City's been around since 1624, and plenty of historical landmarks are still standing. So check out our slideshow cataloging some of the oldest, sorted by category. —JZ

Construction of the 191st Street Station of the IRT Seventh Avenue Line, 1910. Courtesy, New York Transit Museum

Subway Stats
Need even more proof that NYC is all about extremes? Look no further than its subway system, which operates 24 hours a day and travels hundreds of millions of miles each year. Here, we break down the numbers and find out which lines and stations can claim MTA bragging rights. (And for even more information, see our “Underground NYC” slideshow.)

• NYC is the world leader in subway stations with 468 places to grab a train.

• In the contest for shortest subway train, it's a tie among the City's three S, or shuttle, trains: Franklin Avenue, Rockaway Park and 42nd Street.

• Those looking to get the most single-train mileage for a MetroCard swipe should board the A train at the Inwood/207th St. Manhattan station or from the other end of the A line at Queens' Far Rockaway/Mott Ave. stop for a 31-plus-mile journey. Due to damage from Hurricane Sandy, A trains are currently not running in the Rockaways. When regular service is restored, the ride will once again take more than two hours.

• Most people associate the subway with underground stations where cell phone reception is a virtual impossibility, but only 60 percent of them are actually underground. The highest station, Brooklyn's Smith/9th Sts., stands at 88 feet. You'll find the lowest on the 1 line, 180 feet below 191st Street in Washington Heights.

• With access to 11 lines and proximity to major tourist destinations, it's no surprise Times Sq./42 St. was the busiest station in 2011, when 60,604,822 riders wrangled for a seat.

• For the oldest train tunnel in the world, head to Brooklyn. Construction of the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel was completed in 1844. Though the space's manhole entrance is now closed, tours used to be offered to brave and curious explorers.



From Our Partners