Superlative NYC

by Staff

(Updated 11/03/2017)

New York is a city of extremes. With over 8.5 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

Photo: Julienne Schaer

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 9/11 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

Narrowest Apartment Building

Claustrophobes and those with really long legs take heed—this space's width isn't much more than that of the average subway car. Thankfully, 75½ Bedford Street's three floors are fit for only a couple 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. 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. It sold again in 2013 for $3.25 million—a tall asking price for 999 square feet. One thing's for certain: making a home here requires an open mind. For anyone who requires his or her space, the shared backyard provides some much-needed breathing room. —Alyssa Grossman

Photo: Matthew Murphy

​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 played from June 3, 1975–August 27, 1977). The Fantasticks was 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 ran from 2006 to 2017 at the Theater Center, also home to the longest-running Off-Broadway play, 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, was performed for 43 years at the 13th Street Repertory Company, from January 2, 1974, to spring 2017 when it closed. —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 a scant 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

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: Joe Buglewicz

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 and Seven for All Mankind, 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

Serendipity 3. Photo: Liz Steger

​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 Golden Opulence Sundae at Serendipity 3, which sells for $1,000. Served in a Baccarat Harcourt goblet lined with rich Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream covered in chocolate syrup made from melted Amedei Porcelana, it also comes with caviar, truffles and 23k edible gold leaf. Yes, you can take the goblet home. One of the world's most expensive hamburgers is also on the menu: Le Burger Extravagant. Made with Japanese Wagyu beef infused with white truffle butter, it's topped with aged cheddar cheese, shaved black truffles, a fried quail egg and Kaluga caviar and sells for $295. Its bun is dusted with gold, and the whole sandwich is held together with a diamond-encrusted toothpick which jacks up the price considerably. Take note: 48 hours advanced ordering is required for these items. And for those concerned with excess, some of the proceeds from these luxe items go to a children's 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 $2,000. A more budget-friendly version of the entrée, featuring only one ounce of caviar, is available for $200. —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

Smallest Bar

New York City is home to many intimate bars and nightspots tucked into basements, backyards and even the occasional water tower. But our smallest bar may be Bushwick’s Threesome Tollboth, a watering hole built for two (three counting the barkeep) inside what used to be a supply closet. Artist-entrepreneur N. D. Austin serves as your personal mixologist in this tiny wood-paneled room within a no longer extant Italian restaurant, shaking up a selection of seasonal drinks. It’s a unique experience, one that’ll set you back $100–120 per person for an hour (reservations hard to get but essential). —Brian Sloan

​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

Biddle House, Conference House Park. Photo: John Kilcullen

​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

Fraunces Tavern Museum. Photo: Marley White

​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 article cataloging some of the oldest, sorted by category. —JZ

Photo: Tagger Yancey IV

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" article.)

• NYC is the world leader in subway stations with 472 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 that will take more than two hours.

• Most people associate the subway with underground stations, 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 12 lines and proximity to major tourist destinations, it's no surprise Times Sq./42 St. was the busiest station in 2016, when 64,531,511 riders wrangled for a seat. —AG