Places like London, Los Angeles, and Paris might inspire the imagination of millions of people, but no city is more famous across the globe than New York City. The first colony of Dutch merchants in the Americas, New York has grown to be a thriving metropolis. With its growth and acclaim, certain rumors about New York City have become very widespread. Some of these rumors are true, or are at least based on facts, but many more are completely false. Someone has to sort through these urban legends and decide which of them are true and which of them are false. This article, 10 Rumors About NYC That Are Completely False (10 That Might Be True), will attempt to do that. I have tried to identify the most famous and enduring rumors about New York City for this list, but I have also thrown in some recent developments for diversity purposes. Taken as a whole, this list should give the people who have never been to New York a better idea of the truths and myths that surround this city. If you can think of any true or false rumors about New York City that did not make it to our list, feel free to mention them in the comments.
20 False - Alligators In The Sewers
Ever since I was a kid, I have been a fan of shows about cryptids and other mysterious creatures. These stories almost always have little basis in fact, but they are so entertaining that it is hard not to become entranced in the legends of Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster. One cryptic story that I never quite believed in, however, was the alligators in the New York sewers.
According to the legends, city residents would buy baby alligators as pets, but if they decided they did not want them, they would flush them down the toilet. New York toilets all empty into the expansive sewer system where it was said that these former pets would grow to impressive sizes.
This was a common urban legend in New York City and the stories about giant alligators in the city sewers even spread to other parts of the country. According to every scientist and city employee, not only is this story not true, but it is impossible. No one has ever seen the alligators in the sewer and many biologists have gone on record to say that the New York sewer system cannot support the life of a reptile this size.
19 True - New Yorkers Are Rude
I debated whether to categorize this rumor as true or false, but in the end, I decided that it is mostly true. The reason that I hesitated is that people (especially people in big cities) tend to be rude everywhere. However, New Yorkers do seem to have their own unique attitude that is not found in other parts of the country. I think there is something about the hustle and bustle of New York City that tends to make people a little on the mean side. New York is very overcrowded, and how many times can you see people doing the same stupid things before you eventually snap and call them out on it? This, combined with an endless influx of tourists (who are just about the most annoying people that you will meet no matter what city you are in), is enough to turn anyone mean.
The rude New Yorker stereotype had been reinforced by decades of popular culture. But from my limited time as an NYC resident, I can attest that it is mostly accurate. With that being said, it is hard to get anything done in New York without being a little rude yourself.
18 False - Everyone Lives In Sight Of The Statue Of Liberty
It seems like whenever you watch a movie or TV show that is based in New York, the characters are always passing by important landmarks. Despite the fact that most of these programs are filmed in a studio, the directors feel the need to shove as many clips of the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty as they can into their show. A friend of mine stayed in New York City for an entire summer and he never once saw either of these landmarks. Because New York is such a major city, pretty much everything that you need is in your neighborhood. If you go to work and do all of your shopping a few blocks from your house, why would you go to Manhattan or Ellis Island? You wouldn't. Therefore, the conception that New Yorkers are constantly surrounded by these surreal landscapes is almost universally false. Sure, most New Yorkers can get to these places if they really want to, but in the course of their daily lives, most people do not just walk by these places. This is just another example of Hollywood movie magic.
17 True - There Is Something For Everyone
If you have visited New York City for a week or a weekend, you were probably overwhelmed with all the things that there were to do. No single person can experience even a portion of what there is to do in the city. This does not get any easier if you live there for a longer period of time.
There are thousands upon thousands of things to do in New York City and a comprehensive list would be too long for this article. Not all of these activities will be every person's cup of tea, but if you cannot find something that you like to do in New York, you probably won't be able to find something to do anywhere.
When I go to NYC, I like to take in a Yankees game and visit a handful of their quirky restaurants and shops. My girlfriend, however, enjoys shopping in Chinatown as well as visiting the many tourist attractions. Every time we go there, we do a handful of new things, and we still have enjoyed only a small portion of the city. The rumor that there is something to do for everyone in New York City is 100% true.
16 False - It's An Environmental Disaster
If you have spent any time in New York City (and had these admittedly strange thoughts while you were there), you may have noticed that the Big Apple does not seem especially environment-friendly. There are gigantic skyscrapers everywhere you look in the city and there is so much cement that one can easily understand how it came to be called the "concrete jungle." Thanks to a recent push by city officials, however, New York City can accurately call itself an environmentally-conscious municipality. For starters, the subway system reaches most of the city and limits New York's already substantial traffic problem. If that weren't enough, recent initiatives by Mayor Bloomberg were put in place specifically to combat climate change. One of these initiatives was to paint several thousand New York rooftops white. This decreases the amount of sun that they absorb, thus significantly cooling the city.
Bloomberg also led the charge to make New York City's older buildings more energy efficient. This included renovations to the Empire State Building that severely lowered its carbon footprint. Like all cities, New York still has its environmental problems. However, I think it is unfair to call it an environmental disaster.
15 True - The Rent Is Outrageous
When people are planning to move to New York City, they are normally warned (sometimes several times) about how expensive housing is in the Big Apple. Even when you are warned, however, I do not think that most people really understand how crazy expensive that apartments can get. I did a little researching for this article and discovered that housing in New York City largely depends on which borough you live in.
But even in the cheaper parts of the city, you can end up paying more than $2,000 for a studio apartment.
When I attended West Virginia University, I paid $500 for a room in a very nice two-bedroom apartment. When I began looking at apartments in New York for law school, I was being offered rooms that were smaller than my closet in West Virginia for almost $1,500. There are certainly more high-paying jobs in New York than in other parts of the country, but if most of your wages are going towards rent, does it really matter? Like many large cities, New York is in the midst of a serious housing crisis. Therefore, the high rent in New York City is certainly a true rumor about the city that never sleeps.
14 False - It's The City That Never Sleeps
If you look at the city as a whole, then this entry is probably true. But
since no one wants to take the subway from Manhattan to Queens at 3:00 in the morning, I have to grade this next one as false. New York City has several official nicknames—the Big Apple, the Empire City, and the City that Never Sleeps. New York City is certainly livelier at night than other cities (Pittsburgh and Buffalo, just to name a few), but I don't think it is fair to say that the city never sleeps.
If you have ever been stranded in the outer boroughs, you will know that the poorer areas certainly do sleep at night. Anywhere that could potentially get robbed is closed. This means no liquor stores, no restaurants, and almost no mini marts. If most of the city closes up after a certain time, how can you say that it is a city that never sleeps? Even Times Square, perhaps the most famous spot in New York City, closes down its attractions after a certain time. If you go to less popular destinations, the pickings are even slimmer. New York might not sleep as much as other cities, but it certainly gets some rest from time to time.
13 True - The Street Names Are A Godsend
In another entry, we talked about how terrible public transportation is in the city. Luckily, if you have the time and stamina to walk to your destination, it is fairly easy to find your way around on foot in New York City. This is because the city planners set up most of the city so that it follows a symmetrical grid. This means that the city blocks are all practically the same length and that it is easy to find roads that are parallel or perpendicular to your location. To make things even easier, almost all the streets are in chronological order. This means that 2nd avenue is followed by 3rd avenue, which is followed by 4th avenue and so on. Therefore, if you are standing on 5th avenue, you know exactly how long it will take you to get to 12th avenue.
In a city that is becoming increasingly congested, it is very important that people are able to quickly and easily walk to certain things. The earliest city leaders foresaw this problem and have made it very easy to navigate the streets of New York. I recently moved to Boston and I can testify that the same cannot be said for all cities in the northeastern United States.
12 False - There's Homeless People Everywhere
If you take a vacation to any city, your experience will be vastly different than the experience of someone who actually lives in that city. This is doubly true in New York City. Spending a week in a hotel in Manhattan gives you only a brief glimpse into the love of the everyday New Yorker. A perfect example of this is our next entry. During your first visit to New York, you probably realized that there were homeless people everywhere that you went. Places like Times Square, the Empire State Building, and 5th Avenue have people pan handling outside every doorstep, but this does not mean that all of New York is crawling with homeless people. The reason why these spots have so many pan handlers is because they attract tourists. This means more pockets full of money and potentially a higher return for the homeless. If you go to areas that aren't always crammed with tourists, you will notice that there are rarely homeless people. There is certainly a homeless problem in New York (like most other major cities), but it is not as bad as a weekend trip would suggest.
11 True - The Winters Are Very Cold
I considered labeling this next rumor as false, but in the interest of the people who have grown up in climates that were much warmer than the one I grew up in, I decided to label it as true. Before I begin this entry, I think it is important to point out that the New York winters are not as cold as they once were. Global climate change has significantly lowered the length and intensity of the New York winter, something that will not bode well for city residents in the decades ahead. With that being said,
New York is still pretty cold. The locals are (mostly) used to the freezing temperatures from November to March, but tourists and immigrants are often shocked by how biting the cold in the Big Apple can get.
I remember during the ball drop at 2017's New Year's Eve Celebration how miserable all the spectators and newscasters looked. In the heyday of immigration, people would come to New York City from places like Italy and suffer great hardships because they were not expecting the frigid temperatures. If you live in New England or Canada, New York is not any worse than what you are used to. But if you have more southern bloodlines, then the winters in the Big Apple may come as a bit of a shock.
10 False - The Price Of Living Is Sky High
I have lived in several different cities and I have heard this rumor about all of them. There is a prevailing fear in rural areas that the price of living is so high in major cities that they could not possibly afford to live there, regardless of how much bigger of a salary they would get in the city. In another entry, I talked about the astronomical price of rent of living in New York City, but apart from that, the price of living is not significantly more in New York than it is in the rest of the country. People who visited New York for the weekend probably thought that it was expensive but that is only because they visited the areas that are popular for tourists. Local businesses know which areas these are so they set up "tourist traps." These businesses inflate the prices of their goods because they know that unwary tourists will pay them no matter what they are. If, however, you travel to some of the outer boroughs, you will see that the price of groceries or a cup of coffee is not that much greater than in any other city.
9 True - Traffic Is Terrible
Even if you have driven around a big city for your entire life, I would not recommend that you drive in New York City. I grew up in a small town so my driving skills were pretty shotty. However, after living in Boston for a number of years, I feel pretty comfortable driving in a big city. Even I think that it is atrocious driving in New York City. The roads are organized into a symmetrical grid, which helps. But even then,
traffic is just so bad that it is almost always easier to walk or take public transportation. The main reason for this is that New York City is simply too overcrowded.
New Yorkers have been living on top of another in tenement housing for centuries and large immigrant families have long been a staple of the New York demography. If overcrowding created the traffic problem in New York city, then aggressive New York drivers made it worse. In an attempt to avoid the worst of traffic, most New Yorkers will cut off anyone and everyone in their attempt to get on their way faster. The horrible traffic in New York City is certainly not a myth.\
8 False - New York Sports Fans Are The Worst
I am an adopted Yankee fan myself so maybe this is just an example of the author projecting, but I do not think that New York sports fans are as bad as everyone thinks they are. The Yankees, Mets, Rangers, Knicks, Jets, and Giants all call New York City home (although some of them technically reside in New Jersey), and the local fans of these teams are some of the most passionate and loyal in the entire world. These fans get a bad rep but look at what they have to work with. The Giants and Yankees have had some success in recent years but the other New York squads are the laughing stock of their respective leagues. It is understandable that the fans are a little rowdy after seeing their teams stink for most of their lives. Also, if we are being completely honest, the local sports fans in any stadium are pretty terrible. There is something about growing up in the shadow of the stadium that causes you to abandon all logic when you are cheering for your favorite teams.
I have had some awful encounters with New York fans myself, but I think it is unfair to categorize them as significantly worse than your average sports fan. Philly fans on the other hand...
7 True - The Subways Are Terrible
Native New Yorkers will swear up and down that this rumor is not true, but the fact is that the New York subway system is not in the least way user-friendly. I have lived in other major cities (Pittsburgh and Boston) and I can personally testify that no form of public transit is more complicated than the New York Metro.
New York constructed one of the first underground subways in the world, and it has since become the primary mode of transportation for many New Yorkers since. However, unless you are taking the same route that you always take, it is very hard to navigate this system.
There are several routes throughout the city, and not every route keeps routine hours. This means that the train you took from your house to your work in the morning might not follow the same travel path in the evening. New York had been constructing an underground WiFi system so people can connect to the Internet while they are underground and on the train. But even this is unfinished, so people can't even use Google to try to figure out their route.
6 False - The City Is Dangerous
The perception of New York City as a dangerous place has been around for decades, so I knew that I had to include it somewhere on this list. There is some truthfulness to this rumor but it has enough problems that I decided to include it on the false side of this list. As of this writing, New York City is probably more dangerous than it should be, and it is certainly more dangerous than the leaders and residents of New York want it to be. It is not, however, significantly more dangerous than any other major city in the United States. In fact, thanks to some recent policy decisions, New York City is actually safer than a lot of U.S. cities that are only a portion of its size. For instance, both Detroit and Chicago have murder and crime rates much higher than those in New York, despite the fact that they have a much lower influx of people. Therefore, if you are looking at safety in a relative sense, it is unfair to label New York as an unsafe city. In addition, some sectors of the city are much safer than others.
5 True - The Airport Experience Is Awful
A lot of people speak poorly about New York City and I think that this next entry has a lot to do with that. For many people, the airport is the first experience that they have in a new place, and if that is bad, it puts them in a mindset where they cannot enjoy the rest of their trip. Because of this phenomenon, it is extremely sad that the New York airport experience is so terrible. The airport itself is not the problem.
Both Laguardia and JFK are adequate airports, although they may get a little crowded at peak times. The problem is getting from the airport to the city. Both airports are well outside the normal New York destinations and getting across this distance is no easy task.
With it being so crowded, rentals are hard to come by and a standard taxi from the airport to the city can cost you more than $60. Uber and Lyft have released some of the pressure but even they can get pricey after such a long trip. The problem of cheaply and efficiently getting people from the airport to the city is one that New York City has never solved.
4 False - New York Is A Fun Place To Visit But Not To Live
This next entry is more abstract than some of the others but I think it may also be one of the important ones to dispel. I once read an article written from a job recruiter who found that many of the most qualified applicants that he had interviewed refused to move to New York City. According to him, these people were under the impression that New York is fun to visit but not so fun to live in. The writer was troubled by this because for years, he and other recruiters would bring potential applicants to the city for a couple days as a way to convince them to take the job. If they believed the rumor that New York is fun only in small doses, however, then this strategy no longer works. I have seen a similar mentality from people on other websites and from my own friends and family. I have both visited and lived in New York, and I would grade this particular rumor as untrue. Staying in New York City is not for everyone, but millions of other people happily and successfully make their homes there. Depending on your personality, New York can be a viable option for you in the long term.
3 True - The Heads Of Many Major Industries Are In New York
I know that the title of this entry is a little ambiguous but New York City is the center of so many different industries that I could not pick just one. I recently read an article that explained the weird phenomenon wear Fashion Merchandising students from all over the country flock to New York after graduation because there is not much happening in the fashion industry in the United States outside of the city that never sleeps. Things are not quite as bad in the music industry but NYC is still an important hub for several record labels.
Several news outlets also call the Big Apple home, including the New York Times and NPR. These industries are an important part of New York in and of themselves but they are also important because they attract a lot of young business professionals.
These people are an important part of the cities makeup. If you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you are considering a move to New York maybe because of a new job opportunity. You will not be alone as almost 100,000 young people move into New York City every year. Luckily for city planners, some of them leave after a few short months.
2 False - Times Square Is Awesome
Of all the entries on this list, I think that this is the one that I am most likely to get backlash for. Millions of tourists flock to Times Square every year, and it is consistently ranked as one of the top attractions in New York City. With so many people visiting Times Square every day, I am amazed that word has not gotten out at how disappointing it is. It is certainly a unique experience, but once you get past the visual awe, there is not exactly a lot to do. The new steps that they put in are cool and the M&M shop is always fun, but besides that, there is not much going on. Times Square used to be home to a giant Toys R Us that was very cool, but since their bankruptcy, it has been removed. All the fun things are gone from Times Square but the mobs of tourists and pan handlers are not. With how much food costs around Times Square, you are basically paying three times the normal price of things for the privilege of being bustled along with thousands of other tourists.
1 True - New York City Is Very Diverse
Some cities and towns like to boast about their diversity, but it is not visible to a casual observer. New York is not one of those cities. Even if you have never heard that New York is supposed to the home of several different ethnicities, it would still become apparent to you within a few moments of when you arrived in the city. Some people like to complain about the several differing ethnicities in New York (including a now infamous Manhattan lawyer), but this is how the city has been since its inception. New York first became colonized as a Dutch trading post, but after the English took control, it was home to the English, some leftover Dutch, African slaves, and several different groups of Native Americans. In the 1800's, an influx of Italians, Irish, and Polish immigrants added to this diversity. According to a recent study, over 100 languages are spoken on the island of Manhattan alone. No other city in the world can boast this kind of diversity. Some scholars have rightly pointed out that it is this diversity that has allowed New York to become the world's preeminent city.