20 Myths About New York City

20 Myths About New York City

New York City is one of the most famous cities in the world. Many people in the United States say it’s their favorite city, hands down. A lot of native New Yorkers can’t imagine living anywhere else, while others may aim to live there as part of their dream life. 

Along with having a load of attractions and landmarks for tourists to enjoy, NYC is also a hub of established businesses, startups, and other opportunities for those who want to build up their careers. It’s also been featured in a lot of popular TV shows, movies, and even songs—these depictions have led to certain misconceptions about NYC. In general, people who have never been to or never lived in New York City might believe many myths about the place. 

Whether you’re planning to travel to NYC, live there for a bit, or are just interested in the city, it’s practical to dispel these misconceptions. 

1. The People are Rude

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone might have a different perception or definition of what ‘rude’ actually entails. They may also have different experiences in the same city, so we may not be able to definitely say whether the natives of New York are actually rude or not. 

Many outsiders may find New Yorkers to be very loud. However, it’s also true that the natives are usually willing to lend a hand if they’re asked. They won’t go the extra mile and won’t be happy with anyone making silly mistakes, though. 

2. It’s Very Dangerous

Yes, there are muggings and assaults happening in New York–but the same is true of every big city. However, we’re not in the peak mafia era anymore. Crime rates have gone down significantly, so you are now much safer while walking the streets. 

3. The Driving is Terrible

It’s true that NYC has horrible traffic, to the extent that many New Yorkers don’t even bother to get a driving license. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re not good drivers when they do get behind the wheel. With so many vehicles, cyclists, road hazards, etc., anyone driving needs to be a bit aggressive. 

4. There’s No Greenery

Many may think of New York as a concrete jungle, but it also has a huge green space by the name of Central Park. At a whopping 843 acres, it’s still only the 5-th largest park in NYC–Pelham Bay Park is the largest at 3,000 acres. Overall, NYC has 1,700 plus parks in various sizes. 

5. Everything Stays Open at All Hours

This may be the city that never sleeps, but it also depends on what area you’re in. If you go to the Upper East Side, it’d be challenging to find any good restaurant open beyond 11 pm. Of course, there’s always a diner open somewhere. 

6. You Can Find Anything at Any Time

NYC might be a city with a lot of items on sale, but that doesn’t include everything you can think of. For example, there are still certain rules prohibiting the sale of alcohol in certain places–these date back to the Prohibition Era. 

7. It’s Not a Coastal City

NYC is known for a lot of things, but not its beaches. However, this city has a longer coastline than the most famous coastal cities in the US–Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco. The coastline of NYC has a 520-mile coastline that makes for some amazing views. 

8. It’s Very Expensive

If you want to have brunch in an upscale place, it can easily cost you more than a hundred dollars. The movie tickets, the rent, gym memberships, and even fast food chains tend to have higher prices than in the rest of the country. However, you can get by without all these things and without getting bored–there’s no lack of free events in NYC. There are free museum nights, free concerts, and even movies screened in the park for all to enjoy. Plus, you can do with really cheap food options such as the $1 pizza slice, gyros, and hot dogs. 

9. The Food is Always Good

While some of the famous NYC food might be famous, it’s not always great. Like in any other city, it’s important to conduct some research and ask around before picking your next meal. 

10. It’s Not Family-Friendly

Many TV series do show characters moving out of New York when they have kids, but many people actually appreciate being raised in this city. They get a sense of independence, know how to use public transport from a very young age, and lead an exciting life. As a result, many New Yorker kids didn’t even feel the need to rebel when they went to college. 

11. It’s Like Living in a TV Show

If you plan to live in NYC, don’t expect it to be like the depictions on ‘Friends’ or ‘Sex and the City’. The characters there spend unrealistic amounts on shopping and eating, while their apartments were way too large as well. 

12. It’s Extremely Dirty

The city does have rats, but so do most cities. Tokyo is famous for its cleanliness, and NYC can’t come very close to that. However, it’s also not a huge dump. With tourists, residents, and local businesses generating so much waste, it’s actually impressive how clean some areas like Park Avenue are. 

13. A Dropped Penny Could Kill a Person

It’s illegal to throw anything out of the window onto the street in NYC and many other places, but is it because they could be fatal? One myth states that a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building could kill a person down below. However, an experiment with a gun shooting the penny at 64.4 miles/hour showed that the damage would be minimal at best. 

14. The Sewers have Alligators

There was an urban myth about kids flushing baby alligators into the sewers of NYC. Some people also reported sightings of alligators around the city. However, there’s no evidence that these huge monsters are roaming around under the ground. 

15. Manhattan is the Main Part

NYC is made up of five boroughs–Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. All of these areas have developed unique cultures, architectural landmarks, and communities. 

16. Getting a Cab is the Norm

Movies and television may show everyone in NYC getting a cab, but this is actually one of the most expensive modes of transportation in the city. They’re also not the most convenient option given the heavy traffic. 

17. There’s a Rat for Every Individual

It might seem like there are rats everywhere in NYC, but this myth has been debunked. According to a capture-recapture estimation back in 2014, the number is more like 2 million instead of 8 million. You’d probably be better off reading the history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral than looking for rats in it. 

18. The Landmarks are Always in Sight

No, you will probably not see the Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty from your apartment window. Some people can even spend months in the city without seeing any major landmarks. Everything you need is probably in your neighborhood, so those movie and TV landscapes aren’t a norm of living in NYC. 

19. It’s Destroying the Environment

Most cities aren’t really environmentally friendly, but city officials are making active changes to make NYC better in this regard. The public transport system already helps with traffic, while there’s also a movement to paint the rooftops white in order to cool down the city naturally. 

20. There are Homeless People Everywhere

If you have ever visited New York, you might have noticed homeless people everywhere. They’re also a trope in many movies, books, series, and even comics about New York. However, this doesn’t mean that the place is full of homeless people who have no other choice. 

Take a closer look next time, and you’d realize that crowded places such as Time Square have the highest number of seemingly homeless people. These folks might be panhandling or even begging outside every door. There’s a simple explanation for all this—tourists. These spots have the highest percentage of tourists here, with most of them having extra cash in their pockets. Go to a place which isn’t usually frequented by tourists, and you’d hardly find any homeless folks there either. 


Many outsiders may have this conception of NYC as a dangerous, materialistic place filled with rude citizens. While some of the myths discussed above might have a semblance of truth, the reality of New York is quite different from what we see on the screen. Dispelling some of the myths and understanding the reality can help us experience the city better. It may also be interesting to look up the history of Radio City Music Hall and other famous locations.