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The Water’s Great, Just Not Kosher

In a metropolis of 8.5 million people contradictions and ironies abound, but this one may take the cake — the city with the second largest Jewish population in the world has water that is not Kosher.  Even stranger, this was fact went unnoticed until 2004. That year, some Brooklyn Rabbis were examining imported Israeli lettuce claiming to be bug-free, but had insects on its leaves (eating insects is against Jewish law). To see if the offending creatures came from the water they were washed with, the rabbis took to the microscope. They found microscopic copepods.

A copepod.

These animals are harmless, and their presence is actually a testament to the cleanliness of NYC’s water source, the city was federally exempt from having to filter its water. Though they are in no way damaging to human health, they are considered crustaceans — such as shrimp and lobster — thus forbidden for consumption under Jewish law. This posed a major problem for the 331,200 Orthodox Jews living in NYC. The ultimate decision lay with the rabbis who are experts in Talmudic law. Some rabbis claim the law refers to animals that can be seen with the naked eye, so if it can’t be seen without a microscope, then there is no problem. Others disagreed. The Orthodox Union, which provides the official rules for what is and not fit under Jewish law decided to play it safe and recommend that all tap water for cooking and drinking be filtered.

This issue of whether this means the tap water is still vegan remains unresolved.

– Mark Gilman, Tour Guide

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17 Things You Didn’t Know About Central Park

  1. First landscaped public park in the United States.
  2. 843 acres in size.
  3. Most of the land was swampy and beset with boulders, making it a good candidate for a park, since few wanted to build there.
  4. 1600 people lived in what is now central Park. One neighborhood was Seneca Village, Manhattan’s first known community of property owners. It was along 82nd-89th st between 7th and 8th Ave.
  5. The city held a public competition for the park’s design.
  6. The winning designers had no formal experience in landscaping. Calbert Vaux was an article and Fredrick Law Olmstead was a writer.
  7. 20,000 workers were hired to create the park.
  8. More gunpowder was used to clear the park than in the battle of Gettysburg
  9. None of the park is the original landscape, all the lakes have a system of pipes and drains to maintain the water level.
  10. Most of the trees were originally from New Jersey, as was most of the dirt, the existing soil was not right for the park’s needs.
  11. There are 11 bridges and 22 arches in the park, all unique.
  12. There is an Egyptian Obelisk in the park near the Metropolitan Museum of art, it dates to the year 1450 BC and weighs 220 tons.
  13. The zoo was not originally part of the Park’s design. However, the city received wild animals as presents for creating the park and had to make a place to put them.
  14. The original Carousel was erected in 1871, it was powered by a mule under the track.
  15. On September 19th 1981, 500,000 people gathered to listen to Simon and Garfunkel perform in Central Park.
  16. Today the park is chiefly maintained by the Central Park Conservancy, started in 1980 during the city’s fiscal crisis, they solicit private donations to maintain and upgrade the park.
  17. The conservancy received it’s largest donation $100 million in October 2012.

– Mark Gilman, Tour Guide

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More Strange Facts About NYC

Until the 1920’s everyone moved out on May 1st. The law required landlords to give 3 month’s notice on rent changes by Feb 1st. The idea was to give New Yorkers 3 months to find a new place. But since rent was due on May 1, *everyone* moved out on that day. It was pure pandemonium in the streets, and much worse than a packed Time’s Square.

The Statue of Liberty is supposed to be green.  While the statue of liberty was originally a shining copper, the eventual green color was part of the plan. The statue of liberty had to be of all things, durable. Copper does not rust, like iron. It patinizes, creating a thin layer of corrosion that’s airtight, preventing further damage to the metal. While the current statue may not be as dazzling as it was in 1886, it still marvels.

No one knows where the term “Big Apple” comes from. We’ll never know who coined the iconic phrase, but we do know it’s earliest mention is in a 1909 book, The Wayfarer in New York by Edward S. Martin.

The water is not technically kosher. Ironically, the municipality with that largest number of Jews outside Isreal has water that is considered traif, unfit by Jewish law. In 2004 an examination of the tap water in NYC showed it was home to copepods, microscopic crustaceans. These are harmless creatures found in the water supplies of other cities, like Boston or San Francisco. Unfortunately, they are considered shellfish, which Jews cannot eat. Some rabbis said that copepods must be filtered out, others said no.

Ellis Island was for the poor. Immigrants with a first or second class ticket, were allowed into the United States after a brief screening. All others were sent to Ellis Island to have their physical and mental health examined. It was believed that people who could afford more expensive tickets would not likely harbor illness. There were instances of poorer passengers paying to “upgrade” their tickets to avoid the more rigorous screenings.

– Mark Gilman, Tour Guide

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Central Park Facts

First landscaped public park in the United States.

843 acres in size.

Most of the land was swampy and beset with boulders, making it a good candidate for a park, since few wanted to build there.

1600 people lived in what is now central Park. One neighborhood was Seneca Village, Manhattan’s first known community of property owners. It was along 82nd-89th st between 7th and 8th Ave.

The city held a public competition for the park’s design.

The winning designers had no formal experience in landscaping. Calbert Vaux was an architect and Fredrick Law Olmstead was a writer.

20,000 workers were hired to create the park.

More gunpowder was used to clear the park than in the battle of Gettysburg

None of the park is the original landscape, all the lakes have a system of pipes and drains to maintain the water level.

Most of the trees were originally from New Jersey, as was most of the dirt, the existing soil was not right for the park’s needs.

There are 11 bridges and 22 arches in the park, all unique.

There is an Egyptian Obelisk in the park near the Metropolitan Museum of art, it dates to the year 1450 BC and weighs 220 tons.

The zoo was not originally part of the Park’s design. However the city received wild animals as presents for creating the park and had to make a place to put them.

The original Carousel was erected in 1871, it was powered by a mule under the track.

On September 19th 500,000 people gathered to listen to Simon and Garfunkel perform in Central Park.

Today the park is chiefly maintained by the Central Park Conservancy, started in 1980 during the city’s fiscal crisis, they solicit private donations to maintain and upgrade the park.

The conservancy received it’s largest donation $100 million in October 2012.

– Mark Gilman, Tour Guide

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NYC Is So Tough It Outlawed Pinball

1024pxpinball_3webPinball. It’s a classic childhood pastime, the subject of a rock musical by The Who, and was illegal in NYC from 1942-1976. Pinball became increasingly popular in the United States during the Great Depression because the games were cheap, and people didn’t have a lot of money to spend. But the game was different back then, there were no flippers to manipulate the ball (they wouldn’t be invented until 1947). Because of this players would have to tilt and shake the machine to get the ball to go where it was supposed to go. Some wondered, “seems sort of random, this game. Doesn’t it seem like, gambling?”

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Mayor Fiorello Laguardia, steward of the city during the Great Depression was convienced the game was a Mafia run racket stealing the lunch money of the city’s youth. He argued that the games sent the children of the city on a path of gambling and vice. Pinball was a menace and had to be removed. In 1942 the mayor got his way and pinball was made illegal. Machines were rounded up, publically smashed, and then dumped into the waterways of the city. Pinball was out, and the city was safe once again.

During the next thirty-four years, the game moved underground. Many were located in pornography shops and police would raid the illegal pinball dens of the city.

It was not until 1976 that things changed. Pinball manufacturers decided to make their case before the city council that the game was no longer a source of organized crime income, nor was it a game of chance. Their star witness was Roger Sharpe, a twenty-six year old magazine writer who was very knowledgeable about the subject and was an extraordinary player. Mr. Sharpe gave an eloquent defense of the game, explaining that it’s no longer connected to criminal activity and with the flipper it’s a game of skill.

To prove the game is that of skill he played a game of pinball before the
city council, displaying his incredible talent. Unfortunately, one city council member was not impressed. Concerned the machine was rigged, he wanted Mr. Sharpe to play on the backup machine that was brought in case the main one broke down. Sharpe had a problem. He practiced on the main machine extensively, but not the backup machine. He decided to go for broke. He exclaimed by pulling the plunger back alone, he could make the ball reach the middle of the 3 slots at the top of the machine. Amazingly he did just that, though later he said it was pure luck. Either way, it’s the move the saved pinball in NYC.

– Mark Gilman, Tour Guide

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Things You May Not Know About NYC

First capital city of the USA under the Consitution. A prior City Hall was rented out to the Federal Government from 1789-1790. It was located at Wall and Broad Streets. George Washington took the oath of office there, in his honor there is a statue of President Washington in front of the former Treasury building on the site. Sadly the original building was torn down.

Pinball was banned in NYC from 1942-1976. Pinball in 1942 worked differently than today. The pinball flipper would not be invented until 1947 and for this reason, the only way to manipulate the ball was the tilt and hit the machine. The seemingly random outcome of games made Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia think it was more a game of chance than skill, i.e. gambling. He held prohibition style raids where machines were rounded up and smashed. In 1976, pinball owners decided to petition the city council that Pinball was a game of skill using Roger Sharpe, a pinball historian who impressed city legislators by calling shots before they were taken, Babe Ruth style.

The New Year’s ball was a response to a fireworks ban. The New York Times moved to 42nd st and 7th ave (what we now call Time’s Square) because the primary financier of the new subway wanted a bustling neighborhood in the middle of his new transportation network. Celebrating its new headquarters and the neighborhood named after it, every New Year’s Eve the paper would have a big public party culminating with fireworks at midnight. However after a few Years the City government said it would be a fire hazard as more and more buildings were being built. As a response, a brightly lit ball was dropped down a pole. It’s been a yearly tradition ever since.

– Mark Gilman, Tour Guide

 

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NYC Burgers!

New York City should have a dedicated task force to hunt down and expel tourists who fly all the way here just to eat at McDonalds, Burger King and Wendys. I don’t care if your kids are crying because they want a happy meal, if you come here just to eat the same lowest denominator junk you can get at home you have completely wasted your trip. Instead, have the really high-quality junk. The hamburger is the almighty icon of junk food in the United States, and here in NYC we have elevated it to a high art form. In fact if you spend your vacation sampling our wide array of ground beef patty faire, I’d say you spent your vacation well. There are dozens of great places to go, for your burger fix, but our first entry in our burger series are burgers proudly invented right here in NYC.

 

DB Bistro Moderne’s Orginal DB Burger($35): Before every dreamer who could work a griddle tried to reinvent the hamburger, DB Bistro Moderne planted their flag in 2001 with their DB Burger. This is haute cuisine meets American roadside with an explosion of flavor. In the middle of this sirloin behemoth is braised short rib, foie gras, and black truffles. It represents ethos of a city where white shoe lawyers and plumbers squish together on the subway.

 

Five Napkin Burger’s The original Five Napkin Burger $16.75: Upper West Side French Bistro Nice Matin had a cult appreciation for it’s Five Napkin Burger. So the owner made a whole restaurant based around it. This beauty offers ten ounces of fresh ground beef, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, and rosemary aioli. A French touch to the American classic. They offer six varieties of the beef classic as well as a lamb, turkey, tuna, and veggie.

 

Minetta Tavern’s Black Label Burger $28: This is the burger that took New York by storm. In 2009 you couldn’t go a week without hearing about the majestic Black Label burger. A secret melange 60-day aged beef cuts including short rib, skirt, brisket and ribeye. It is drizzled with clarified butter, heaped with salt &pepper, while only topped with sauteed onions. This baby is all about the beef. Sure you could get cheese, but this beauty needs none at all.

– Mark Gilman, Tour Guide

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