New York City Skyline (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
New York City has some of the most famous attractions on the planet. But America’s largest city also has a number of fascinating secret places, some that even a New Yorker may not be aware of. For instance, did you know that New York’s largest living thing is a tulip tree in Queens known as the Alley Pond Giant or that the phone booth inside Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s leads to a secret bar known as Please Don’t Tell? Here are five other secret places in New York City well worth a visit.
Berlin Wall – Multiple Locations
New York, NY
Extending some 66 miles long and more than 11 feet high, the Berlin Wall divided the city of Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Years after the symbol of a nation divided was torn down, fragments of the wall were given as a gift to locations throughout the world from the now unified Germany. Up until recently, there were at least five locations in Manhattan showcasing authentic fragments of the Berlin Wall. Arguably the most prominent and least touristy spot was on East 53rd Street near MoMa but was removed due to vandalism. However, other sections of the Berlin Wall can be found in the city – in the garden outside the United Nations, outside the Intrepid Museum, Kowsky Plaza in Battery Park and inside Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Times Square.
Times Square Hum
W. 46th St. at Broadway
New York, NY 10036
Each day, more than 300,000 pedestrians pass through Times Square with much of their attention pointed skyward towards the massive array of billboards and neon lights. Yet, most of these people will completely ignore the strange hum emanating from metal grates in the middle of the world’s most visited tourist attraction. Commonly referred to as the Time Square Hum, the sound works is the creation of the late Max Neuhaus, a music pioneer in using sound as an art form. What could be described as a sustained note from a pipe organ or an audio sculpture, the Times Square Hum is located on the north end of the triangular pedestrian island at Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets.
City Hall Subway Station
New York MTA Subway Line 6
New York, NY
Regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful subway stations, the stop under New York’s City Hall has been closed for nearly 70 years. But visitors can still admire its breathtaking architecture simply by staying on board MTA’s line 6 Lexington Avenue – Pelham Bay Park Express after it reverses direction past the Brooklyn Bridge stop. First opened in 1904, the original terminus of New York’s first subway line is perhaps the finest display of Romanesque Revival architecture within the city’s transportation system despite being closed since 1945. A number of public walking tours of the City Hall Subway Station are held each year by the MTA Transit Museum but is only open to museum members.
Shinran Shonin Statue
New York Buddhist Church
331-332 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10025
One statue frequently mentioned as an interesting secret place is the Lenin statue and the quirky clock above the Red Square building on Houston Street. But the statue of Shinran Shonin at the New York Buddhist Church in the Upper West Side has a far more important historical significance. Shinran Shonin was a 12th century Buddhist monk who founded Shin Buddhism or Jodo Shinshu, the most widely accepted sect of modern Buddhism. The 15-foot-tall bronze statue of Shinran originally stood about one mile from ground zero of the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima in 1945. Despite its proximity to the nuclear explosion, the statue was undamaged although it still displays discoloration from the atomic bomb. The statue still emits low levels of radiation but is not dangerous.
Grand Central Terminal
89 E. 42nd St.
New York, NY 10017
First opened in 1871, the world’s largest train station has a wealth of secrets. For instance, Grand Central has the city’s largest basement, covering 49 acres. There used to be a secret subway station from Grand Central to the Waldorf Astoria hotel and the zodiac mural of the stars on the station’s ceiling is backwards. And the Tiffany glass stained Grand Central Terminal clock is estimated to be worth up to $20 million and there’s a secret staircase beneath the information booth below the clock. But another fascinating secret is the Whispering Gallery, an unremarkable archway in front of the Oyster Bar Restaurant in the lower level dining concourse of Grand Central. If one person stands in one corner of the ceramic arch, another person can hear the other talking, even if whispering.