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THE BIGGEST APPLE
The Census Bureau announced recently that no American city is home to more Hawaiian and Pacific Islander–owned businesses—2,400 of them—than . . . Honolulu. Well, big surprise. But what surprised me was which city is second: New York, with more than 2,300.
With about 8.2 million people in all, New York is a city of superlatives. But just how big is it?
Well, New York has more Latinos than any other city, twice as many Asians as Los Angeles, twice as many blacks as Chicago. More American Indians live here than in any other city.
It’s so big that more people speak Spanish, Urdu, Arabic, Chinese, Japa nese, Yiddish . . . and English. It’s home to more who identify their heritage as Italian, German, Scottish, Nigerian, or Swiss than any other American city. More who claim Irish ancestry than any city in the world—including Dublin.
More people born in Pakistan, France, Greece, Israel, Lebanon,
Ghana, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic, and almost every other country (except, pretty much, for Cuba and Mexico) live in New York than in any other city in the country.
New York even ranks fi rst in the number of people who describe themselves as having been born at sea (including some who still seem to be at sea).
The city also has more lawyers, doctors, teachers, security guards, construction workers, fi refi ghters, railway workers, and more people who work in arts and entertainment and more people employed in manufacturing.
It doesn’t lead in agriculture, although it ranks a pretty respectable tenth nationwide among cities whose residents say their occupation is farming, fishing, or forestry.
New York has more students enrolled in every grade, from kindergarten through graduate school; more who have not graduated from high school and more with doctoral degrees.
The city also ranks first with more people in every age group (including 121,000 who are age eighty-five and older).
New York has more people than any other American city who don’t own a car, more who car-pool to work or take public transportation, including taxis and ferries, more who ride their bicycles or walk to work, and more who work at home. San Francisco edges New York, though, in the number who say they commute by motorcycle.
More New Yorkers live in jails, nursing homes, college dorms, mental wards, and religious quarters—like convents—than in any other city.
Now, of course, a few of those numbers might be statistical anomalies, especially since the census relies largely on self- identifi cation. For example, there are undoubtedly a lot of American Indians in
New York, but the total might, in fact, be inflated by some Asian Indians who also consider themselves American and described themselves that way—incorrectly by the government’s defi nition— on the census forms.
In the late nineteenth century, some New Yorkers had the elitist notion that only four hundred people in the city really counted. The author O’Henry credited “a wiser man”—the census taker—with what he called a “larger estimate of human interest.” O. Henry memorialized them in fiction as “The Four Million.”
Enormous as New York must have seemed then, his four million of a century ago have doubled.
New York has more than twice as many people as the nation’s second biggest city, Los Angeles. New York is home to more people than the next four top-ranked cities in population—Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Phoenix—combined.
No group categorized by ancestry or age or birthplace abroad or occupation or degree of education dominates, because, as Theodore Dreiser once wrote, New York “is so preponderantly large.”
In every category, each separate New York superlative is subsumed by the biggest superlative of them all: the Eight Million.
—June 27, 2006
Excerpted from Only in New York by Sam Roberts.
Copyright © 2009 by Sam Roberts.
Published in November 2009 by St. Martin's Press.
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