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When Tara Met Blog
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Why is NYC called the Big Apple? And what is the steam all about?

So when my friend was visiting the city she purchased a typical tourist gift--a pencil with an apple eraser on top. She then turns to me and says "Why is New York City called the Big Apple anyway?" I was dumbfounded, here I was born in New York and am now living here again, yet I had no idea why it's referred to as the Big Apple. Now the city that never sleeps is self explanatory but Big Apple?

I did some research and rumor has it that the "Big Apple" is so named because in the 1920s and '30s jazz musicians used the term as a way of saying, 'There are many apples on the success tree, but when you pick New York City, you pick the Big Apple.'"

"Also during the depression, many former financiers would travel from their suburban cottages in full suits in order to sell apples on the streets of New York. The rumor goes that several well-to-do families had to make ends-meet by selling apples and the charade became know to many as the "Big Apple" scam of New York. Since apples have always been a big part of the New York economy the name simply stuck and was eventually promoted by local government." For more possible reasons go to:

The Steam
Another New York mystery that I had never questioned was the steam that rises up from the ground. It was when another friend stopped by from London that he brought the oddity to my attention. I guess like the "Big Apple" it was just something I had always accepted. To save face though I think I told him it was because of the heat caused by the underground pipes and oh the subways of course. lol! Well, I wasn't too far off.

The City of New York is one of the largest consumers of steam. The so-called steam wafting up from the streets is often vapor produced when underground water hits hot equipment and escapes from beneath the streets. It can also be condensed steam leaking from the Con Ed system. Some 30 billion pounds of steam every year flow beneath the streets of Manhattan from the Battery to 96th Street. While it is unknown to most New Yorkers, Con Edison's subterranean steam system is the biggest steam district in the world, and boasting an annual steam production more than double that of Paris, Europe's largest system.
For more information click here!

The steam undergournd however causes pressure and needs to be released at times, thus those big orange cones that spew steam out into the air and looks like smoke.

The following is from National Geographic's New York Underground:
"Visitors to New York often notice the plumes of steam coming from manhole covers even on hot summer days. In 1882, to reduce soot from individual coal-burning heating units, a central steam-heating system was installed. As with natural gas, Con Ed meters monitor the steam used, and building owners pay a fee."

Posted by Tara at 8:15 AM PST
Updated: Thursday, December 2, 2004 1:01 PM PST

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