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Has Manhattan Always Been So Crowded?

The New York borough of Manhattan is one of the world's most densely populated places, but it could be worse. As a matter of fact, it has been. A century ago, Manhattan bustled day and night with people who called it home and worked there. Today, the busy borough is still buzzing with people and activity all day, but at night, an exodus takes place. Not nearly as many people now live in Manhattan as work there, and over the past 100 years, the population has fallen by nearly 25 percent. That might come as a surprise, but when you compare life at the turn of the 20th century to how it is now, the main reasons become clear: the rise of the subway and the price of a home. For example, factory workers and their families once had little choice but to pack tenement houses on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The cost wasn't prohibitive, and they didn't really have the opportunity -- or the transportation means -- to move away. Today, few people can afford the ever-rising price of a home in Manhattan, but most people who work in Manhattan can jump on a partly-subsidized subway and end the day by returning to an affordable home elsewhere.

More about Manhattan:

  • Manhattan has a Main Street, but it lies across the East River on Roosevelt Island, which is technically part of Manhattan.

  • Driving is notoriously difficult in Manhattan, but some city streets are programmed to allow drivers going about 28 mph (45 km/h) to hit green lights all the way.

  • In 1980, the Empire State Building, which is home to more than 150 businesses, was given its own ZIP code: 10118.

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