75 Quotes About New York That Honor The City That Never Sleeps

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75 Quotes About New York That Honor The City That Never Sleeps

New York City — for everything great about it, you will find one equally disparaging thing said about America’s supposed greatest metropolis. 

But that doesn’t change the fact that for a very long time, New York City was (and still is, to some extent) the cultural capital of America. There are so many quotes about New York from amazing artists, actors, and writers who grew up here got to nurture their talent in many of the bars, cafes, and streets that are still here today. 

People growing up dream about living here, and in equal parts, people have had their dreams very quickly and brutally crushed. 

Despite the difficulties, you see the romance of New York everywhere you go. It is on TV and movie screens, as the messy yet lovable protagonists quickly and adeptly zip through the concrete mazes of Manhattan to get to work.

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Even crime shows and movies, can’t escape a quiet moment when two characters pause doing really evil mob stuff to get a slice of pizza, or to stare out into the (polluted, but they don’t show that) waters that almost surround the city. 

You see it in really beautiful poetry, as authors from old to new dedicate love they’ve gained, lost, and reclaimed in the city. You have Frank O’Hara, dedicating poem after poem to the rhythm of the city, to the deep love he not only found but felt towards the place. 

NYC has some pretty big flaws (one of the few being that it is so unbearably expensive to live there). But sometimes, reading something inspired by your favorite singer, artist, or writer has said about New York makes living in the city feel okay again. 

Here are 75 quotes about New York that honor the city that never sleeps: 

1. "Quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean 'love' in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.” — Joan Didion

2. "Whoever is born in New York is ill-equipped to deal with any other city: all other cities seem, at best, a mistake, and, at worst, a fraud. No other city is so spitefully incoherent." — James Baldwin

3. "I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance." — Nora Ephron

4. "The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world." — F. Scott Fitzgerald

5. "I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, 'There's no place like New York. It's the most exciting city in the world now. That's the way it is. That's it.'" — Robert De Niro

6. "There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man's bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die." — Walt Whitman

7. “This is the city, and I am one of the citizens/Whatever interests the rest interests me” ― Walt Whitman

8. “Silence? What can New York-noisy, roaring, rumbling, tumbling, bustling, story, turbulent New York-have to do with silence? Amid the universal clatter, the incessant din of business, the all swallowing vortex of the great money whirlpool-who has any, even distant, idea of the profound repose......of silence?” ― Walt Whitman

9. "At night... the streets become rhythmical perspectives of glowing dotted lines, reflections hung upon them in the streets as the wistaria hangs its violet racemes on its trellis. The buildings are shimmering verticality, a gossamer veil, a festive scene-prop hanging there against the black sky to dazzle, entertain, amaze." — Frank Lloyd Wright

10. “London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.” — Dorothy Parker

11. “I get out of the taxi and it’s probably the only city which in reality looks better than on the postcards, New York.” Milos Forman

12. “You can try to change New York, but it’s like Jay-Z says: ‘Concrete bunghole where dreams are made up. There’s nothing you can do.’” Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

13. “My favorite thing about New York is the people, because I think they’re misunderstood. I don’t think people realize how kind New York people are.” Bill Murray

14. “There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.” — Simone de Beauvoir

15. “I love New York. You can pop out of the Underworld in Central Park, hail a taxi, head down Fifth Avenue with a giant hellhound loping behind you, and nobody even looks at you funny.” ― Rick Riordan

16. “I love New York, even though it isn't mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.” ― Truman Capote

17. “New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it — once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.” ― John Steinbeck

18. “What's the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don't yield to them?” ― P.G. Wodehouse

19. “A middle finger is more New York than a corporate ambush. I bleed for my hometown, and I'd die for my fans.” ― Lady Gaga

20. “So I went to New York City to be born again. It was and remains easy for most Americans to go somewhere else and start anew. I wasn't like my parents. I didn't have any supposedly sacred piece of land or shoals of friends to leave behind. Nowhere has the number zero been of more philosophical value than in the United States.... and when the [train] plunged into a tunnel under New York City, with its lining of pipes and wires, I was out of the womb and into the birth canal.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

21. “It is ridiculous to set a detective story in New York City. New York City is itself a detective story.” — Agatha Christie

22. “I once started out / To walk around the world / But ended up in Brooklyn, / That Bridge was too much for me.” ― Lawrence Ferlinghetti

23. “Cut off as I am, it is inevitable that I should sometimes feel like a shadow walking in a shadowy world. When this happens I ask to be taken to New York City. Always I return home weary but I have the comforting certainty that mankind is real flesh and I myself am not a dream.” ― Helen Keller

24. “Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.” ― Teju Cole

25. “I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village. It might be dying, and there might be a lot of dirt in the air you breathe, but this is where it's happening.” ― John Lennon

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26. “Central Park is the grandiose symbol of the front yard each child in New York hasn't got.” ― Robert Benchley

27. “On a New York subway you get fined for spitting, but you can throw up for nothing.” ― Lewis Grizzard

28. “One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes — I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life.” ― Frank O'Hara

29. “In the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth / between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles‘“ — Frank O’Hara

30. “As they’re putting, up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue / I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets, / Put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!” — Frank O’Hara

31. “New York is the meeting place of the peoples, the only city where you can hardly find a typical American.” — Djuna Barnes

32. “I love New York City. The reason I live in New York City is because it’s the loudest city on the planet Earth. It’s so loud I never have to listen to any of the shit that’s going on in my own head. It’s really loud. They literally have guys come with jackhammers and they drill the streets and just leave cones in front of your apartment; you don’t even know why. Garbage men come; they don’t pick up the garbage, they just bang the cans together.” — Lewis Black

33. “Make your mark in New York and you are a made man.” — Mark Twain

34. “New York is a sucked orange.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

35. “And New York is the most beautiful city in the world? It is not far from it. No urban night is like the night there ... Squares after squares of flame, set up and cut into the aether. Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will.” — Ezra Pound

36. “In New York you’ve got to have all the luck.” —  Charles Bukowski

37. “In terms of theater, there’s not a more supportive theater community than in New York. It’s really kind of a real thrill to go there. I mean, don’t forget, I’m a boy from the suburbs of Sydney, so getting to New York is a huge, huge thrill.” —  Hugh Jackman

38. “The glamour of it all! New York! America!” — Charlie Chaplin

39. “One’s life and passion may be elsewhere, but New York is where you prove if what you think in theory makes sense in life.” — Miuccia Prada

40. “But if I had to choose a single destination where I’d be held captive for the rest of my time in New York, I’d choose the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” — Tim Gunn

41. “I didn’t know the city at all, but I was so happy to be in New York I cried. I was so excited.” — Greta Gerwig

42. “Yeah, I'm up at Brooklyn, now I'm down in Tribeca / Right next to DeNiro, but I'll be hood forever / I'm the new Sinatra and since I made it here / I can make it anywhere, yeah, they love me everywhere.” — "Empire State Of Mind" by Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys

43. “Walkin' through a crowd, the village is a glow / Kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats under coats / Everybody here wanted somethin' more / Searchin' for a sound we hadn't heard before.” — "Welcome To New York" by Taylor Swift

44. “Brooklyn saw me, empty at the news / There's no water inside this swimming pool / Almost over, had enough from you.” — “Every Since New York" by Harry Styles 

45. "One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years." — Thomas Wolfe

46. “New York isn't New York / Without you, love.”  — "New York" by St Vincent

47. Some folks like to get away, / Take a holiday from the neighborhood / Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood / But I'm takin' a Greyhound on the Hudson River line / I'm in a New York state of mind.” — "New York State Of Mind" by Billy Joel

48. “I had a dream / We were sipping whiskey neat / Highest floor, The Bowery / Nowhere's high enough.” — "It Ain't Me" by Kygo ft. Selena Gomez

49. “Start spreading the news / You're leaving today (tell him friend) / I want to be a part of it, New York, New York / Your vagabond shoes, they are longing to stray / And steps around the heart of it, New York, New York.” — "New York, New York," Frank Sinatra

50. “(Ho!) took a bus to China Town / (Hey!) I'd be standing on Canal / (Ho!) and Bowery / (Hey!) / (Ho!) And she'd be standing next to me.” — "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers

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51. “To be young and in love in New York City / To not know who I am but still know that I'm good long as you're here with me / To be drunk and in love in New York City / Midnight into morning coffee / Burning through the hours talking.” — "I Like Me Better" by Lauv

52. “Shattered, shattered / Love and hope and sex and dreams / Are still surviving on the street / Look at me, I’m in tatters! / I’m a shattered / Shattered / Friends are so alarming / And my lover’s never charming / Life’s just a cocktail party on the street.” — "Shattered" by The Rolling Stones

53. “New York is appalling, fantastically charmless, and elaborately dire.” — Henry James

54. “I always have a positive reaction to Times Square – you’ve got so many people passing through here, so many cultures, and so many people merging into the central community of New York City. This is the hub of America.” — Dhani Jones

55. “When I got to New York City when I was 18, I started playing in clubs in Brooklyn – I have good friends and devoted fans on the underground scene, but we were playing for each other at that point – and that was it.” — Lana Del Rey

56. “Hurry, get on, now it’s coming / Listen to those rails a-humming / All aboard, get on the “A” train / Soon you will be on Sugar Hill in Harlem.” — “Take The A Train” by Duke Ellington

57. “Like a momma you birth me Brooklyn you nursed me schooled me wit Hard knocks better than Berkeley.” — “Hello Brooklyn 2.0” by Jay-Z

58. “This Broadway’s got / It’s got a lot of songs to sing / If I knew the tunes I might join in / I’ll go my way alone / Grow my own, my own seeds shall be sown in New York City.” — “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” by Elton John

59. “It’s autumn in New York. The colors are changing — yellow, the browns, the greens, the oranges. And that’s just the tap water.” — David Letterman

60. “One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.” — Georgia O’Keefe

61. “I grew up in the middle of everything. I walked the streets alone, I rode the trains alone, I came home at three in the morning alone; that was what I did.” — Alicia Keys

62. “I love that about New York: You just dress the way you want to dress and feel really comfortable because nobody is judging. You can just be yourself, and it’s perfectly normal.” — Henrik Lundquist

63. “You can do what you like, sir, but I’ll tell you this. New York is the true capital of America. Every New Yorker knows it, and by God, we always shall.” — Edward Rutherford 

64. “When it’s three o’ clock in New York, it’s still 1938 in London.” — Bette Midler

65. “Of course, in Los Angeles, everything is based on driving, even the killings. In New York, most people don’t have cars, so if you want to kill a person, you have to take the subway to their house. And sometimes on the way, the train is delayed and you get impatient, so you have to kill someone on the subway. That’s why there are so many subway murders; no one has a car.” — George Carlin

66. "Up on the roof / Out on the street / Down in the playground / The hot concrete." — "Rockaway Beach" by The Ramones 

67. "Every morning I took the train to High Street station / On the way back up, hearing battle tapes / Through the underground, underneath the sky scrapes." — "Root Down," by Beastie Boys 

68. "Life's just a cocktail party on the street / Big Apple." — "Shattered" by The Rolling Stones 

69. "History is happening in Manhattan / And we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world." — "Schuyler Sisters” by Hamilton (2015) 

70. "And here I am / The only living boy in New York." — "Only Living Boy in New York" by Simon and Garfunkel

71. "Lovers that bless the dark / On benches in Central Park / It's autumn in New York / It's good to live it again." — "Autumn in New York" by Billie Holiday 

72. "Obi-Wan Kenobi is waiting for me / in Union Square / My wheel needs repair / The bike lanes glowing all over the city / My bike specializes in the nitty-gritty." — "Sci-Fi Wasabi" by Cibo Matto (Stereo Type A, 1999)

73. “If you want to become a real New Yorker, there’s only one rule: You have to believe New York is, has been, and always will be the greatest city on earth. The center of the universe.” —  Ellen R. Shapiro

74. “More than anything else New York is a city of superlatives, a place where the best, the brightest, the biggest is the norm.” — Marilyn J. Appleberg

75. “It was never built for the comfort and happiness of its citizens, but to astonish the world.” —  Susan Ertz 

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Jessica Xing is a writer who covers love, books, culture, and media.