New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world. The city is referred to as New York City or the City of New York to distinguish it from the State of New York, of which it is a part. A global power city, New York exerts a significant impact upon commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and entertainment. The home of the United Nations Headquarters, New York is an important center for international diplomacy and has been described as the cultural capital of the world.
Located on one of the world's largest natural harbors, New York City consists of five boroughs, each of which is a state county. The five boroughs—The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island—were consolidated into a single city in 1898. With a Census-estimated 2011 population of 8,244,910 distributed over a land area of just , New York is the most densely populated major city in the United States. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. The New York City Metropolitan Area's population is the United States' largest, with 18.9 million people distributed over , and is also part of the most populous combined statistical area in the United States, containing 22.1 million people as of the 2010 Census.
New York traces its roots to its 1624 founding as a trading post by colonists of the Dutch Republic, and was named New Amsterdam in 1626. The city and its surroundings came under English control in 1664 and were renamed New York after King Charles II of England granted the lands to his brother, the Duke of York. New York served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790. It has been the country's largest city since 1790. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to America by ship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is a globally recognized symbol of the United States and its democracy.
Many districts and landmarks in New York City have become well known to its approximately 50 million annual visitors. Times Square, iconified as "The Crossroads of the World", is the brightly illuminated hub of the Broadway theater district, one of the world's busiest pedestrian intersections, and a major center of the world's entertainment industry. The city hosts many world renowned bridges, skyscrapers, and parks. New York City's financial district, anchored by Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, functions as the financial capital of the world and is home to the New York Stock Exchange, the world's largest stock exchange by total market capitalization of its listed companies. Manhattan's real estate market is among the most expensive in the world. Manhattan's Chinatown incorporates the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. Providing continuous 24/7 service, the New York City Subway is one of the most extensive rapid transit systems worldwide. Numerous colleges and universities are located in New York, including Columbia University, New York University, and Rockefeller University, which are ranked among the top 50 in the world.
In the precolonial era the area of present day New York City was inhabited by various bands of Algonquian tribes of Native Americans, including the Lenape, whose homeland, known as Lenapehoking, included Staten Island, the western portion of Long Island (including the area that would become Brooklyn and Queens), Manhattan, and the Lower Hudson Valley, including The Bronx.
The first documented visit by a European was in 1524 by Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine explorer in the service of the French crown, who sailed his ship La Dauphine into New York Harbor, where he spent one night aboard ship and sailed out the next day. He claimed the area for France and named it "Nouvelle Angoulême" (New Angoulême). In January a year later, Esteban Gomez, a Portuguese sailing for Emperor Charles V of Spain, entered New York Harbor and charted the mouth of the Hudson river which he named Rio de San Antonio. Heavy ice kept him from further exploration.
In 1609, English explorer Henry Hudson re-discovered the region when he sailed his ship the Halve Maen (Half Moon) into New York Harbor while searching for the Northwest Passage to the Orient for his employer the Dutch East India Company. He proceeded to sail up what he named the North River, also called the Mauritis River, and now known as the Hudson River, to the site of the present-day New York State capital of Albany in the belief that it might be a passage. When the river narrowed and was no longer salty, he realized it wasn't a sea passage and sailed back downriver. He made a ten-day exploration of the area and claimed the region for his employer. In 1614 the area between Cape Cod and Delaware Bay would be claimed by the Netherlands and called Nieuw-Nederland (New Netherland).
A permanent European presence in New Netherland began in 1624 with the founding of a Dutch fur trading settlement on Governors Island. In 1625 construction was started on a citadel and a Fort Amsterdam on Manhattan Island, later called New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam). The colony of New Amsterdam was centered at the site which would eventually become Lower Manhattan. The location of Dutch colonial Director-General Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from the Canarsie, a small band of the Lenape, in 1626 for a value of 60 guilders (about $1000 in 2006); a disproved legend says that Manhattan was purchased for $24 worth of glass beads.
In 1664, Peter Stuyvesant, the Director-General of the colony of New Netherland, surrendered New Amsterdam to the English without bloodshed. The English promptly renamed the fledgling city "New York" after the English Duke of York and Albany. At the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Dutch gained control of Run (then a much more valuable asset) in exchange for the English controlling New Amsterdam (New York) in North America. Several intertribal wars among the Native Americans and some epidemics brought on by contact with the Europeans caused sizable population losses for the Lenape between the years 1660 and 1670. By 1700, the Lenape population had diminished to 200.
New York grew in importance as a trading port while under British rule. It became a center of slavery, with 42% of households holding slaves by 1730, more than any other city other than Charleston, South Carolina. Most slaveholders held a few or several domestic slaves, but others hired them out to work at labor. Slavery became integrally tied to New York's economy through the labor of slaves throughout the port, and the banks and shipping tied to the South. Discovery of the African Burying Ground in the 1990s during construction of a new federal courthouse near Foley Square revealed than tens of thousands of Africans had been buried in the area in the colonial years.
The city hosted the influential John Peter Zenger trial in 1735, helping to establish the freedom of the press in North America. In 1754, Columbia University was founded under charter by George II of Great Britain as King's College in Lower Manhattan. The Stamp Act Congress met in New York in October 1765 as the Sons of Liberty organized in the city, skirmishing over the next ten years with British troops stationed there.
The Battle of Long Island, the largest battle of the American Revolutionary War, was fought in August 1776 entirely within the modern day borough of Brooklyn. After the battle, in which the Americans were routed, leaving subsequent smaller engagements following in its wake, the city became the British military and political base of operations in North America. The city was a haven for Loyalist refugees, as well as escaped slaves who joined the British lines for the freedom promised by the Crown. As many as 10,000 escaped slaves crowded into the city during the British occupation. When the British forces evacuated in 1783, they transported 3,000 freedmen for resettlement in Nova Scotia. They resettled other freedmen in England and the Caribbean.
The only attempt at a peaceful solution to the war took place at the Conference House on Staten Island between American delegates including Benjamin Franklin, and British general Lord Howe on September 11, 1776. Shortly after the British occupation began the Great Fire of New York occurred, a large conflagration which destroyed about a quarter of the buildings in the city, including Trinity Church.
In 1785, the assembly of the Congress of the Confederation made New York the national capital shortly after the war. New York was the last capital of the U.S. under the Articles of Confederation and the first capital under the Constitution of the United States. In 1789 the first President of the United States, George Washington, was inaugurated; the first United States Congress and the Supreme Court of the United States each assembled for the first time, and the United States Bill of Rights was drafted, all at Federal Hall on Wall Street. By 1790, New York had surpassed Philadelphia as the largest city in the United States.
Under the state's "gradual abolition law of 1799", children of slave mothers were born free, but were held in indentured servitude until their late 20s. Together with slaves freed by their masters after the Revolutionary War and escaped slaves, gradually a significant free-black population developed in Manhattan. Under such influential United States founders as Alexander Hamilton and John Jay the New York Manumission Society worked for abolition and established the African Free School to educate black children. It was not until 1827 that slavery was completely abolished in the state, and free blacks struggled afterward with discrimination. New York interracial abolitionist activism continued; among its leaders were graduates of the African Free School. The city's black population reached more than 16,000 in 1840.
In the 19th century, the city was transformed by development related to the western and cotton trades, as well as European immigration. The city adopted the Commissioners' Plan of 1811, which expanded the city street grid to encompass all of Manhattan. The 1819 opening of the Erie Canal through central New York connected the Atlantic port to the agricultural markets and commodities of the North American interior via the Hudson River and the Great Lakes. Local politics became dominated by Tammany Hall, a political machine supported by Irish and German immigrants.
Several prominent American literary figures lived in New York during the 1830s and 1840s, including William Cullen Bryant, Washington Irving, Herman Melville, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, John Keese, Nathaniel Parker Willis, and Edgar Allan Poe. Public-minded members of the old merchant elite lobbied for the establishment of Central Park, which in 1857 became the first landscaped park in an American city.
The Great Irish Famine brought a large influx of Irish immigrants, and by 1860, one in four New Yorkers—over 200,000—had been born in Ireland. There was also extensive immigration from the German provinces, where revolutions had disrupted societies, and Germans comprised another 25% of New York's population by 1860.
Democratic Party candidates were consistently elected to local office, increasing the city's ties to the South and its dominant party. In 1861 Mayor Fernando Wood called on the aldermen to declare independence from Albany and the United States after the South seceded, but his proposal was not acted on. Anger at new military conscription laws during the American Civil War (1861–1865) led to the Draft Riots of 1863, led by ethnic Irish working class.
The situation deteriorated into attacks on black New Yorkers and their property, following fierce competition for a decade between immigrants and blacks for work. Rioters burned the Colored Orphan Asylum to the ground, but its more than 200 children escaped harm. Rioters killed an estimated 100 blacks and attacked many more, especially in the docks area. It was one of the worst incidents of civil unrest in American history. Because of the violence, many blacks left the city for Williamsburg, Brooklyn and New Jersey; the black population in Manhattan fell below 10,000 by 1865, which it had last been in 1820. The white working class had established dominance.
In 1898, the modern City of New York was formed with the consolidation of Brooklyn (until then a separate city), the County of New York (which then included parts of the Bronx), the County of Richmond, and the western portion of the County of Queens. The opening of the subway in 1904, first built as separate private systems, helped bind the new city together. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the city became a world center for industry, commerce, and communication. In 1904, the steamship General Slocum caught fire in the East River, killing 1,021 people on board.
In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the city's worst industrial disaster, took the lives of 146 garment workers and spurred the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and major improvements in factory safety standards.
New York's non-white population was 36,620 in 1890. In the 1920s, New York City was a prime destination for African Americans during the Great Migration from the American South. By 1916, New York City was home to the largest urban African diaspora in North America. The Harlem Renaissance of literary and cultural life flourished during the era of Prohibition. The larger economic boom generated construction of competing skyscrapers that changed the skyline into its identifiable twentieth-century shape.
New York became the most populous urbanized area in the world in early 1920s, overtaking London. The metropolitan area surpassed the 10 million mark in early 1930s, becoming the first megacity in human history. The difficult years of the Great Depression saw the election of reformer Fiorello LaGuardia as mayor and the fall of Tammany Hall after eighty years of political dominance.
Returning World War II veterans created a postwar economic boom and the development of large housing tracts in eastern Queens. New York emerged from the war unscathed as the leading city of the world, with Wall Street leading America's place as the world's dominant economic power. The United Nations Headquarters (completed in 1950) emphasized New York's political influence, and the rise of abstract expressionism in the city precipitated New York's displacement of Paris as the center of the art world.
In the 1960s, job losses due to industrial restructuring caused New York City to suffer from economic problems and rising crime rates, which extended into the 1970s. While a resurgence in the financial industry greatly improved the city's economic health in the 1980s, New York's crime rate continued to increase through the decade and into the beginning of the 1990s. By the 1990s, crime rates started to drop dramatically due to changed police strategies, improving economy, gentrification, and new residents, both American transplants and new immigrants from Asia and Latin America. Important new sectors, such as Silicon Alley, emerged in the city's economy. New York's population reached all-time highs in the 2000 Census and then again in the 2010 Census.
The city suffered the worst nationally of the September 11, 2001 attacks, when nearly 3,000 people died in the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. A new complex, which includes One World Trade Center, a 9/11 memorial and museum, and three other office towers, is being built on the site. The first buildings are finished and it is scheduled for completion by 2014. The World Trade Center PATH station, which was opened on July 19, 1909 as the Hudson Terminal, was also destroyed in the attack. A temporary station was built and opened on November 23, 2003. A permanent station, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, is currently being constructed and is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2014. At the time of its completion in 2013, the new One World Trade Center will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the third-tallest building in the world by pinnacle height, with its spire reaching a symbolic in reference to the year of American independence. This new supertall skyscraper has been the tallest building in New York City since April 30, 2012.
Hurricane Sandy brought a destructive storm surge to New York City on the evening of October 29, 2012, flooding numerous streets, tunnels, and subway lines in Lower Manhattan and other areas of the city and cutting off electricity in many parts of the city and its suburbs. The storm and its profound impacts have prompted the discussion of constructing seawalls and other coastal barriers around the shorelines of the city and the metropolitan area to minimize the risk of destructive consequences from another such event in the future.
New York City is one of the largest cities in the world, is segmented into five boroughs. A borough is a unique form of government that administers the five fundamental constituent parts of the consolidated city. Technically, under New York State Law, a "borough" is a municipal corporation that is created when a county is merged with the cities, towns, and incorporated villages within it. It differs significantly from other borough forms of government used in other parts of the Tri-State Region and elsewhere in the United States.
New York City is often referred to collectively as the Five Boroughs; the term is used to refer to New York City as a whole unambiguously, avoiding confusion with any particular borough or with the greater metropolitan area. It is often used by politicians to counter a focus on Manhattan and to place all five boroughs on equal footing. The term Outer Boroughs refers to all the boroughs excluding Manhattan (although the geographic center of the city is along the Brooklyn/Queens border).
Unlike most American cities, which lie within a single county, extend partially into another county, or constitute a county in themselves, each of New York City's five boroughs is coextensive with a county of New York state:
New York's Five Boroughs at a Glance
All boroughs were created in 1898 during consolidation, when the city's current boundaries were established. The Borough of Bronx was originally the parts of New York County that had been previously ceded by Westchester County, until Bronx County was created in 1914. The Borough of Queens originally consisted of just the western part of a larger Queens County, until Nassau County was created by the secession from Queens County of the three eastern towns in 1899. The Borough of Staten Island was officially the Borough of Richmond until the name was changed in 1975 to reflect its common appellation.
Each borough is represented by a Borough President and, with the exception of Manhattan, has a borough hall (the same functions, and others, reside in the Manhattan Municipal Building). Since the abolition of the Board of Estimate in 1990 (due to a 1989 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court) the borough president now has minimal executive powers, and there is no legislative function within a borough. Most executive power is exercised by the Mayor of New York City, and legislative functions are the responsibility of the members of the New York City Council. Because they are counties, each borough also elects a District Attorney, as does every other county of the state. Some civil court judges are also elected on a borough-wide basis, although they are generally eligible to serve throughout the city.
Marble Hill is a small enclave on the North American mainland that appears to be part of the Bronx, but is really part of Manhattan. After an increase in ship traffic in the 1890s, the Army Corps of Engineers constructed the Harlem River Ship Canal, making Marble Hill an island. The old river channel was filled in 1914, linking Marble Hill to the mainland.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Borough (New York City).
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