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Encyclopedia > New York City, New York
"New York, New York" redirects here. For alternate meanings, see New York, New York (disambiguation).

New York City (officially named the City of New York) is the largest city in the United States, and the world's most important center for global finance and communications. The city is also home to hundreds of world-class museums, galleries, and performance venues, making it the unrivaled cultural and entertainment capital of the Western Hemisphere.

The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of New York City

With a population of over 8 million people (contained within 309 square miles), and large populations of immigrants from over 180 different countries, the city is often affectionately referred to as "the Big Apple." In addition to these new arrivals from overseas, the city has also become home to people from other parts of the U.S. who wish to experience a more cosmopolitan lifestyle than found in the rest of the country.

New York City lies at the heart of the New York Metropolitan Area, which, with over 22 million people, is one of the largest urban conglomerations in the world. The city comprises five boroughs: Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island, each of which could be a major city in its own right. This area itself is the epicenter of the Tri-State area and the BosWash megalopolis.

New York City serves as an enormous engine for the global economy, with an estimated gross metropolitan product of US$488.8 billion in 2003, the largest of any city in the United States and the sixth largest if compared to any U.S. state. If it were a nation, the city would have the 16th highest gross domestic product in the world, exceeding that of Russia ($433 billion). Though this value has been as high as 10 percent of the United States' GDP, in the last ten years it has been around 4.5 percent, fluctuating only recently. Along with London and Tokyo, New York City is considered one of the three primary "global cities" of the world. The United Nations has also had its headquarters in the city since 1951, a few years after its founding.

City of New York, New York
City flag City seal
City nickname: "The Big Apple"

Location in the state of New York
Counties (Boroughs) Bronx County
Kings County
New York
Queens County
Richmond County
Mayor Michael Bloomberg
 - Land
 - Water
1,214.4 km
800.31 km
414.09 km
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
21,766,731 (metropolitan area)
8,114,000 (city proper)
Time zone
 - summer (DST)
4047' N
7358' W
Official website: City of New York (http://www.nyc.gov)

History of New York City

Main article: History of New York City

The area that now constitutes New York City was inhabited by such Native American tribes as the Manahattoes and Canarsies long before the arrival of European settlers, as attested to by discoveries of arrowheads and other artifacts in areas of the city that are not occupied by buildings today, such as Inwood Hill Park and Riverside Park. European settlement began with the founding of the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam) on the southern tip of Manhattan in 1626. Many Huguenots seeking religious freedom also settled in the area. In 1664, English ships captured the city without struggle, and it was renamed New York, after James, Duke of York to whom the territory had been given by his brother Charles II. The Duke of York in turn took his title from the City of York in England, hence the prefix 'New'. When James succeeded his brother as James II in 1685 the colony, including New Jersey, became a Royal one. At the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1667, in the Treaty of Breda the Dutch formally signed New York over to the English and received the colony of Suriname in return.

At the start of the American Revolutionary War, the city was the scene of important early fighting at the Battle of Brooklyn, suffered a great fire in which much of it burned, and fell into British control for the remainder of the war, not to be regained by the Americans until 1783. The anniversary of "Evacuation Day," when the British finally left the city at the end of the war, was long celebrated in New York.

During the 19th century, the city population boomed by an influx of a vast number of immigrants. In 1811, the city street grid was expanded to encompass all of Manhattan with a visionary development proposal called the Commissioner's Plan. By 1835, New York City overtook Philadelphia as the largest city in the United States.

During the Civil War, the city's strong commercial ties to the South, as well as its growing immigrant population, led to a split in sympathy between the Union and Confederacy, culminating in the Draft Riots of 1863, the worst civil unrest in American history.

After the war, the rate of immigration from Europe grew steeply, and New York became the first stop for millions seeking a new and better life in the United States.

Manhattan, circa 1924-1932, as the USS Los Angeles flies over.

In 1898, New York City took the political form in which it exists to this day. Prior to 1898, New York City consisted of Manhattan and the Bronx, which was annexed by the city from southern Westchester County in two separate actions: the western portion in 1874, and the remaining portion in 1895. In 1898, a new municipal government, originally called "Greater New York," was created by new legislation. It was divided into five boroughs. The Boroughs of Manhattan and The Bronx covered the original city and the rest of New York County. The Borough of Brooklyn consisted of the City of Brooklyn as well as several municipalities in eastern Kings County. The Borough of Queens was established in western Queens County, and covered several small cities and towns, including Long Island City, Astoria and Flushing. The Borough of Staten Island contained all of Richmond County. All municipal governments contained within the boroughs were abolished. A year later, the area of Queens County not contained within the Borough of Queens became Nassau County. In 1914, the state legislature created Bronx County, shrinking New York County so it contained only Manhattan. The five boroughs are now considered to be generally coterminous with their respective counties.

In the first half of the 20th century, the city became a world center for industry, commerce, and communication. Interborough Rapid Transit (the first subway company) began operating in 1904. The New York skyline soared in the 1930s with the building of some of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

A worker helps raise the Empire State Building 25 floors higher than the Chrysler Building (seen to the right), completed just one year before.

In the decades after World War II, however, the city slid into gradual decline with the loss of population to the suburbs and the erosion of its industrial base. Like many US cities, New York suffered severe race riots in the 1960s, and by the 1970s, the city had gained a reputation for being a crime-ridden relic of history. In 1975, the city hit bottom and had to restructure its debt through the Municipal Assistance Corporation, headed by Felix Rohatyn. The city was also forced to accept increased scrutiny of its finances by an agency of New York State called the Financial Control Board.

The 1980s saw a rebirth of Wall Street, and the city reclaimed its role at the center of the world-wide financial industry. In the 1990s, crime rates dropped drastically and the outflow of population turned around, as the city once again became the destination not only of immigrants from around the world, but of many U.S. citizens seeking to live a cosmopolitan lifestyle that only New York City can offer. In the late 1990s, the dot com boom fueled another frenzy of financial speculation that sent the economy soaring.

The September 11, 2001 attacks also struck at Washington, D.C., but New York was the city most affected, because of the attack on the World Trade Center and the thick, acrid smoke that continued to pour out of its ruins for a few months following the Twin Towers' fiery collapse. However, cleanup of Ground Zero was completed ahead of schedule, and the city has since rebounded and pushed forward new plans for the destroyed areas of the World Trade Center. The Freedom Tower, to be built on the site, is intended to be the world's highest skyscraper after its scheduled completion in 2008.

The Manhattan skyline from Lower Manhattan on the right toward Midtown Manhattan on the far left; view from Jersey City, summer 2004.
Satellite image of New York, showing the five boroughs.

Boroughs and neighborhoods

The City of New York is composed of five boroughs, each a county of New York State. Residents of the city often refer to the city itself as "the Five Boroughs," reserving the phrase "the City" to refer to Manhattan. Those less familiar with the city often (incorrectly) think Manhattan is synonymous with New York City. The boroughs other than Manhattan are also referred to as "the Outer Boroughs."

Through the boroughs, there are hundreds of neighborhoods in the city, many with a definable history and character all their own. Some are gentrified, others are slums. Some are cosmopolitan, many are ethnic enclaves.

  • Brooklyn (Kings County, pop. 2,472,523) is the most populous borough, with a strong native identity. It ranges from a business district downtown to large residential tracts in the central area, and a near-rural southeast.
  • Queens (Queens County, pop. 2,225,486) is the most diverse county in the U.S., with more immigrants than anywhere else. It has more than one center, and the legacy of its old constituent towns is still evident.
  • Staten Island (Richmond County, pop. 459,737) is somewhat isolated and the most suburban part of the city. But it in the last decades it has been growing more a part of city life, which has bred controversy and even a recent attempt at secession.

(Population figures from July 1, 2003 Census estimates – see http://www.census.gov/ for more information).

New York City government

Main Article: Government of New York City

New York City is governed pursuant to the New York City Charter, as amended. The charter is enacted and amended by the New York State legislature, and occasionally through referendum. Though subservient to the State of New York, the city enjoys a high degree of legislative and executive autonomy. Like most governmental entities in the United States, the city government is divided into executive, legislative and judicial branches.


The five boroughs are coterminous with their respective counties, but the counties do not have actual county governments. Each borough elects a Borough President, but under the current city charter, the Borough President's powers are limited—he or she has a small discretionary budget to spend on projects within the borough. (The last significant power of the borough presidents—to appoint a member of the Board of Education —was abolished, with the board, on June 30, 2002.) Currently, borough presidents serve as ex officio members of various boards and committees.


The executive branch of New York City is headed by the Mayor, who is elected by direct popular vote. The mayor has executive authority over five divisions of city government as well as several independent government offices. The divisions, each comprising several city agencies and headed by an appointed Deputy Mayor, are:

  • Operations
    The southern horizon of Central Park is formed by the skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan.
  • Economic Development and Rebuilding
  • Policy
  • Administration
  • Legal Affairs

The mayor has broad emergency powers which can be exercised in cases of emergency weather conditions, natural disaster, riots, civil unrest, invasion or other emergency. Most recently, Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared a state of emergency during the 2003 North America blackout.


Legislative power in New York City is vested in a unicameral City Council, which contains 51 members, each representing a district of approximately 157,000 people. Council members are elected every four years, and the leader of the majority party is called the Speaker. The current Speaker of the City Council is Gifford Miller, a Democrat. Like most legislative bodies, the City Council is divided into committees which have oversight of various functions of the city government. Bills passed by a simple majority are sent to the mayor, who may sign it into law. If the mayor vetoes the bill, the Council has 30 days to override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote.


Unlike the rest of New York State, New York City does not have typical county courts. Instead, there is a single Civil Court, with a presence in each borough and city-wide jurisdiction, and a Criminal Court for each New York City county which handles lesser criminal offenses and domestic violence cases, a responsibility shared with the Family Court. Unlike other counties in New York, judges for Family Courts in New York City are appointed for ten year terms by the mayor, instead of being elected.

Criminal cases are handled on indictment by the Supreme Court in each New York City county. The Supreme Court also handles larger civil cases, and grand juries sit in each county. Thus, unlike other states and the Federal Government, in New York, the Supreme Court is not the highest court. Appeals are handled by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. The highest court in the state is the Court of Appeals.


Since 1991, New York City has seen a dramatic reduction in crime and is now among the safest cities in America. This downward trend has continued unabated for nearly fifteen years now, and has shown no signs of reversing its present course. Today, many neighborhoods that were once considered off-limits are now thriving with new businesses and housing, and many residents feel safe to walk the streets late at night. Over the past 12 years alone, violent crime in the city has dropped by three-forths, and the murder rate in 2004 was at its lowest level in over forty years.

While the exact reasons behind this drop in crime are a debatable issue for many New Yorkers, it has undoubtedly been aided by the use of COMPSTAT, implemented in 1994 by the New York Police Department to map crimes, analyze problems and devise solutions.

New York City's crime rates vary by neighborhood and borough. Staten Island is the safest borough in the city, Queens and Manhattan are in the middle range, while Brooklyn and The Bronx have the highest crime rates.

There have been some notorious crime sprees. For example, on July 29, 1976 the "Son of Sam", pulling a gun from a paper bag, killed one person and seriously wounded another, in the first of a series of attacks that terrorized the city for the next year.

As soon as the Sicilian Mafia moved to New York in the 1920s, they became infamous with their hits on businesses that did not pay money to them. They had also set up smuggling rings and fixed boxing matches. The Mafia flourished due to a distrust of the police in the Italian-American communities in New York. The five largest crime families in New York were the Bonnanos, the Colombos, the Gambinos, the Genovese, and the Luchese. The assimilation of the Italian-American population is choking the Mafia in New York, although they still operate. For New York City crime Statistics see http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/pct/cspdf.html.

See also: Timeline of New York City crimes
New York city, viewed from the TERRA satellite. The prominent green rectangle is Central Park, on Manhattan island. Ground Zero can just be distinguished, as the largest of the pale spots near the southern tip of Manhattan.

Geography and climate

New York City is sited among an archipelago of islands astride the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard of North America, surrounding the fine New York Harbor, which was the very reason for the city's founding. The city itself has been built on the three major islands of Manhattan, Staten Island, and on western Long Island (Brooklyn and Queens), as well as on the mainland in the Bronx. There are also some smaller islands in the surrounding waters.

The Hudson River is sometimes known in the city, where it is in fact a tidal estuary, as the North River. It flows from the Hudson Valley into New York Bay and separates the Bronx and Manhattan from New Jersey. The East River, really a tidal strait, stretches from Long Island Sound to New York Bay, and separates the Bronx and Manhattan from Long Island.

Upper New York Bay is surrounded by Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the coast of New Jersey, and is connected by the Narrows between Brooklyn and Staten Island to Lower New York Bay, which is partially surrounded by Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the coast of New Jersey, and is open to the Atlantic Ocean.

The shape of the land has been altered substantially by human intervention, with considerable land reclamation along the waterfronts since Dutch times, most dramatically in Lower Manhattan, and continuing in modern developments like Battery Park City. Much of the natural variations in topography have been evened out, particularly in Manhattan. A number of smaller islands have been artificially enlarged, and the map of islands in Jamaica Bay has been completely transformed.

New York has a humid continental climate. The city is adjacent to water, so temperature changes are not as drastic as those inland. It snows in New York every winter due to the city's latitude. Because of its key position, New York had been king in the shipping passenger trade between Europe and the Americas for quite some time, until the airplane came into wider use across the Atlantic.

New York winters are typically cold, and sometimes feature snowstorms that can paralyze the city with over a foot (30 cm) of snow. Springs are mild, averaging in the 50s (degrees Fahrenheit, 10–15 degrees Celsius) in late March to the lower 80s F (25–30 C) in early June. Summers in New York are hot and humid. It is common for summer high temperatures to exceed 90 F (32 C), although it often stays below 100 F (38 C). Autumns are comfortable in New York. However, the weather in New York is notably unpredictable, even if not to the degree experienced in some other parts of the world. Mild, almost snowless winters and chilly summers surprise New Yorkers from time to time; there have been huge snowstorms as late as the second week in April; and there can be large temperature swings from one day to the next. Travelers are advised to check forecasts and bring several layers of clothing in late fall and in the early spring months (e.g., November, March, April).

The city lights shine at night

Staten Island is hilly and spacious, and is the least populated borough in New York City. By contrast, space is sparse and valuable on Manhattan; there is nowhere to build but up, and that is why there are so many tall buildings in that borough.

The city will be threatened if the current patterns of global warming continue to raise the sea level.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1,214.4 km (468.9 mi). 785.6 km (303.3 mi) of it is land and 428.8 km (165.6 mi) of it is water. The total area is 35.31% water.

See: Geography of New York Harbor

A typically diverse group of New Yorkers on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 8,008,278 people, 3,021,588 households, and 1,852,233 families residing in the city. The population density is 10,194.2/km (26,402.9/mi). There are 3,200,912 housing units at an average density of 4,074.6/km (10,553.2/mi). The racial makeup of the city is 44.66% White, 26.59% Black or African American, 0.52% Native American, 9.83% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 13.42% from other races, and 4.92% from two or more races. 26.98% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. 35.9% of the population is foreign born (18.9% born in Latin America, 8.6% Asia, 7.0% Europe).

The median income for a household in the city is $38,293, and the median income for a family is $41,887. Males have a median income of $37,435 versus $32,949 for females. The per capita income for the city is $22,402. 21.2% of the population and 18.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 30.0% of those under the age of 18 and 17.8% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

There are 3,021,588 households out of which 29.7% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.2% are married couples living together, 19.1% have a female householder with no husband present, and 38.7% are non-families. 31.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.59 and the average family size is 3.32.

In the city the population is spread out with 24.2% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 32.9% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 90.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 85.9 males.


Historically, the city developed because of New York Harbor, widely considered the finest natural port in the world. The old port facility was at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan, but today there is only residual activity remaining at Red Hook in Brooklyn. Since the 1950s, most shipping activity in the area has shifted to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey. But despite changes in international shipping, trade and the teritiary sector have always remained the real basis of New York's economy.

New York is the chief center of finance in the World economy, with Wall Street in Lower Manhattan's Financial District. Financial markets based in the city include the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, American Stock Exchange, New York Mercantile Exchange, and New York Board of Trade.

The city has also been a center of many other industries in the United States. New York was formerly a national center for clothing manufacture, and some continues, sometimes in sweatshops. Today, it is more the center of the fashion industry and haute couture, and the city is home to many prominent fashion designers. New York is also considered a center of the mass media and journalism, and particularly the very first city in book and magazine publishing. Manhattan's Madison Avenue is well-known for its advertising agencies. The city was also the first center of the American film industry, until it moved to Hollywood, California, and still has some television and movie production. New York was and remains the primary center of the theater (with Broadway theatre), art, and music worlds in the United States.

The city also has a large tourism industry, described under Tourism and recreation.

Today, the city forms the economic center of the New York metropolitan area, and many of the workers in the city, particularly in Manhattan, are commuters from neighboring suburbs.

New York is also home to more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere else in the country, with companies as prominent and diverse as Altria Group, Time Warner, American International Group, Pfizer, and many others. Numerous other companies are based in the New York metropolitan area outside of the city limits.

See: List of major corporations based in New York City

Culture of New Yorkers

Main article: Culture of New York City

A New York City resident is a New Yorker. There is also some borough identification, and the subways are crowded with proud Manhattanites, Bronxites, Brooklynites, Queensites and Staten Islanders. Sometimes people in the surrounding suburbs, many of city origin, are also called New Yorkers, but the term is rarely used to refer to residents of Upstate New York. Residents generally refer to New York City (or sometimes just Manhattan) as "New York" or "the city". Ambiguity is resolved by writing "NYS" for the state and "NYC" for the city.

Throughout its history there have been many nicknames attributed to New York City; some of the most common include: "the Big Apple", "Gotham", "the City that Never Sleeps", "the Naked City", "the Capital of the World", "the World's Second Home", and many others.

To some observers, New York, with its large immigrant population, seems more of an international city than something specifically "American." But to others, the city's very openness to newcomers makes it the archetype of a "nation of immigrants." Among large American cities only Los Angeles receives more immigrants, but immigration to New York is considerably more diverse. It is not without reason that the city government maintains translators in 180 languages. For illustration, although New York has a larger Jewish population than Jerusalem, still a majority of city residents are non-white. Residents are accustomed to thinking of everyone in the city as a member of a minority in some sense, but they also have a shared identity as New Yorkers.

As in many major cities, immigrants to New York and sometimes their descendants tend to congregate into ethnic enclaves where they can talk and shop and work with people from their country of origin. This phenomenon is more pronounced in New York than in other U.S. cities, and the five boroughs are home to many distinct communities of Irish, Italians, Chinese, Koreans, Puerto Ricans, Caribbeans, Jews , South Asians and many others, though there are also more multi-ethnic or cosmopolitan neighborhoods where people of different backgrounds can coexist in ease or in tension.

The everyday lifestyle of New Yorkers differs substantially from that of other Americans, and has in some ways been compared to that of urban Western Europeans. Despite the best efforts of Robert Moses, residents are less attuned than other Americans to the 'car culture' that dominates most of the country. The well-designed New York Subway and the threat of congestion keep six in ten residents, including many middle class professionals, out of cars and off of the highways. Even the city's billionaire mayor is known to take the train to City Hall each morning. This pattern is strongest for Manhattanites, who live in an area with better subway service and worse traffic, but more moderated for residents of the outer boroughs, especially in more peripheral areas, though many here too commute by train to Manhattan. Also on Manhattan, between subway stops and destinations is built up the "walking city", a real pedestrian culture unrivaled in the U.S.

Unlike most Americans, although less untypically for city dwellers, the great majority of New Yorkers rent their housing in what is usually

  Results from FactBites:
New York City - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (7729 words)
Upper New York Bay is surrounded by Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the coast of New Jersey, and is connected by the Narrows between Brooklyn and Staten Island to Lower New York Bay, which is partially surrounded by Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the coast of New Jersey, and opens to the Atlantic Ocean.
New York City is also home to the nation's largest community of American Jews, with an estimate of 972,000 in 2002, and is the worldwide headquarters of the Hasidic Lubavitch sect and the Bobover and Satmar branches of Hasidism.
New York is a city of great museums with the Metropolitan Museum of Art's assemblage of historic art, the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum's 20th century collection, and the American Museum of Natural History and its Hayden Planetarium focusing on the sciences.
  More results at FactBites »



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