The geographical make-up of New York varies considerably from the shores of the Great Lakes Erie and Ontario to the Eastern Adirondack Mountains to the southern Hudson River Valley and the metropolis of New York City. Considering the size and importance of New York, it is often divided between upstate and downstate, the border generally being the northern stretches of the New York Metropolitan area. The Finger Lakes, Lake Oneida and Lake Champlain on the border of Vermont make up the largest freshwater reserves, while the Hudson River is arguably the most important river in the state. New York's long history of settlement began with Dutch fortifications along the Hudson River and on Manhattan Island in 1613. Later, the state was one of the original 13 colonies and was the 11th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on July 26th, 1788. The city of New York continued to develop in the early years of the American Republic and with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, the city quickly surpassed both Boston and Philadelphia as the largest American city. Notwithstanding crisis and upheavals (including the New York Draft Riots during the Civil War and the Great Depression of the 1930's) New York eventually established itself as one of the most populous and important cities in the world. The rest of the state's fortunes, in particular the Hudson River Valley up to Albany and Troy, largely depended upon the success of New York City.
New York is the 3rd most populous state in the Union (and most populous east of the Mississippi) with over 19 million people according to 2004 estimates. This makes New York 6th in the U.S. in terms of population density, with just over 400 people per square mile, roughly equal to that of Delaware. New York City is clearly the largest urban area, stretching from the Westchester suburbs to the communities on Long Island. The city itself is an international center of finance, entertainment and culture, with crime rates that continue to fall dramatically. In 2005, U.S. cities a quarter the size of New York sometimes had double the number of murders (a prime example being Kansas City). Other urban areas include Albany, the state capital; Buffalo, a center of culture and education; Syracuse, hub of Central New York and university town; and Rochester, long-time home of the Eastman Kodak Company. New York has the 2nd largest economy in terms of gross state product, and, depending on which indicator you use, has anywhere between the 11th to the 16th largest economy in the world. It is seen as roughly equal to the economy of South Korea. New York’s finance and vast marketplace obviously dominates the economy of the state, though other economic areas should not be overlooked, as New York is one of the nation's largest agricultural producers, in particular dairy, cabbage, potatoes, onions and apples. New York is considered a liberal, Democratic-leaning state, though some rural areas upstate are considered conservative enclaves. In 2004, John Kerry won the state's 31 electoral votes by a wide margin, as did the last four Democratic Presidential candidates.