New York City Flag on Our Flagpole

New York City

Introduction:

The City of New York, often called New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles, New York City is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world’s most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

New York City Area
New York City Area

Situated on one of the world’s largest natural harbors, New York City consists of five boroughs, each of which is a separate county of the State of New York. The five boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island – were consolidated into a single city in 1898. The city and its metropolitan area constitute the premier gateway for legal immigration to the United States. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. New York City is home to more than 3.2 million residents born outside the United States, the largest foreign-born population of any city in the world. In 2017, the New York metropolitan area produced a gross metropolitan product (GMP) of US$1.73 trillion. If greater New York City were a sovereign state, it would have the 12th highest GDP in the world. New York is home to the highest number of billionaires of any city in the world.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

New York City traces its origins to a trading post founded by colonists from the Dutch Republic in 1624 on Lower Manhattan; the post 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 the Americas by ship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is an international symbol of the United States and its ideals of liberty and peace. In the 21st century, New York has emerged as a global node of creativity and entrepreneurship, social tolerance, and environmental sustainability, and as a symbol of freedom and cultural diversity.

New Amsterdam
New Amsterdam

Many districts and landmarks in New York City are well known, with the city having three of the world’s ten most visited tourist attractions in 2013] and receiving a record 62.8 million tourists in 2017. Times Square, iconic as the world’s “heart” and its “Crossroads”, 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 names of many of the city’s landmarks, skyscrapers, and parks are known around the world. Manhattan’s real estate market is among the most expensive in the world. Providing continuous 24/7 service, the New York City Subway is the largest single-operator rapid transit system worldwide, with 472 rail stations. Over 120 colleges and universities are located in New York City, including Columbia University, New York University, and Rockefeller University, which have been ranked among the top universities in the world. Anchored by Wall Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, New York has been called both the most economically powerful city and the leading financial center of the world, and the city is home to the world’s two largest stock exchanges by total market capitalization, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.

Times Square
Times Square

History:

Origin of the Name:

In 1664, the city was named in honor of the Duke of York, who would become King James II of England. James’s older brother, King Charles II, had appointed the Duke proprietor of the former territory of New Netherland, including the city of New Amsterdam, which England had recently seized from the Dutch.

Early History:

During the Wisconsin glaciation, 75,000 to 11,000 years ago, the New York City region was situated at the edge of a large ice sheet over 1,000 feet in depth. The erosive forward movement of the ice (and its subsequent retreat) contributed to the separation of what is now Long Island and Staten Island. That action also left bedrock at a relatively shallow depth, providing a solid foundation for most of Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

In the precolonial era, the area of present-day New York City was inhabited by Algonquian Native Americans, including the Lenape,

Lenape Village Scene
Lenape Village Scene

whose homeland, known as Lenapehoking, included Staten Island; the western portion of Long Island, including the area that would become Brooklyn and Queens; Manhattan; the Bronx; and the Lower Hudson Valley.

The first documented visit into New York Harbor by a European was in 1524 by Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine explorer in the service of the French crown. He claimed the area for France and named it Nouvelle Angoulême. A Spanish expedition led by captain Estêvão Gomes, a Portuguese sailing for Emperor Charles V, arrived in New York Harbor in January 1525 and charted the mouth of the Hudson River, which he named Río de San Antonio. The Padrón Real of 1527, the first scientific map to show the East Coast of North America continuously, was informed by Gomes’ expedition and labeled the northeastern United States as Tierra de Esteban Gómez in his honor.

In 1609, the English explorer Henry Hudson rediscovered the New York Harbor while searching for the Northwest Passage to the Orient for the Dutch East India Company. He proceeded to sail up what the Dutch would name the North River (now the Hudson River), named first by Hudson as the Mauritius after Maurice, Prince of Orange. Hudson’s first mate described the harbor as “a very good Harbour for all windes” and the river as “a mile broad” and “full of fish.” Hudson sailed roughly 150 miles north, past the site of the present-day New York State capital city of Albany, in the belief that it might be an oceanic tributary before the river became too shallow to continue. He made a ten-day exploration of the area and claimed the region for the Dutch East India Company. In 1614, the area between Cape Cod and Delaware Bay was claimed by the Netherlands and called Nieuw-Nederland.

The first non-Native American inhabitant of what would eventually become New York City was Juan Rodriguez, a merchant from Santo Domingo. Born in Santo Domingo of Portuguese and African descent, he arrived in Manhattan during the winter of 1613–1614, trapping for pelts and trading with the local population as a representative of the Dutch. Broadway, from 159th Street to 218th Street in Upper Manhattan, is named Juan Rodriguez Way in his honor.

Dutch Rule:

A permanent European presence in New Netherland began in 1624 – making New York the 12th oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in the continental United States – with the founding of a Dutch fur trading settlement on Governors Island. In 1625, construction was started on a citadel and Fort Amsterdam, later called Nieuw Amsterdam, on present-day Manhattan Island. The colony of New Amsterdam was centered at the site which would eventually become Lower Manhattan. In 1626, the Dutch colonial Director-General Peter Minuit, acting as charged by the Dutch West India Company, purchased the island of Manhattan from the Canarsie, a small Lenape band, for 60 guilders about $1,000 in 2006.

Peter Minuit
Peter Minuit

Following the purchase, New Amsterdam grew slowly. To attract settlers, the Dutch instituted the patroon system in 1628, whereby wealthy Dutchmen (patroons, or patrons) who brought 50 colonists to New Netherland would be awarded swathes of land, along with local political autonomy and rights to participate in the lucrative fur trade. This program had little success.

Since 1621, the Dutch West India Company had operated as a monopoly in New Netherland, on authority granted by the Dutch States General. In 1639–1640, in an effort to bolster economic growth, the Dutch West India Company relinquished its monopoly over the fur trade, leading to growth in the production and trade of food, timber, tobacco, and slaves (particularly with the Dutch West Indies).

In 1647, Peter Stuyvesant began his tenure as the last Director-General of New Netherland. During his tenure, the population of New Netherland grew from 2,000 to 8,000. Stuyvesant has been credited with improving law and order in the colony; however, he also earned a reputation as a despotic leader. He instituted regulations on liquor sales, attempted to assert control over the Dutch Reformed Church, and blocked other religious groups (including Quakers, Jews, and Lutherans) from establishing houses of worship. The Dutch West India Company would eventually attempt to ease tensions between Stuyvesant and residents of New Amsterdam.

English Rule:

In 1664, unable to summon any significant resistance, Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam to English troops, led by Colonel Richard Nicolls, without bloodshed. The terms of the surrender permitted Dutch residents to remain in the colony and allowed for religious freedom. The English promptly renamed the fledgling city “New York” after the Duke of York (the future King James II of England). The transfer was confirmed in 1667 by the Treaty of Breda, which concluded the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

On August 24, 1673, during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, Dutch captain Anthony Colve seized the colony of New York from England at the behest of Cornelis Evertsen the Youngest and rechristened it “New Orange” after William III, the Prince of Orange. The Dutch would soon return the island to England under the Treaty of Westminster of November 1674.

18th Century New York City
18th Century New York City

Several intertribal wars among the Native Americans and some epidemics brought on by contact with the Europeans caused sizeable population losses for the Lenape between the years 1660 and 1670. By 1700, the Lenape population had diminished to 200. New York experienced several yellow fever epidemics in the 18th century, losing ten percent of its population to the disease in 1702 alone.

New York grew in importance as a trading port while under British rule in the early 1700s. It also became a center of slavery, with 42% of households holding slaves by 1730, the highest percentage outside 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 American South. Discovery of the African Burying Ground in the 1990s, during construction of a new federal courthouse near Foley Square, revealed that tens of thousands of Africans had been buried in the area in the colonial years.

The 1735 trial and acquittal in Manhattan of John Peter Zenger, who had been accused of seditious libel after criticizing colonial governor William Cosby, helped to establish the freedom of the press in North America. In 1754, Columbia University was founded under charter by King George II as King’s College in Lower Manhattan.

American Revolution:

The Stamp Act Congress met in New York in October 1765, as the Sons of Liberty, organized in the city, skirmished 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 within the modern-day borough of Brooklyn.

Battle of Long Island
Battle of Long Island

After the battle, in which the Americans were defeated, the British made the city their military and political base of operations in North America. The city was a haven for Loyalist refugees and escaped slaves who joined the British lines for freedom newly promised by the Crown for all fighters. As many as 10,000 escaped slaves crowded into the city during the British occupation. When the British forces evacuated at the close of the war 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 on the West Side of Lower Manhattan, 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 City 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 to become the largest city in the United States, but by the end of that year, pursuant to the Residence Act, the national capital was moved to Philadelphia.

Nineteenth Century:

In the 19th century, the city was transformed by development relating to its status as a trading center, as well as by European immigration. The city adopted the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which expanded the city street grid to encompass all of Manhattan. The 1825 completion 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.

Public-minded members of the contemporaneous business 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, of whom over 200,000 were living in New York by 1860, upwards of a quarter of the city’s population. 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.

Little Italy 1900
Little Italy 1900

Modern History:

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.

The larger economic boom generated construction of skyscrapers competing in height and creating an identifiable skyline.

Building the Empire State Building
Building the Empire State Building

New York became the most populous urbanized area in the world in the early 1920s, overtaking London. The metropolitan area surpassed the 10 million mark in the early 1930s, becoming the first megacity in human history. The difficult years of the Great Depression saw the election of reformer Fiorello La Guardia as mayor and the fall of Tammany Hall after eighty years of political dominance.

Returning World War II veterans created a post-war economic boom and the development of large housing tracts in eastern Queens and Nassau County as well as similar suburban areas in New Jersey. 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.

UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in Front of the United Nations Headquarters Building
UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in Front of the United Nations Headquarters Building

The United Nations Headquarters was completed in 1952, solidifying New York’s global geopolitical influence, and the rise of abstract expressionism in the city precipitated New York’s displacement of Paris as the center of the art world.

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights.

Stonewall Inn
Stonewall Inn

In the 1970s, job losses due to industrial restructuring caused New York City to suffer from economic problems and rising crime rates. 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 that decade and into the beginning of the 1990s. By the mid 1990s, crime rates started to drop dramatically due to revised police strategies, improving economic opportunities, 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 bulk of the economic damage and largest loss of human life in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Two of the four airliners highjacked that day were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, destroying them and killing 2,192 civilians, 343 firefighters, and 71 law enforcement officers. The North Tower became the tallest building ever to be destroyed anywhere then or subsequently. The rebuilding of the area, has created a new One World Trade Center, and a 9/11 memorial and museum along with other new buildings and infrastructure. The World Trade Center PATH station, which had 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. An 800,000-square-foot permanent rail station designed by Santiago Calatrava, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, the city’s third-largest hub, was completed in 2016. The new One World Trade Center is the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere and the sixth-tallest building in the world by pinnacle height, with its spire reaching a symbolic 1,776 feet in reference to the year of U.S. independence.

September 11 2001
September 11 2001

Economy:

New York is a global hub of business and commerce. The city is a major center for banking and finance, retailing, world trade, transportation, tourism, real estate, new media, traditional media, advertising, legal services, accountancy, insurance, theater, fashion, and the arts in the United States; while Silicon Alley, metonymous for New York’s broad-spectrum high technology sphere, continues to expand. The Port of New York and New Jersey is also a major economic engine, handling record cargo volume in 2017, over 6.7 million TEUs. New York City’s unemployment rate fell to its record low of 4.0% in September 2018.

Many Fortune 500 corporations are headquartered in New York City, as are a large number of multinational corporations. One out of ten private sector jobs in the city is with a foreign company. New York City has been ranked first among cities across the globe in attracting capital, business, and tourists. This ability to attract foreign investment helped New York City top the FDi Magazine American Cities of the Future ranking for 2013.

Real estate is a major force in the city’s economy, as the total value of all New York City property was assessed at US$1.072 trillion for the 2017 fiscal year, an increase of 10.6% from the previous year with 89% of the increase coming from market effects. The Time Warner Center is the property with the highest-listed market value in the city, at US$1.1 billion in 2006. New York City is home to some of the nation’s—and the world’s—most valuable real estate. 450 Park Avenue was sold on July 2, 2007 for US$510 million, about $1,589 per square foot, breaking the barely month-old record for an American office building of $1,476 per square foot set in the June 2007 sale of 660 Madison Avenue. According to Forbes, in 2014, Manhattan was home to six of the top ten ZIP Codes in the United States by median housing price. Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan commands the highest retail rents in the world, at US$3,000 per square foot in 2017.

Time Warner Center
Time Warner Center

As of 2013, the global advertising agencies of Omnicom Group and Interpublic Group, both based in Manhattan, had combined annual revenues of approximately US$21 billion, reflecting New York City’s role as the top global center for the advertising industry, which is metonymously referred to as “Madison Avenue“. The city’s fashion industry provides approximately 180,000 employees with $11 billion in annual wages.

Other important sectors include medical research and technology, non-profit institutions, and universities. Manufacturing accounts for a significant but declining share of employment, although the city’s garment industry is showing a resurgence in Brooklyn. Food processing is a US$5 billion industry that employs more than 19,000 residents.

Chocolate is New York City’s leading specialty-food export, with up to US$234 million worth of exports each year. Entrepreneurs were forming a “Chocolate District” in Brooklyn as of 2014, while Godiva, one of the world’s largest chocolatiers, continues to be headquartered in Manhattan.

Wall Street:

New York City’s most important economic sector lies in its role as the headquarters for the U.S. financial industry, metonymously known as Wall Street. The city’s securities industry, enumerating 163,400 jobs in August 2013, continues to form the largest segment of the city’s financial sector and an important economic engine, accounting in 2012 for 5 percent of the city’s private sector jobs, 8.5 percent (US$3.8 billion) of its tax revenue, and 22 percent of the city’s total wages, including an average salary of US$360,700. Many large financial companies are headquartered in New York City, and the city is also home to a burgeoning number of financial startup companies.

Wall Street
Wall Street

Many of the world’s largest media conglomerates are also based in the city. Manhattan contained over 500 million square feet of office space in 2015, making it the largest office market in the United States, while Midtown Manhattan, with nearly 400 million square feet in 2015, is the largest central business district in the world.

Silicon Alley:

Silicon Alley, centered in Manhattan, has evolved into a metonym for the sphere encompassing the New York City metropolitan region’s high technology industries involving the Internet, new media, telecommunications, digital media, software development, biotechnology, game design, financial technology (“FinTech”), and other fields within information technology that are supported by its entrepreneurship ecosystem and venture capital investments. In 2015, Silicon Alley generated over US$7.3 billion in venture capital investment across a broad spectrum of high technology enterprises, most based in Manhattan, with others in Brooklyn, Queens, and elsewhere in the region.

Silicon Alley
Silicon Alley

The biotechnology sector is also growing in New York City, based upon the city’s strength in academic scientific research and public and commercial financial support.

Tourism:

Tourism is a vital industry for New York City, which has witnessed a growing combined volume of international and domestic tourists, receiving an eighth consecutive annual record of approximately 62.8 million visitors in 2017. Tourism had generated an all-time high US$61.3 billion in overall economic impact for New York City in 2014, pending 2015 statistics. Approximately 12 million visitors to New York City were from outside the United States, with the highest numbers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, and China.

I Love New York (stylized I ❤ NY) is both a logo and a song that are the basis of an advertising campaign and have been used since 1977 to promote tourism in New York City, and later to promote New York State as well. The trademarked logo, owned by New York State Empire State Development, appears in souvenir shops and brochures throughout the city and state, some licensed, many not. The song is the state song of New York.

I Love NY
I Love NY

Major tourist destinations include Times Square; Broadway theater productions; the Empire State Building; the Statue of Liberty; Ellis Island; the United Nations Headquarters; museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; greenspaces such as Central Park and Washington Square Park; Rockefeller Center; the Manhattan Chinatown; luxury shopping along Fifth and Madison Avenues; and events such as the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village; the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree; the St. Patrick’s Day parade; seasonal activities such as ice skating in Central Park in the wintertime; the Tribeca Film Festival; and free performances in Central Park at Summerstage. Major attractions in the boroughs outside Manhattan include Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and the Unisphere in Queens; the Bronx Zoo; Coney Island, Brooklyn; and the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. The New York Wheel, a 630-foot ferris wheel, was under construction at the northern shore of Staten Island in 2015, overlooking the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor, and the Lower Manhattan skyline.

Central Park
Central Park

Manhattan was on track to have an estimated 90,000 hotel rooms at the end of 2014, a 10% increase from 2013.

Media and Entertainment:

New York is a prominent location for the American entertainment industry, with many films, television series, books, and other media being set there. As of 2012, New York City was the second largest center for filmmaking and television production in the United States, producing about 200 feature films annually, employing 130,000 individuals; the filmed entertainment industry has been growing in New York, contributing nearly US$9 billion to the New York City economy alone as of 2015, and by volume, New York is the world leader in independent film production – one-third of all American independent films are produced in New York City. In the first five months of 2014 alone, location filming for television pilots in New York City exceeded the record production levels for all of 2013, with New York surpassing Los Angeles as the top North American city for the same distinction during the 2013/2014 cycle.

New York City is additionally a center for the advertising, music, newspaper, digital media, and publishing industries and is also the largest media market in North America. Some of the city’s media conglomerates and institutions include Time Warner, the Thomson Reuters Corporation, the Associated Press, Bloomberg L.P., the News Corporation, The New York Times Company, NBCUniversal, the Hearst Corporation, AOL, and Viacom. Seven of the world’s top eight global advertising agency networks have their headquarters in New York. Two of the top three record labels’ headquarters are in New York: Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. Universal Music Group also has offices in New York. New media enterprises are contributing an increasingly important component to the city’s central role in the media sphere.

New York Times
New York Times

More than 200 newspapers and 350 consumer magazines have an office in the city, and the publishing industry employs about 25,000 people. Two of the three national daily newspapers in the United States are New York papers: The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which has won the most Pulitzer Prizes for journalism. Major tabloid newspapers in the city include: The New York Daily News, which was founded in 1919 by Joseph Medill Patterson and The New York Post, founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton. The city also has a comprehensive ethnic press, with 270 newspapers and magazines published in more than 40 languages.

The television and radio industry developed in New York and is a significant employer in the city’s economy. The three major American broadcast networks are all headquartered in New York: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Many cable networks are based in the city as well, including MTV, Fox News, HBO, Showtime, Bravo, Food Network, AMC, and Comedy Central. The City of New York operates a public broadcast service, NYC Media, that has produced several original Emmy Award-winning shows covering music and culture in city neighborhoods and city government.

New York is also a major center for non-commercial educational media. The oldest public-access television channel in the United States is the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, founded in 1971. WNET is the city’s major public television station and a primary source of national Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television programming. WNYC, a public radio station owned by the city until 1997, has the largest public radio audience in the United States.

Transportation:

New York City’s comprehensive transportation system is both complex and extensive.

Rapid Transit:

Mass transit in New York City, most of which runs 24 hours a day, accounts for one in every three users of mass transit in the United States, and two-thirds of the nation’s rail riders live in the New York City Metropolitan Area.

Rail:

The iconic New York City Subway system is the largest rapid transit system in the world when measured by stations in operation, with 472, and by length of routes. Nearly all of New York’s subway system is open 24 hours a day, in contrast to the overnight shutdown common to systems in most cities, including Hong Kong, London, Paris, Seoul, and Tokyo. The New York City Subway is also the busiest metropolitan rail transit system in the Western Hemisphere, with 1.76 billion passenger rides in 2015, while Grand Central Terminal, also referred to as “Grand Central Station”, is the world’s largest railway station by number of train platforms.

NYC Subway
NYC Subway

Public transport is essential in New York City. 54.6% of New Yorkers commuted to work in 2005 using mass transit. This is in contrast to the rest of the United States, where 91% of commuters travel in automobiles to their workplace. According to the New York City Comptroller, workers in the New York City area spend an average of 6 hours and 18 minutes getting to work each week, the longest commute time in the nation among large cities. New York is the only US city in which a majority (52%) of households do not have a car; only 22% of Manhattanites own a car. Due to their high usage of mass transit, New Yorkers spend less of their household income on transportation than the national average, saving $19 billion annually on transportation compared to other urban Americans.

New York City’s commuter rail network is the largest in North America. The rail network, connecting New York City to its suburbs, consists of the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and New Jersey Transit. The combined systems converge at Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station and contain more than 250 stations and 20 rail lines.

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal

In Queens, the elevated AirTrain people mover system connects JFK International Airport to the New York City Subway and the Long Island Rail Road; a separate AirTrain system is planned alongside the Grand Central Parkway to connect LaGuardia Airport to these transit systems. For intercity rail, New York City is served by Amtrak, whose busiest station by a significant margin is Pennsylvania Station on the West Side of Manhattan, from which Amtrak provides connections to Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. along the Northeast Corridor, and long-distance train service to other North American cities.

The Staten Island Railway rapid transit system solely serves Staten Island, operating 24 hours a day. The Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH train) links Midtown and Lower Manhattan to northeastern New Jersey, primarily Hoboken, Jersey City, and Newark. Like the New York City Subway, the PATH operates 24 hours a day; meaning three of the six rapid transit systems in the world which operate on 24-hour schedules are wholly or partly in New York.

Multibillion-dollar heavy rail transit projects under construction in New York City include the Second Avenue Subway, the East Side Access project, and the 7 Subway Extension.

Buses:

New York City’s public bus fleet runs 24/7 and is the largest in North America. The Port Authority Bus Terminal, the main intercity bus terminal of the city, serves 7,000 buses and 200,000 commuters daily, making it the busiest bus station in the world.

Port Authority Bus Terminal
Port Authority Bus Terminal

Air:

New York’s airspace is the busiest in the United States and one of the world’s busiest air transportation corridors. The three busiest airports in the New York metropolitan area include John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport; 130.5 million travelers used these three airports in 2016, and the city’s airspace is the busiest in the nation.

JFK Airport
JFK Airport

JFK and Newark Liberty were the busiest and fourth busiest U.S. gateways for international air passengers, respectively, in 2012; as of 2011, JFK was the busiest airport for international passengers in North America. Plans have advanced to expand passenger volume at a fourth airport, Stewart International Airport near Newburgh, New York, by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Plans were announced in July 2015 to entirely rebuild LaGuardia Airport in a multibillion-dollar project to replace its aging facilities. Other commercial airports in or serving the New York metropolitan area include Long Island MacArthur Airport, Trenton–Mercer Airport and Westchester County Airport. The primary general aviation airport serving the area is Teterboro Airport.

Ferries:

The Staten Island Ferry is the world’s busiest ferry route, carrying over 23 million passengers from July 2015 through June 2016 on the 5.2-mile route between Staten Island and Lower Manhattan and running 24 hours a day. Other ferry systems shuttle commuters between Manhattan and other locales within the city and the metropolitan area.

Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry

NYC Ferry, a NYCEDC initiative with routes planned to travel to all five boroughs, was launched in 2017, with second graders choosing the names of the ferries. Meanwhile, Seastreak ferry announced construction of a 600-passenger high-speed luxury ferry in September 2016, to shuttle riders between the Jersey Shore and Manhattan, anticipated to start service in 2017; this would be the largest vessel in its class.

Taxis, Transport Startups, and Trams:

Other features of the city’s transportation infrastructure encompass more than 12,000 yellow taxicabs; various competing startup transportation network companies; and an aerial tramway that transports commuters between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan Island. Ride-sharing services have become significant competition for cab drivers in New York.

Yellow Cab
Yellow Cab

Streets and Highways:

Despite New York’s heavy reliance on its vast public transit system, streets are a defining feature of the city. Manhattan’s street grid plan greatly influenced the city’s physical development. Several of the city’s streets and avenues, like Broadway, Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and Seventh Avenue are also used as metonyms for national industries there: the theater, finance, advertising, and fashion organizations, respectively.

New York City also has an extensive web of expressways and parkways, which link the city’s boroughs to each other and to northern New Jersey, Westchester County, Long Island, and southwestern Connecticut through various bridges and tunnels. Because these highways serve millions of outer borough and suburban residents who commute into Manhattan, it is quite common for motorists to be stranded for hours in traffic jams that are a daily occurrence, particularly during rush hour.

New York City is also known for its rules regarding turning at red lights. Unlike the rest of the United States, New York State prohibits right or left turns on red in cities with a population greater than one million, to reduce traffic collisions and increase pedestrian safety. In New York City, therefore, all turns at red lights are illegal unless a sign permitting such maneuvers is present.

River Crossings:

New York City is located on one of the world’s largest natural harbors, and the boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island are coterminous with islands of the same names, while Queens and Brooklyn are located at the west end of the larger Long Island, and The Bronx is located at the southern tip of New York State’s mainland. This situation of boroughs separated by water led to the development of an extensive infrastructure of well-known bridges and tunnels.

The George Washington Bridge is the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge, connecting Manhattan to Bergen County, New Jersey.

George Washington Bridge
George Washington Bridge

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the Americas and one of the world’s longest. The Brooklyn Bridge is an icon of the city itself. The towers of the Brooklyn Bridge are built of limestone, granite, and Rosendale cement, and their architectural style is neo-Gothic, with characteristic pointed arches above the passageways through the stone towers. This bridge was also the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening until 1903, and is the first steel-wire suspension bridge. The Queensboro Bridge is an important piece of cantilever architecture. The Manhattan Bridge, opened in 1909, is considered to be the forerunner of modern suspension bridges, and its design served as the model for many of the long-span suspension bridges around the world; the Manhattan Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, Triborough Bridge, and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are all examples of Structural Expressionism.

Verrazano Narrows Bridge
Verrazano Narrows Bridge

Manhattan Island is linked to New York City’s outer boroughs and New Jersey by several tunnels as well. The Lincoln Tunnel, which carries 120,000 vehicles a day under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Midtown Manhattan, is the busiest vehicular tunnel in the world. The tunnel was built instead of a bridge to allow unfettered passage of large passenger and cargo ships that sailed through New York Harbor and up the Hudson River to Manhattan’s piers. The Holland Tunnel, connecting Lower Manhattan to Jersey City, New Jersey, was the world’s first mechanically ventilated vehicular tunnel when it opened in 1927. The Queens-Midtown Tunnel, built to relieve congestion on the bridges connecting Manhattan with Queens and Brooklyn, was the largest non-federal project in its time when it was completed in 1940. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first person to drive through it. The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel (officially known as the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel) runs underneath Battery Park and connects the Financial District at the southern tip of Manhattan to Red Hook in Brooklyn.

The Flag:

The city flag is a vertical tricolor in blue, white, and orange and charged in the center bar with the Seal of New York City in blue. The tricolor design is derived from the flag of the Dutch Republic—the Prince’s Flag—as used in New Amsterdam in 1625.

New York City Flag
New York City Flag

History:

For the first few hundred years of its existence, the City of New York lacked an official flag and seal. By the end of the 19th century, the city was flying an unofficial flag featuring a round blue seal on a white field.

In 1914, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the installation of the first mayor under English rule, the City Art Commission appointed a blue-ribbon committee to create the city’s first official seal and flag. The committee consulted with the New-York Historical Society to study historical seals used by city government under the Dutch and English, to incorporate their symbolism into the new city seal and flag.

The Committee described their proposed flag this way:

In our flag, the colors are Dutch, the arms are English, the crest is distinctively American, but the flag as such is the flag of the City, which has grown from these beginnings to be the home of all nations, the great cosmopolitan city of the world, the City of New York.

— Committee of the Art Commission Associates, Seal and Flag of the City of New York, p. 84

The flag was approved on April 6, 1915 and first unveiled to the public on June 24.

The current design dates from December 30, 1977, when the seal was subtly modified. The date was changed from 1664 (when the Kingdom of England took possession) to 1625. The change was proposed by the Irish-born Paul O’Dwyer, president of the City Council, to emphasize the Dutch contributions to the city’s history and downplay the British legacy. The choice of date was controversial at the time; an aide to First Deputy Mayor James A. Cavanagh concluded: “In researching the validity of this proposal, I find no basis for 1625 as the founding date.” An aide to then-Mayor Abe Beame suggested that 1624 would be a more accurate date, as that was when the city was actually chartered as a legal Dutch entity. Author Edwin G. Burrows had another perspective on the debate, saying “You have to wonder if they didn’t pick either 1626 or 1625 just to beat Boston, settled in 1630.” Nonetheless, the mayor signed O’Dwyer’s legislation.

Design:

Section 2-103 of the New York City Administrative Code (“Official city flag”) establishes the design as follows:

A flag combining the colors orange, white and blue arranged in perpendicular bars of equal dimensions (the blue being nearest to the flagstaff) with the standard design of the seal of the city in blue upon the middle, or white bar, omitting the legend Sigillum Civitatis Novi Eboraci, which colors shall be the same as those of the flag of the United Netherlands in use in the year sixteen hundred twenty-five.

Colors:

The blue, white and orange refer to the colors of the historical Dutch flag. Orange is the color the Dutch adopted after their leader William I, Prince of Orange. The Committee’s report stated that “the order of arrangement follows the practice found in the French, Belgian and other tri-colors, of placing the darkest bar next to the staff.”

The New-York Historical Society originally proposed adopting a horizontal tricolor to be more reflective of the historical Dutch flags, but the Committee kept the vertical orientation.

Symbolism:

  • Bald eagle: The symbol of the United States of America
  • Native American: The original inhabitants of the area
  • Seaman: Symbolizes the colonizers of the area
  • Beaver: Symbolizes the Dutch West India Company, which was the first company in New York (originally known as Nieuw Amsterdam). Also the official animal of New York State.
  • Windmill: Remembers the Dutch history of the city and the prosperous industry of milling flour.
  • Flour barrels: In the 17th century, New York had been granted a short-lived monopoly on milling, which established the fledgling colony as a commercial powerhouse
  • 1625: Originally 1664, the year was later changed to honor the establishment of New Amsterdam, which was actually settled in 1624. The 1625 date has been described as “arbitrary” by the public historian at the New-York Historical Society and “simply wrong” by Michael Miscione, the Manhattan borough historian.

Inconsistency:

Although the City Code states that the seal’s Latin legend is to be omitted from the flag, the city’s own webpage shows a flag with the motto intact.

Use:

The flag is sometimes, but rarely, flown without the seal at the center, making it a simple blue, white, and orange tricolor.

The flag is flown frequently throughout the city. It is always flown at city-owned buildings such as New York City Hall, as well as buildings occupied by city departments or institutions, and it is also flown in city parks.

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