New York – The Empire State

Introduction:

New York is a state in the northeastern United States.  New York was one of the original Thirteen Colonies that formed the United States being the 11th state to ratify the Constitution, doing so on July 26, 1788.

With an estimated 19.85 million residents in 2017, it is the fourth most populous state. To differentiate from its city with the same name, it is sometimes called New York State.  The state’s most populous city, New York City, makes up over 40% of the state’s population.  Two-thirds of the state’s population lives in the New York metropolitan area, and nearly 40% lives on Long Island.

New York City Skyline

The state and city were both named for the 17th century Duke of York, the future King James II of England.  With an estimated population of 8.55 million in 2015, New York City is the most populous city in the United States.  The next four most populous cities in the state are Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers, and Syracuse, while the state capital is Albany.

Geography:

New York has a diverse geography.  The state is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south and Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont to the east. The state has a maritime border with Rhode Island, east of Long Island, as well as an international border with the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the north and Ontario to the northwest.

New York in the United States

The southern part of the state is in the Atlantic Coastal Plain and includes Long Island and several smaller associated islands, as well as New York City and the lower Hudson River Valley.  The large Upstate New York region comprises several ranges of the wider Appalachian Mountains, and the Adirondack Mountains in the Northeastern lobe of the state.

Adirondack Peaks

Two major river valleys – the north-south Hudson River Valley and the east-west Mohawk River Valley – bisect these more mountainous regions.  Western New York is considered part of the Great Lakes Region and borders Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Niagara Falls. The central part of the state is dominated by the Finger Lakes, a popular vacation and tourist destination.

Relief Map of New York State

New York covers 54,555 square miles and ranks as the 27th largest state by size.

History:

The tribes in what is now New York were predominantly Iroquois and Algonquin.  Long Island was divided roughly in half between the Wampanoag and Lenape.  The Lenape also controlled most of the region surrounding New York Harbor.  North of the Lenape was a third Algonquin nation, the Mohicans. Starting north of them, from east to west, were three Iroquoian nations: the Mohawk, the original Iroquois and the Petun.  South of them, divided roughly along Appalachia, were the Susquehannock and the Erie.

In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian explorer in the service of the French crown, explored the Atlantic coast of North America between the Carolinas and Newfoundland, including New York Harbor and Narragansett Bay.  On April 17, 1524, Verrazzano entered New York Bay, by way of the strait now called the Narrows into the northern bay which he named Santa Margherita, in honor of the King of France’s sister.  Verrazzano described it as “a vast coastline with a deep delta in which every kind of ship could pass” and he adds: “that it extends inland for a league and opens up to form a beautiful lake. This vast sheet of water swarmed with native boats”.  He landed on the tip of Manhattan and possibly on the furthest point of Long Island.

In 1540, French traders from New France built a chateau on Castle Island, within present-day Albany; it was abandoned the following year due to flooding. In 1614, the Dutch, under the command of Hendrick Corstiaensen, rebuilt the French chateau, which they called Fort Nassau. Fort Nassau was the first Dutch settlement in North America, and was located along the Hudson River, also within present-day Albany. The small fort served as a trading post and warehouse. Located on the Hudson River flood plain, the rudimentary “fort” was washed away by flooding in 1617, and abandoned for good after Fort Orange (New Netherland) was built nearby in 1623.

New Amsterdam – The Tip of Present-Day Manhattan

Henry Hudson‘s 1609 voyage marked the beginning of European involvement with the area. Sailing for the Dutch East India Company and looking for a passage to Asia, he entered the Upper New York Bay on September 11 of that year.  Word of his findings encouraged Dutch merchants to explore the coast in search for profitable fur trading with local Native American tribes.

During the 17th century, Dutch trading posts established for the trade of pelts from the Lenape, Iroquois, and other tribes were founded in the colony of New Netherland.  The English captured the colony during the Second Anglo-Dutch War and governed it as the Province of New York although the city of New York would shuffle between the Dutch and the English several times over the years leading up to 1675.

New York endorsed the Declaration of Independence on July 9, 1776.  On July 30, 1777, George Clinton was inaugurated as the first Governor of New York at Kingston.

New York 1777

About one-third of the battles of the American Revolutionary War took place in New York; the first major battle after U.S. independence was declared – and the largest battle of the entire war – was fought in New York at the Battle of Long Island (a.k.a. Battle of Brooklyn) in August 1776.  After their victory, the British occupied New York City, making it their military and political base of operations in North America for the duration of the conflict, and consequently the focus of General George Washington’s intelligence network.  The first of two major British armies were captured by the Continental Army at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, a success that influenced France to ally with the revolutionaries.  The state constitution was enacted in 1777. New York became the 11th state to ratify the United States Constitution.

New York City was the national capital under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, the first government.  New York remained the national capital under the new constitution until 1790, and was the site of the inauguration of President George Washington, the drafting of the United States Bill of Rights, and the first session of the United States Supreme Court.

Transportation in western New York was by expensive wagons on muddy roads before canals opened up the rich farm lands to long-distance traffic. Governor DeWitt Clinton promoted the Erie Canal that connected New York City to the Great Lakes, by the Hudson River, the new canal, and the rivers and lakes. Work commenced in 1817, and the Erie Canal opened in 1825.  It was an engineering marvel which opened up vast areas of New York to commerce and settlement.  It enabled Great Lakes port cities such as Buffalo and Rochester to grow and prosper.  It also connected the burgeoning agricultural production of the Midwest and shipping on the Great Lakes, with the port of New York City. Improving transportation, it enabled additional population migration to territories west of New York. After 1850, railroads largely replaced the canal.

Erie Canal

New York City was a major ocean port and had extensive traffic importing cotton from the South and exporting manufacturing goods. Nearly half of the state’s exports were related to cotton.  At the same time, activism for abolitionism was strong upstate, where some communities provided stops on the Underground Railroad. Upstate, and New York City, gave strong support for the American Civil War.

Since the early 19th century, New York City has been the largest port of entry for legal immigration into the United States.  Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892, and operated as a central immigration center until the National Origins Act was passed in 1924, reducing immigration. After that date, the only immigrants to pass through were displaced persons or war refugees.  The island ceased all immigration processing on November 12, 1954.  More than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. More than 100 million Americans across the United States can trace their ancestry to these immigrants.

Ellis Island

On September 11, 2001, two of four hijacked planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the original World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, and the towers collapsed. 7 World Trade Center also collapsed due to damage from fires. The other buildings of the World Trade Center complex were damaged beyond repair and demolished soon thereafter. The collapse of the Twin Towers caused extensive damage and resulted in the deaths of 2,753 victims, including 147 aboard the two planes. Since September 11, most of Lower Manhattan has been restored. In the years since, many rescue workers and residents of the area have developed several life-threatening illnesses, and some have died.

September 11 2001

A memorial at the site, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, was opened to the public on September 11, 2011.  A permanent museum later opened at the site on March 21, 2014. Upon its completion in 2014, the new One World Trade Center became the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere.

On October 29 and 30, 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused extensive destruction of the state’s shorelines, ravaging portions of New York City and Long Island with record-high storm surge, with severe flooding and high winds causing power outages for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, and leading to gasoline shortages and disruption of mass transit systems.

Hurricane Sandy Flooding

Economy:

New York’s gross state product in 2015 was $1.5 trillion.  If New York State were an independent nation, it would rank as the 12th or 13th largest economy in the world, depending upon international currency fluctuations.

Anchored by Wall Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, New York City has been called both the most economically powerful city and the leading financial center of the world.

New York Stock Exchange

Silicon Alley, centered in New York City, has evolved into a metonym for the sphere encompassing the New York City metropolitan region’s high technology and entrepreneurship ecosystem; in 2015, Silicon Alley generated over US$7.3 billion in venture capital investment.  High tech industries including digital media, biotechnology, software development, game design, and other fields in information technology are growing, bolstered by New York City’s position at the terminus of several transatlantic fiber optic trunk lines, its intellectual capital, as well as its growing outdoor wireless connectivity.

Silicon Alley

Albany, Saratoga County, Rensselaer County, and the Hudson Valley, collectively recognized as eastern New York’s Tech Valley, have experienced significant growth in the computer hardware side of the high-technology industry, with great strides in the nanotechnology sector, digital electronics design, and water- and electricity-dependent integrated microchip circuit manufacturing, involving companies including IBM and its Thomas J. Watson Research Center, and the three foreign-owned firms, GlobalFoundries, Samsung, and Taiwan Semiconductor, among others.

Creative industries, which are concerned with generating and distributing knowledge and information, such as new media, digital media, film and television production, advertising, fashion, design, and architecture, account for a growing share of employment, with New York City possessing a strong competitive advantage in these industries.

I Love New York (stylized I ❤ NY) is a slogan, a logo and a song that are the basis of an advertising campaign and has been used since 1977 to promote tourism in the state of New York, including New York City.

I Love NY

The Broadway League reported that Broadway shows sold approximately US$1.27 billion worth of tickets in the 2013–2014 season.

New York exports a wide variety of goods such as prepared foods, computers and electronics, cut diamonds, and other commodities.

New York is the nation’s third-largest grape producing state, and second-largest wine producer by volume, behind California.

New York is a major agricultural producer overall, ranking among the top five states for agricultural products including maple syrup, apples, cherries, cabbage, dairy products, onions, and potatoes.  The state is the largest producer of cabbage in the U.S.  The state has about a quarter of its land in farms and produced $3.4 billion in agricultural products in 2001.

Transportation:

In addition to the well-known New York City Subway system – which is confined within New York City – four suburban commuter railroad systems enter and leave the city: the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, Port Authority Trans-Hudson, and five of New Jersey Transit’s rail lines.  Other cities and towns in New York have urban and regional public transportation.

New York City Subway

Portions of the transportation system are intermodal, allowing travelers to switch easily from one mode of transportation to another. One of the most notable examples is AirTrain JFK which allows rail passengers to travel directly to terminals at John F. Kennedy International Airport as well as to the underground New York City Subway system.

JFK Airport Overhead

New York State contains 16 airports with varying degrees of commercial service with the two largest being LaGuardia for domestic services and John F. Kennedy International Airport for both domestic and international services.  Both of these airports are located in New York City proper.

LaGuardia Airport

The Flag:

The flag of the state of New York is the coat of arms on a solid blue background. The state seal of New York is the coat of arms surrounded by the words “The Great Seal of the State of New York.”  The legislature changed the field of the flag from buff to blue by a law enacted on April 2, 1901.

Flag of New York State 1778 to 1901

The shield displays a masted ship and a sloop on the Hudson River (symbols of inland and foreign commerce), bordered by a grassy shore and a mountain range in the background with the sun rising behind it.

New York State Flag

The shield has two supporters:

Left: Liberty, with the Revolutionary imagery of a Phrygian cap raised on a pole. Her left foot treads upon a crown that represents freedom from the British monarchy that once ruled what is now New York as a colony.

Right: Justice, wearing a blindfold (representing impartiality) and holding scales (representing fairness) and a sword.

A banner below the shield shows the motto Excelsior, a Latin word commonly translated as “Ever Upward.”

The shield is surmounted by a crest consisting of an eagle surmounting a world globe.

State Nickname:

New York is nicknamed “The Empire State” for its national and global significance.  Today people associate the nickname with the Empire State Building, but the nickname came first. The actual origin of New York’s nickname is unknown; some sources credit George Washington, who referred to New York State in December 1784 as “at present the seat of the Empire.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top