New York City
New York City was originally a trading post controlled by the Dutch in 1624. It was referred to as New Amsterdam until it the British took control of it 1664 and renamed it, New York, after the current Duke of York.
New York was the United States’ capital from 1785 to 1790. Though it may not have continued being the US’s capital it has remained its largest city since then. It currently has an estimated population of 8.3 million and is the US’s most populous city. For perspective, NYC has more than twice as many residents as LA which is the US’s second-most populous city.
You will quickly find that NYC is the “most” in almost every category. In fact, it is the largest metropolitan area in the world! It is located on one of the world’s largest natural harbors.
One of the characteristics most commonly associated with NYC is its fast pace. There is even a common phrase that comes from this, New York Minute, which alludes to NYC seeming to run on a different measurement of time all-together.
New York is sometimes referred to as Gotham or the Big Apple. Gotham became a common nickname for NYC after Washington Irving used it to describe the city and its people in 1807 in his periodical, Salmagundi. Big Apple was originally in reference to the prizes or “big apples” awarded at many of the horse racing courses around NYC around the 1920s.
Likely, the best-known attraction of NYC and the symbol of America is the Statue of Liberty. Did you know that France gifted it to America to commemorate their alliance during the American Revolution? However, when you start to dig into this the proposing party, financial backers, and designer had some deeper motives in this gift. Largely their hope was to inspire the people of French to demand more freedom for themselves. The statue was shipped as 350 pieces and took four months to assemble once in NYC.
New York is the most linguistically diverse city in the world! Can you believe 800 languages are spoken there?
It is also known for its own distinct regional speech pattern that is sometimes referred to as Brooklynese. It is characterized by the sound not appearing at the end of a syllable or immediately before a consonant. This means they pronounce New York as “New Yawk”. It is considered one of the most recognizable American accents.
59% Christian (33% Roman Catholic and 23% Protestant), 24% no organized religious affiliation (3% atheist), 8% Jewish (more than half of whom live in Brooklyn), and 3% Muslim.
Precolonial era NYC was occupied by Algonquian Native Americans. The first documented visit to New York by a European as Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano claimed it for the French Crown, in 1524. In 1525 a Spanish expedition came to New York Harbor and chartered the mouth of the Hudson River. Later in 1609 Henry Hudson, an English explorer, rediscovered New York Harbor when he was looking for the Northwest Passage to the Orient for the Dutch East India Company.
New York had a permanent European presence from 1624. It was a fur trading post controlled by the Dutch. It was referred to as New Amsterdam until it the British took control of it 1664 and renamed it, New York, after the current Duke of York.
In 1785 New York City was made the US capital. George Washington was inaugurated there, the first Congress and Supreme Court assembled for the first time there, and the Bill of Rights was drafted on Wall Street! In 1790 it surpassed Philadelphia and became the largest city in the US. However, in spite of that by the end of that year, the US capital was moved to Philadelphia.
Brooklyn which was previously a separate city was merged with the counties of New York, Richmond, and Queens to form the modern city of New York in 1898. Later in 1904, the opening of the subway system helped to bind this newly formed city.
In the early 1920s, it became the most populous urbanized area in the world (overtaking London). By the 1930s it became the first megacity in human history with more than 10 million people in the metropolitan area.
Battles, Movements, And Terrorism
Colonial Times: 1647-1702
Peter Stuyvesant started his position as the last Director-General of New Netherland in 1647, but by 1664 he surrendered the area to Colonel Richard Nicolls and his English troops (without bloodshed). During Stuyvesant’s time, the population grew from 2,000 to 8,000. In the terms of his surrender, he ensured the Dutch residents could remain in the colony and would be allowed religious freedom. The English renamed the city New York.
American Revolution in New York: 1776
Starting in 1765 and lasting for 10 years, the Sons of Liberty clashed with the British troops stationed there.
In August of 1776, the largest battle of the American Revolution (the Battle of Long Island) took place in modern-day Brooklyn. The British won this battle and quickly made New York their military and political base. The British Crown promised freedom to all fighters, attracting nearly 10,000 escaped slaved into the city. An attempt at a peaceful resolution was made that September at the Conference House on Staten Island (delegates included Benjamin Franklin).
Stonewall Riots – Legalization of Same-Sex Marriages: June 1969 to June 2011
These riots were spontaneous and violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against the police raid that took place in the early morning of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. They are considered the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the fight of LGBT rights that we see today.
Present-day New York City is home to a community of an estimated 570,000 gay and bisexual individuals, which makes it the largest in the US and one of the largest in the world.
On June 24, 2011, same-sex marriages were legalized.
September 11th, 2001
Two highjacked airplanes were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center. This destroyed the towers and killed 2,192 civilians, 343 firefighters, and 71 law enforcement officers. The North Tower now is the tallest building ever to be destroyed anywhere.
In November 2014, One World Trade Center was opened in the place of its predecessors. It is the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere and the 6th tallest in the world. Its spire reaches 1,776 feet which is a reference to the year of US independence. The area also has a 9/11 memorial and museum.
The area’s subway terminal was also destroyed. In 2016, an 800,000 square feet terminal named the World Trade Center Transportation Hub was completed in its place and became the city’s third-largest hub.
Occupy Wall Street Protests: September 17, 2011
These protests in Zuccotti Park in the Financial District received global attention and spread the message of the Occupy movement which stood against social and economic inequality.
With more than 3.2 million of its residents born outside the US, New York has the world’s largest foreign-born population of any city.
New York has long been a major port of entry for immigrants to the US. Ellis Island just off the coast of Manhattan received more than 12 million European Immigrants from 1892 to 1924. The densely populated immigrant neighborhoods in the Lower East Side are where the term Melting Pot was first created. By 1900 Germans were the largest immigrant population followed by Irish, Jews, and Italians.
As of 2013, more than half of all children born in the city are born to immigrant mothers. No longer does any single country region of origin dominate.
It was the Dutch that established the first colony in this area in 1624. However, during the hundred years of British rule that followed Dutch immigration to America came to almost a complete stop.
The English captured the area in 1664 and began their permanent occupation a decade later. In the 2012 census, it was estimated that were roughly 137,000 English Americans in the area.
Pietro Caesare Alberti, in 1635, became the first Italian to reside in New York which was a Dutch colony at the time.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, New York saw the largest wave of Italian immigration to the US. From 1820-1978 a total of 5.3 million Italians immigrated to the US. The largest wave which occurred from 1880 to 1914 brought 4 million Italians to the US. These Italians were mostly from Southern Italian provinces that were mostly rural, agricultural, and impoverished by centuries of foreign misrule and the heavy tax burdens imposed after the Italian unification in 1861. After the unification, Italy actually encouraged emigration to ease its economic pressures in the south. After the American Civil War ended in 1865 and resulted in half a million Americans wounded or killed, America recruited immigrant workers from Italy and elsewhere to fill the labor shortage.
There have been several neighborhoods of NYC known as “Little Italy” and many featured people from different regions of Italy on each cross street. Italian immigrants preferred to live nearest to people from the same region of Italy.
In the 2000 census, 692,739 were of Italian ancestry, making them the largest European ethnic group in the city.
Over 200,000 Irish immigrants were living in New York by 1860, making up almost a quarter of the city’s population. The Great Irish Famine which lasted from 1845 to 1849 brought a large number of Irish immigrants.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865) wealthy men could pay the equivalent of what would be $6,229 today to hire someone to go to war in their place. The most visible participants were the Irish working class, which led to the Draft Riots of 1863. The riots became attacks on New York’s elite and led to attacks on black New Yorkers because of a decade of fierce competition for work between the two groups. It was one of the worst periods of civil unrest in American history. By 1865, New York’s black population fell below 10,000 (it hadn’t been so low since 1820) and the white working-class established dominance.
In the 2012 Census, there were approximately 385,000 Irish Americans in the city.
Escaping economic hardship, political unrest, riots, rebellion, and eventually a revolution in 1848 brought more than a million Germans to the US from 1845-1855. In 1855 New York had the world’s third-largest population of Germans, only outranked by Berlin and Vienna. By 1860 Germans made up 25% of New York’s population.
Differing from other immigrant populations, the Germans were usually educated with desired skills and crafts. They frequently assumed jobs as bakers and cabinet makers, worked in the construction business or played major roles in the growth of trade unions.
In the 2012 Census, there were approximately 253,000 German Americans in the city.
Though a small portion of the city’s African Americans were voluntary immigrants from the Caribbean, Latin America, and modern Sub-Saharan African nations the majority were forcibly abducted from their villages in West and Central Africa and brought to America as slaves. After the abolition of slavery in New York in 1827, NYC became the largest pre-Civil War urban concentration of free African-Americans. Many organizations were established during this time in NYC to advance the community.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century with the rise of violence in relation to Jim Crow laws in the south, there was a mass migration of African Americans to New York City. At this same time, there was a transition happening in NYC which saw the center of African American power and demography shift from other districts to Harlem.
By 1916 NYC has had the largest urban African diaspora in all North America. In the 1920s African Americans of NYC experienced a boom in literary and cultural life known as the Harlem Renaissance.
In the 2010 Census, there were over 2 million black residents in the city. Making it the largest black population of any US city.
For 36 years beginning in 1881, the US experienced the largest wave of Jewish immigrants. It followed the assassination of Alexander II of Russia which was largely blamed on “the Jews”. These were also the first Russian immigrants to the US. They also came during the 1917 Russian Revolution. Russian (Soviet) Jews also migrated during the 1970s, after Jews began to be granted exit visas in growing numbers. Most of the Jews leaving Russia at this time went to either Israel or the US.
Another wave of Russians arrived in NYC after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This wave had a greater mix of ethnic Russians and Russian Christians.
NYC is still the leading gateway for Russian immigrants into the US.
In the 2012 Census, there were approximately 223,000 Russian Americans in the city. Approximately 100,000 of whom were born in Russia.
In the early 1800s, there was an influx of German and Polish Jews following the Napoleonic wars.
In the mid-1800s Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish Jews immigrated in large numbers.
Many of the German Jews were wealthy by this time and moved to uptown Manhattan to get away from the Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe and other immigrants settling in the Lower East Side. However, many of these Eastern European immigrants worked for these “uptown” German Jews in their factories.
Sephardic Jews (including Syrian Jews) have lived in NYC since the late 1800s.
For 36 years beginning in 1881, the US experienced the largest wave of Jewish immigrants (2 million), more than 1 million of which went to NYC. It followed the assassination of Alexander II of Russia which was largely blamed on “the Jews”.
In the 1980s and 1990s, there was another wave of Jewish immigrants (Ashkenazi and Bukharian Jews) coming from what was the Soviet Union.
In the 2012 Census, there were approximately 1.5 million Jewish Americans in the city, 13% of the city’s population. This makes it the largest Jewish and Israeli community outside of Israel. It is comprised of many diverse sects, most of which are from the Middle East and Eastern Europe. It is also home to a rapidly growing Orthodox Jewish population, which is also the largest outside of Israel.
The largest number of black immigrants, in the early 1900s, were English-speaking Caribbeans who settled mainly in NYC. Many of these were young, unmarried men.
Though most Caribbeans were Anglican they were denied entry to white Episcopal churches so they formed their own such as Saint Augustine and Christ Church Cathedral.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, there have been large numbers of people coming to NYC from Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.
During the US occupation in Haiti in the 1920s and 1930s, many migrated and established communities in Harlem where they joined the many African Americans who were contributing to the Harlem Renaissance.
Large waves of Haitians arrived from 1957 to 1986 during the Duvalier era until Baby Doc was ousted.
Statistics estimate there are 186,000 Jamaicans and 156,000 Haitians in NYC. However, it is believed the number of Jamaicans is closer to 600,000 and Haitians closer to 400,000.
Chinese immigrants are documented to have first arrived in NYC in the 1830s and to have been sailors and peddlers. Through the 1800s many Chinese immigrants settled in Lower Manhattan. In the 1870s a wave arrived searching for gold.
In 1882 a Chinese Exclusion Act was put in place and declined the number of Chinese immigrants until it was lifted in 1968 and the population skyrocketed.
NYC’s famous Chinatown is divided into two parts, the western and the older part is dominated by Cantonese, and the eastern and newer part which is mostly Fujian. The earlier Chinese settlers were Cantonese and came from Hong Kong, Taishan, and Shanghai.
In the 2012 Census, 6.3% of New York City’s population was Chinese Americans, the largest population of ethnic Chinese outside of Asia.
In the 1880s and 1940s, NYC had a neighborhood called Little Syria. It was mostly populated by Christians who emigrated from an area that is known today as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine from 1880 to 1924. Most were Arab speaking and were escaping religious persecution and poverty in their homelands that were under the control of the Ottoman Empire. This neighborhood was NYC's first community of Middle Eastern immigrants and was home to the famous writer Kahlil Gibran among other cultural, educational, and journalistic minds.
The second wave of Arab immigrants arrived in NYC after 1965 as citizens of the sovereign nations Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan. Many of the immigrants in this second wave were Muslim.
There are now more than a hundred mosques to serve Muslims in NYC, however, Christian Arabs still outnumber Muslim Arabs. Both religious identity and nationality have greatly shaped the borders of NYC’s current Arab communities.
In the 2012 Census, there were approximately 160,000 Arab Americans in the city, with the highest concentration in Brooklyn. They represent more than 12 nationalities and 3 major religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani & Sri Lankan Americans
In 1964 Indians were able to become naturalized as US citizens which lead to the exponential growth of Indian immigrants in the US. Prior to that many Indian Americans came to the US via Indian communities in other nations. Some of these countries include the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Jamaica. Prior to 1964 most Indians in America were working in agriculture or constructing railroads, but afterward most consisted of physicians, engineers, financiers, scientists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and businesspeople. NYC is home to 20% of the US’s Indian American population and has more than 20 Little India neighborhoods.
Since the 1970s Bangladeshis have been able to legally migrate to the US through the Diversity Visa Program/Lottery. 2011 statistics report there are over 74,000 the Bangladeshi Americans in NYC.
2006 statistics report there are 60,000 Pakistani Americans in NYC. It is the largest concentration of Pakistani Americans in any US city.
Staten Island has developed one of the largest Sri Lankan communities outside Sri Lanka. It is estimated that there are at least 5,000 Sri Lankan Americans on Staten Island alone.
Puerto Ricans have been in NYC since the mid-19th century when Puerto Rico was still a Spanish Colony. After the Spanish American War in 1898 and Puerto Rico became a US possession a large wave of Puerto Ricans migrated to New York. However, the largest migration happened in the 1950s. Currently, the population of Puerto Rican Americans in NYC is around 800,000.
Dominican Americans are the fifth-largest national group in NYC, behind Irish, Italian, German, and Puerto Rican. It was estimated in 2009 that they make up almost 25% of NYC’s Latino Population. In 2006 there were 609,885 in NYC. There are records of Dominicans in the US from the late 19th century and NYC has had a community since 1970. After the fall of the Rafael Trujillo military regime in the 1960s, they migrated in large waves.
Mexicans are the third-largest Latino population in NYC making up about 14% of the total Latino population of the city. The remaining 23% are from countries in Central and South America.
Recent statistics report NYC’s Latino population around 2.5 million or 29% of the city’s population. It is estimated that 58% of this population were born in the US and 42% were born outside the US.
After WWII there was a post-war economic boom with many housing developments. New York emerged as the leading city of the world and Wall Street leading America’s place the world’s dominant economic power. The UN headquarters which was complete in 1952 in NYC made it a source of global geopolitical influence. The rise of abstract expressionism led to NYC displacing Paris as the center of the art world.
The 1970s and industrial restructuring brought job losses, economic problems, and rising crime rates. While the 1980s brought financial growth crime rates continued to increase until the early 1990s when police strategies were revised, and economic opportunities were improved.
Present-day New York is home to the highest number of billionaires of any city in the world, but it also has 78.676 homeless people as of 2018.
It is home to two of the world’s largest stock exchanges and is the most financially powerful city in the world. It is a global hub for banking, finance, retail, world trade, transportation, tourism, real estate, new media, traditional media, advertising, legal services, accountancy, medical research, insurance, theater, fashion, and the arts. Many Fortune 500 companies are headquartered here. NYC’s port is also a major economic engine for the city. Another major economic force is the Real Estate market with the city’s property being accessed at $1.072 trillion total value in 2017. Another vital industry to NYC is Tourism which generated $61.3 billion in overall economic impact in 2014.
Infostructure, Urban Planning & Architecture
The city receives its drinking water from the Catskill Mountains watershed which has undisturbed natural water filtration. This makes NYC one of only four major cities in the US that has drinking water pure enough to not require purification by water treatment plants.
In 1857 Central Park was established and became the first landscaped park in an American city. It was lobbied for by the city’s elite.
The city is one of the easier to navigate, even if you’re a tourist, because of its grid layout which was expanded to encompass most of Manhattan when the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 was adopted.
NYC has the third most high-rise building in the world (after Hong Kong and Seoul) with 6,455 as of 2019.
New York has iconic representations of various styles of architecture. Dutch Colonial architecture can be seen in the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House (1652) in Brooklyn. New York’s large residential neighborhoods are often defined by their brownstone rowhouses that are designed in the Italianate style. They were built during a time of rapid expansion from 1870 to 1930. The Woolworth Building (1913) is an early example of the Gothic Revival in skyscraper design. Art Deco can be seen in the Chrysler Building (1930) and Empire State Building (1931). One World Trade Center (2014)and Solomon R Guggenheim Museum (1959) are examples of Contemporary Modern architecture.