New York City, New York
United States of America
New York city, the largest city in the United States, the home of the United Nations,
and the center of global finance, communications, and business. New York City is
unusual among cities because of its high residential density, its extraordinarily
diverse population, its hundreds of tall office and apartment buildings, its thriving
central business district, its extensive public transportation system, and its more
than 400 distinct neighborhoods. The city’s concert houses, museums, galleries,
and theaters constitute an ensemble of cultural richness rivaled by few cities.
In 2000 the population of the city of New York was 8,008,278; the population of
the metropolitan region was 21,199,865.
Located in the southeastern part of New York State just east of northern New Jersey,
the city developed at the point where the Hudson and Passaic rivers mingle with
the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound. The harbor consists of the
Upper Bay (an arm of the Atlantic Ocean) as well as the East River and the various
waterways that border the city. Its harbor is one of the largest and finest in the
world and is ice-free in all seasons.
New York has a temperate climate with annual precipitation of 1,200 mm (47 in) per
year. The temperature ranges between 41°C (106° F) and –24° C (–11° F), but the
Atlantic Ocean tends to moderate weather extremes in the city. It is about the same
latitude as Naples, Italy. Although the Dutch founded the city in 1624 and called
it Fort Amsterdam and then New Amsterdam, the English captured the settlement in
1664 and renamed it New York, after the Duke of York, who later became James II
New York City and Its Metropolitan Area
Unlike most American cities, which make up only a part of a particular county, New
York is made up of five separate counties, which are called boroughs. Originally
the city included only the borough of Manhattan, located on an island between the
Hudson and East rivers. In 1898 a number of surrounding communities were incorporated
into the city as the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island.
The Bronx is the only borough on the mainland of the United States. Manhattan and
Staten Island are surrounded by water, while Queens and Brooklyn are part of Long
New York City and Its Metropolitan Area - Queens
Queens is the largest of the five boroughs. Covering 282.9 sq km (109.2 sq mi) at
the western end of Long Island, Queens is separated from Brooklyn by Newtown Creek
and from the rest of the city by the East River and Long Island Sound. It stretches
to the Atlantic Ocean on the south and borders Nassau County on the east. It is
overwhelmingly residential and probably the most ethnically diverse community in
the world. In 2000 Queens had 1,951,598 residents and was second in population only
to Brooklyn among the five boroughs.
The neighborhoods of Queens have a strong sense of individual identity. Some are
heavily industrial, like Long Island City, Maspeth, and College Point; others—like
Douglaston, Forest Hill Gardens, and Kew Gardens—are suburban-style enclaves of
the well-to-do. Major ethnic concentrations include the Greeks in Astoria; the Irish
in Woodside; the Italians in Maspeth and Ridgewood; African-Americans in Hollis,
Cambria Heights, St. Albans, and South Jamaica; and Jews in Forest Hills. Large
numbers of Chinese and Koreans live in Queens, with particularly heavy concentrations
in Flushing, Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst.
Queens is the home of Shea Stadium, Aqueduct Racetrack, the National Tennis Center,
and both LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports. Queens hosted the World’s Fairs
of 1939 and 1964. Queens has more than 6,400 acres of parkland, almost as much as
the other four boroughs combined, and it has 16 km (10 mi) of beaches along the
Atlantic Ocean. Queens is known for its numerous and enormous cemeteries. For example,
Calvary Cemetery is the burial site of 2.5 million persons, more than any other
burial ground in the United States.
New York City and Its Metropolitan Area - Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the second largest and most populous of the five boroughs. It is located
on the southwestern tip of Long Island west of Queens and situated across the Upper
Bay and the East River from Manhattan. The borough has a land area of 182.9 sq km
(70.6 sq mi). Brooklyn had 2,300,664 residents in 2000, more than any other U.S.
city, with the exception of the entire city of New York and the cities of Los Angeles
and Chicago. Indeed, as a separate municipality before 1898, it was the third largest
city in the United States.
Brooklyn retains a strong separate identity. It has an important central business
district and dozens of varied and clearly identifiable neighborhoods, including
Bedford-Stuyvesant, the largest black community in the United States, and Williamsburg,
Crown Heights, and Borough Park, all of which have large populations of Orthodox
Brooklyn is the home of such major cultural institutions as the Brooklyn Museum,
the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Coney Island is
well known for its beaches and amusement parks. Prospect Park, a landscaped area
of broad drives and wooded hills, contains a restored carousel dating from 1912
and the Lefferts Homestead, a Dutch colonial farmhouse dating from 1783.
New York City and Its Metropolitan Area - Staten Island
Staten Island is the third largest and least populous of the five boroughs. It is
located at the juncture of Upper New York Bay and Lower New York Bay. The island
is physically closer to New Jersey, to which it is connected by four bridges, than
to the rest of New York City, to which it is connected only by the Verrazano-Narrows
Bridge and the world-famous Staten Island Ferry. Staten Island encompasses 151.5
sq km (58.5 sq mi). The southernmost of the five boroughs, Staten Island had 378,977
inhabitants in 2000, or about 5 percent of the population of the entire city.
Overwhelmingly white, Staten Island has dozens of distinct neighborhoods or towns,
and it has the highest proportion of single-family housing and owner-occupied housing
in the city. Staten Island has many homes dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Of special interest are the Conference House (1680), where futile peace negotiations
were held between the British and American representatives in 1776 during the American
Revolution (1775-1783), and the Voorlezer’s House (1695), the nation’s oldest surviving
elementary school building.
Other attractions include the Jacques Marchais Center of Tibetan Art and the Staten
Island Zoo. A memorial to Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi, who lived on Staten
Island in the 1850s, is located in the borough.
New York City and Its Metropolitan Area - The Bronx
The Bronx is the fourth largest and the northernmost of the five boroughs, and the
only one on the American mainland. Even so, it is surrounded by water on three sides:
Long Island Sound on the east, the Harlem and East rivers on the south, and Hudson
River on the west. Encompassing 109 sq km (42 sq mi), it had 1,203,789 inhabitants
Largely residential, the Bronx includes dozens of vibrant neighborhoods. Fieldston
is particularly elegant, with great stone houses set among spacious lawns and privately-maintained
streets, while Belmont has become the city’s most authentically Italian section.
The areas along Pelham Parkway and the northern reaches of the Grand Concourse are
particularly prized, because the apartment buildings are well kept and the public
parks are easily accessible. City Island retains the charm of a small fishing village.
Parts of the Bronx, however, fell victim to decay and abandonment, especially between
1970 and 1980, when the population of the borough fell by 20 percent. The low point
occurred in 1976, when future U.S. president Jimmy Carter compared the South Bronx
to the bombed-out German city of Dresden after World War II (1939-1945). Since 1980
the process has again reversed and self-help groups have begun to rehabilitate most
of the most devastated blocks.
The borough’s many attractions include the world-famous Bronx Zoo, Yankee Stadium,
and the New York Botanical Garden. The Bronx also includes two of the largest middle-income
housing projects in the United States. Parkchester, built between 1938 and 1942
for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, houses 40,000 people in apartment buildings
arranged along well-planned circular drives. Co-op City is even larger, with 35
apartment towers, 236 townhouses, and more than 50,000 residents. Built between
1968 and 1970 on marshland near the Hutchinson River Parkway, it is the largest
single housing complex in the nation.
New York City and Its Metropolitan Area - Manhattan
Manhattan, or New York County, is the smallest of the five boroughs of New York
City. The borough consists principally of the island of Manhattan, but also includes
Governors Island, Randalls Island, Wards Island, Roosevelt Island, U Thant Island,
and Marble Hill, a small enclave on the edge of the Bronx mainland. Its land area
is 59.5 sq km (23 sq mi). Manhattan’s population peaked in 1910 with 2.3 million
people, after which it began a slow decline to 1.4 million in 1980. Since then,
the population has again begun to increase, reaching 1,487,536 in 2000.
Manhattan is the glittering heart of the metropolis. It is the site of virtually
all of the hundreds of skyscrapers that are the symbol of the city. Among the more
famous of these are the Empire State Building (1931), the Chrysler Building (1930),
and Citicorp Center (1977). (The 110-story twin towers of the World Trade Center
were also among New York's famous skyscrapers until they were destroyed in a terrorist
attack in 2001.) Manhattan is also the oldest, densest, and most built-up part of
the entire urbanized region.
Other noteworthy buildings include City Hall (1802-1811), a Federal-style building
with French Renaissance detail; the Seagram Building (1958), an office tower clad
in bronze and bronze-colored glass; and Grant’s Tomb (1897), the tomb of President
Ulysses S. Grant and his wife. Notable religious structures include Saint Patrick’s
Cathedral (1879), the seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of New York and the
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine (begun 1892), the largest Gothic-style cathedral
in the world.
Manhattan is the center of New York’s cultural life. Numerous stage and motion picture
theaters are located around Broadway in Midtown, which includes Times Square. The
borough is the home of prominent music and dance organizations, such as the New
York City Opera Company, the Metropolitan Opera Association, the Philharmonic-Symphony
Society of New York, American Ballet Theatre, and the New York City Ballet.
Population and Area
New York City has long been unusual because of its sheer size. Even before 1775,
when its population was never more than 25,000, it ranked among the five leading
cities in the colonies. It surpassed Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by 1810 to become
the largest city in the United States, and in 1830 it passed Mexico City, Mexico,
to become the largest in the western hemisphere. By 1930 it was the largest city
in the world. In the 1980s the metro region was surpassed in total size by Tokyo,
Japan; Mexico City; and São Paolo, Brazil. Yet with 21.2 million people, the New
York City region remains an urban agglomeration of almost unimaginable size. For
example, in 2000, when the population of the city itself was 8 million, each of
its five boroughs was large enough to have been an important city in its own right,
with populations exceeding those of many major U.S. cities.
The five boroughs of New York City together cover 786 sq km (303 sq mi). The urbanized
area, however, includes 28 adjacent counties in New York state, New Jersey, Connecticut,
and Pennsylvania. Together, they make up the New York metropolitan region, which
in 2000 housed about 8 percent of the national population on about 0.2 percent of
the land area of the contiguous 48 states. Moreover, New York stands at the center
of the urbanized northeastern seaboard, which contained about 60 million people
in the late 1990s.
New York has been the most ethnically diverse city in the world since the 1640s,
when fewer than 1,000 total residents spoke more than 15 languages. Between 1880
and 1919, more than 23 million Europeans immigrated to the United States. At least
17 million of them disembarked in New York. No one knows how many remained there,
but as early as 1880, more than half the city’s working population was foreign-born,
providing New York with the largest immigrant labor force on earth.
Half a century later, the city still contained 2 million foreign-born residents
(including 517,000 Russians and 430,000 Italians) and an even larger number of persons
of foreign parentage. And at the end of the 20th century, the pattern remained the
same. In 1996 the U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than 11 out of every 20
New Yorkers were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Nearly half of all Bronx
residents and one-third of Manhattan’s were Hispanic and nearly one-fifth of the
population of Queens was Asian-American. Researchers estimated that immigrants would
make up about 33 percent of the city’s population in 2000, approaching the 20th-century
peak of about 40 percent, reached in 1910.
Meanwhile, the black proportion of the New York population, which reached 20 percent
in the colonial period and declined to less than 2 percent in the 1870s, began a
slow rise thereafter. According to the 2000 census, whites make up 44.7 percent
of the city’s population; blacks, 26.6 percent; Asians, 9.8 percent; Native Americans,
0.5 percent; Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, 0.1 percent; and people
of mixed heritage or not reporting race, 18.3 percent. Hispanics, who may be of
any race, are 27 percent of the population. By the late 1990s, more than 120 languages
were spoken in the city’s schools, and there were dozens of ethnic churches, political
organizations, cultural festivals, and parades, as well as scores of foreign-language
newspapers, magazines, and television and radio stations. Although rivalries among
the various groups could be intense, the very diversity of the city permitted immigrants
to mingle more easily than in most other parts of the nation.
Culture and Education
Because of its huge size, its concentrated wealth, and its mixture of people from
around the world, New York City offers its residents and visitors a staggering array
of cultural riches and educational opportunities. The city is the world’s leading
center for performing arts and its museums contain a wide range of artistic and
historical subjects. A mixture of cultures from around the world is reflected in
the street festivals and ethnic celebrations that take place year-round. In addition,
more than 100 institutions of higher education operate in New York City, including
some of the nation’s more prestigious centers of learning.
Culture and Education - Museums
New York’s 250 museums cater to every specialty and every taste. It has museums
in such fields as natural history, broadcasting, fire-fighting, crafts, and ethnic
cultures. As the world’s greatest art center, New York City has more than 400 galleries
and is a mecca for artists, art dealers, and collectors. Madison Avenue between
57th and 86th Streets is the most important locale for galleries, but dozens of
others are located in SoHo (south of Houston Street) and adjoining neighborhoods.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, founded in 1870 and located in Central Park, contains
nearly 3 million objects in every known artistic medium, representing cultures from
every part of the world, from ancient times to the present. Its permanent collections
are so vast that its 300 galleries and 32 acres of floor space can display only
one-fifth of the museum’s total holdings at any one time. It is the third largest
art museum in the world, after the British Museum in London, England, and the Hermitage
in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum,
specializes in medieval art and is located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan.
New York’s special role in the history of contemporary culture is in part a reflection
of the importance of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), which is the greatest repository
of 20th-century art in the world. Founded in 1929, MOMA concentrates on artists
born after 1880 and has strong collections of French impressionists, modern sculpture,
photography, and film. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue is as well
known for its architecture as for its contents. Founded by a wealthy copper magnate,
it was designed by U.S. architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Because of its unusual combination
of oblong forms and its prominent spiral gallery, the building has been called everything
from a "giant snail to the most beautiful building in New York.”
The Whitney Museum of American Art, at 75th Street and Madison Avenue, is the only
major museum in New York exclusively devoted to 20th-century American art. Designed
in the shape of an inverted pyramid by Hungarian-American architect Marcel Breuer,
the building of rich gray granite is itself a piece of modern art. The Frick Collection,
at 70th Street and Fifth Avenue, is the former home of steel magnate Henry Clay
Frick. The 40-room mansion resembles a French chateau and the art collection includes
works by 16th-century Venetian painter Titian and 17th-century Dutch painters Rembrandt
van Rijn and Jan Vermeer.
The American Museum of Natural History, on Central Park West between 77th and 81st
streets, is the largest museum in the world devoted to the natural sciences. Founded
in 1869, it has outstanding collections dealing with Native Americans, Inuits (Eskimos),
dinosaurs, reptiles, and birds. Its popular Hayden Planetarium was being expanded
and renovated in the late 1990s.
The Brooklyn Museum contains one of North America’s top collections of pre-Columbian,
Egyptian, Near Eastern, and Asian art, as well as the finest collection of Russian
garments and textiles outside Russia. New York’s other unusual museums include the
New York Historical Society, which has an outstanding research library; the Lower
East Side Tenement House Museum, the only institution in America devoted to recreating
the ghetto experience of impoverished immigrants; the South Street Seaport Museum,
which celebrates a port which ranked for a century as the busiest in the world;
and the Federal Hall National Memorial, located on the spot where George Washington
took the oath of office as the first president of the United States.
Culture and Education - Performing Arts
New York has long been the music and dance capital of the world and is the home
of the largest number of professional musicians and dancers anywhere. Moreover,
its theaters dominate the stage in the United States, and their attendance, revenue,
and range of offerings are rivaled only by theaters in London.
Built in 1891 by U.S. industrialist Andrew Carnegie for the Oratorio Society, Carnegie
Hall is neither exceptionally large nor architecturally distinguished. But it remains
the pre-eminent concert hall in the United States. Carnegie Hall’s superb acoustics
have delighted performers since Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the
guest conductor during opening week. Extensive renovations on the hall were completed
Located on Broadway at about 66th Street, Lincoln Center is the largest performing
arts center in the world. Construction on the project began in 1959. Avery Fisher
Hall was the first structure in Lincoln Center to be completed. The hall is also
the home of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and offers performances by other
soloists and orchestras throughout the year. The center’s largest building, Metropolitan
Opera House, is the centerpiece of the entire complex. Completed in 1966, it presents
lavish operatic productions with international casts and also serves as home to
the American Ballet Theatre. Finally, the New York State Theater is the home of
two institutions-the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera, which alternate
their seasons. Also in Lincoln Center is the Juilliard School, which is widely regarded
as the most distinguished musical institution in the nation.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music, just across the East River from Manhattan, emphasizes
new repertory and is one of the oldest performing arts centers in the United States.
The present building was completed in 1908. It includes the Opera House and the
BAM Rose Cinemas, a four-cinema motion-picture complex that features first-run independent
and foreign films.
Culture and Education - Cultural Events
Scarcely a week passes in New York without the observance of a special religious,
ethnic, or national holiday. The many dozens of parades which annually move down
the streets include the Chinese New Year Parade in February, the St. Patrick’s Day
Parade in March, the Easter Day Parade in April, the Puerto Rican Day Parade in
June, the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Parade in June, the African-American Day Parade
in September, the Columbus Day Parade in October, the Greenwich Village Halloween
Parade in October, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in November.
A number of cultural events celebrate the arts. The New York Film Festival, held
in September, showcases U.S. and international films, emphasizing artistic merit
rather than marketability. Since the 1950s, Central Park has hosted Shakespeare
in the Park, a series of open-air, summer evening productions of plays by English
dramatist William Shakespeare.
Culture and Education - Colleges and Universities
Columbia University is the oldest, wealthiest, and most famous of New York’s institutions
of higher education. It is situated primarily on a campus of 15 hectares (36 acres)
in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan. Founded as Kings College under
a charter from George II of Britain in 1754, it has since grown into a multipurpose
university with 25,000 students. Columbia University includes an Ivy-League undergraduate
college, and distinguished professional schools of architecture, business, dentistry,
journalism, law, medicine, public health, and social work.
The metropolitan region includes more than 100 other colleges and universities.
Leading educational institutions include New York University, the nation’s largest
private university; Rockefeller University, a well-known research institution in
the biological sciences; Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a
private, tuition-free college specializing in engineering and architecture; and
Pratt Institute, a private college in Brooklyn with excellent programs in art and
architecture. Important Catholic institutions include Fordham University, Manhattan
College, St. John’s University, and the College of Mount Saint Vincent. Yeshiva
University is the nation’s first major college expressly for the education of Orthodox
The city also provides public education at the university level with the City University
of New York, the largest municipal institution in the country. With the introduction
in 1970 of open admission, any high-school graduate who resided in the city became
eligible to enter either one of the university's ten four-year colleges or one of
its seven two-year colleges, depending on grades. In 1974 nearly 250,000 students
were enrolled in the system. For more than a century, no tuition was charged for
undergraduate students who were city residents. In 1976, when the city approached
bankruptcy due to economic problems, tuition was imposed. By 1994 registration had
fallen to about 188,000, but CUNY remains the largest urban educational institution
in the United States.
Superior facilities for medical training exist at the New York University-Bellevue
Medical Center, the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York Hospital-Cornell
Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine
of Yeshiva University. Columbia, Fordham, and New York University have distinguished
law schools. The Institute of Fine Arts of New York University and the Juilliard
School-which has programs in music, dance, and drama-give outstanding instruction
in their specialties. There are also many fine programs in the city in law, business,
journalism, architecture, social work, and planning.
Parks and Recreation
Although New York is the most populous and densely settled of all American cities,
more than 1,000 individual parks with more than 37,000 acres of parkland are available
to the public. The creation of Central Park between 1857 and 1875 affected the development
of public open space throughout the United States. Almost all subsequent U.S. park
designers imitated some or all of the features found in Central Park. American landscape
architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed the 341-hectare (843-acre)
park, located in the center of Manhattan. It has numerous playgrounds, a children's
zoo, 8 km (5 mi) of bridle paths, bicycling and jogging lanes, a large reservoir,
a sailboat pond, two ice-skating rinks, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, a swimming
pool, and a lake for row-boating. On summer evenings, there are free band concerts,
free dances, and free nightly performances of plays in the Delacorte Theatre, an
amphitheater that seats 2,300. Of the park's many monuments the most famous is the
3,500-year-old Egyptian obelisk, known as Cleopatra's Needle.
Two of the largest parks, Pelham Bay Park, with 862 hectares (2,130 acres), and
Van Cortlandt Park, with 464 hectares (1,146 acres), are in the Bronx. The Bronx
also has New York's largest zoo and largest botanical garden, both located in the
292-hectare (721-acre) Bronx Park. The largest park in Queens is Flushing Meadows-Corona,
with 509 hectares (1,257 acres). It was the site of two world's fairs. Brooklyn's
Prospect Park and Botanic Garden are two favorite retreats in that borough. Beaches
fringe many of the city's parks and recreation areas, such as those in Pelham Bay,
Rockaway, Coney Island, and South Beach.
Parks and Recreation - Sports
New York offers almost every kind of sport and recreation. Yankee Stadium in the
Bronx is one of the best-known outdoor athletic fields in the United States and
the home of the New York Yankees. It is known as “the house that Ruth built,” because
the Yankees dominated baseball and drew millions of fans with the play of the legendary
and charismatic Yankee baseball great Babe Ruth. Yankee Stadium has also hosted
dozens of other spectacular events, from heavyweight boxing championships to papal
Adjacent to each other in Queens, Shea Stadium is the home of the National League
New York Mets professional baseball team, while the National Tennis Center is the
home of the annual United States Open Tennis Championships. The New York Marathon
in the fall is now the largest running event in the nation, annually attracting
30,000 or more entrants in a race through the five boroughs.
Two professional football teams play in the area: the New York Giants and the New
York Jets, both of the National Football League. The Giants formerly played in Yankee
Stadium and the Jets once made their home in Shea Stadium. Both teams now play their
home games in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Madison Square Garden is perhaps the nation’s most famous indoor arena. The home
of the New York Knicks professional basketball team and the New York Rangers professional
hockey team, the garden is actually the fourth building to have that name, as each
successive structure was replaced to make way for a larger facility. The first and
the second were actually on Madison Square, and they become famous for public events
as well as the rooftop restaurant. The current edifice, which also hosts rock concerts,
boxing matches, and religious and cultural events, is situated above Pennsylvania
Station, the nation’s busiest passenger rail terminal.
Parks and Recreation - Zoos and Gardens
The New York Zoological Park, better known as the Bronx Zoo, is the largest of the
city’s five zoos. With 3,500 animals, it is one of the finest zoos in the United
States. Established in 1899 and extensively redesigned at the end of the 20th century,
it now occupies about 100 hectares (250 acres). The Bronx Zoo was a pioneer in arranging
animals according to the continent from which they came and in placing them in enclosures
similar to their natural habitats. The Bronx Zoo includes Jungle World, an indoor
rain forest; Wild Asia, where visitors ride in monorail cars and animals roam at
large; and the World of Darkness, where nocturnal animals can be observed.
Also in the central part of the Bronx is the New York Botanical Garden. One of the
oldest and largest such institutions in the United States, it includes 12 outdoor
display gardens and extensive walking trails on its 100 hectares (250 acres) of
grounds. Similarly, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden adjacent to Prospect Park presents
a glorious spectacle during the flowering season. Its 20 hectares (50 acres) contain
more than 12,000 different species of plants, including 900 kinds of roses alone.
A special section of Japanese cherry trees is an unusual feature of the garden.
New York City is the business and financial capital of the world, and many leading
national and international corporations have their headquarters there. The city's
financial center, Wall Street, is the world's leading center of finance and the
home of the nation's most important securities market, the New York Stock Exchange.
The same area contains the nation's second largest exchange, the American Stock
Exchange, and several smaller exchanges, including the Commodity Exchange, which
deals in metals, rubber, and hides; the Coffee, Sugar, and Cocoa Exchange; the Cotton
Exchange; the Futures Exchange; the New York Mercantile Exchange; and the International
Monetary Market. In addition, in the vicinity of Wall Street are many of the nation's
biggest banks, trust companies, insurance companies, and brokerage houses.
Because of its favorable location, excellent port facilities, and large population,
New York City is the leading wholesale and retail trade center in the United States.
New York is also a leader in communications, the hotel and restaurant business,
building construction, and manufacturing.
New York City has reinvented itself economically in the last half of the 20th century.
In 1945 it was the busiest port and the most important manufacturing center in the
world. Since that time, it has lost more than 800,000 of its 1 million factory jobs.
Although more than 100,000 longshoremen once worked its docks, fewer than 10,000
did so in the late 1990s. Activity on the waterfront was decimated by a combination
of intense competition from other U.S. ports and technological changes such as containerization,
which allow ships to be loaded and unloaded by far fewer workers. Between 1955 and
1980, the city also lost jobs as corporations left the city, moving to nearby suburbs
or to other parts of the country. Companies found that they could cut the cost of
office rentals, wages, and taxes that they had paid in the city.
Since 1980, however, New York has experienced an economic boom, particularly in
new service industries that provide services to individuals and businesses in such
fields as finance and banking, health services, education, restaurants, and sales.
It has also solidified its reputation as a financial, cultural, and communications
center. New York City’s banks and law firms have prospered. The metropolitan region’s
well-paid managerial class has worked to integrate the world economy with that of
the United States, through the influence of the city’s stock market, investment
banks, and currency traders. New York’s stock market, the largest in the world,
has a profound influence on finances around the world. In addition, the city’s investment
banks are extremely influential in establishing the value of foreign firms and currencies.
By the end of the 1990s, every important financial institution in the world had
a presence in New York, and Wall Street had become synonymous with high finance.
Manhattan is the headquarters of the nation’s television and radio networks, making
it the heart of the mass media in the United States. The headquarters of most of
the nation’s major publishing houses and advertising agencies are also clustered
in Manhattan’s Midtown.
Today, commercial and financial services, commerce, and tourism provide the main
economic support for New York City. The majority of New York’s workers are employed
in service industries, working in medical and other health services, motion-picture
entertainment, hotels and lodging houses, advertising, radio and television, and
personal services such as laundries, beauty parlors, and barber shops. The next
largest number of New Yorkers work in retail and wholesale trade, and followed by
those in government jobs. The rest work in finance, insurance and real estate, manufacturing,
transportation and public utilities, and contract construction.
Manhattan benefits significantly from tourism as well. About 30 million travelers
visited annually in the early 1990s, contributing to the demand for services. Finally,
the city still has some important manufacturing industries, including printing and
publishing and the production of apparel and other textile products.
Manhattan’s boom in high-paying service jobs was not shared by the outer boroughs,
which were once the center of the city’s manufacturing businesses. By the end of
the 1990s, there was a dramatic reduction in factory jobs in the Bronx, Brooklyn,
and Queens, and many of the new jobs in these boroughs were low-paying service jobs,
such as hospital orderlies, store clerks, and office cleaners. By the end of the
decade, however, the populations of these boroughs had stabilized or begun to rise
slowly and a sense of optimism developed among many residents. The Bronx and Brooklyn
lost both population and jobs during the 40 years following World War II, but these
neighborhoods recovered during the late 1990s as new homes replaced the burnt-out
buildings that were all too common in the 1980s. Queens has continued to prosper
because of the influx of immigrants.
A spidery web of more than a dozen bridges, an underground system of tunnels, and
an extensive network of parkways and expressways encouraged the physical spread
of New York outward from Manhattan. The city remains different from other American
communities because of its extraordinary public transportation system. In contrast
to many other U.S. cities, where buses and passenger trains have become irrelevant
to the lives of their citizens, more than 5.2 million New Yorkers use these forms
of public transportation every day.
New York City has a highly centralized municipal government. The mayor, chosen by
a citywide electorate for a four-year term, has wide executive powers. The mayor
has a leadership role in budget-making, authority to organize and reorganize administrative
agencies and to appoint and remove their heads, a strong veto, and all powers not
specifically otherwise granted. The comptroller, elected on a citywide basis for
a four-year term, recommends financial policies and advises the mayor and the city
council in the preparation of the budget.
There are nine major administrative agencies, called administrations. The police
and fire departments are not classified as administrations, but are also principal
agencies. Certain important city agencies are quasi-independent, including the board
of education, the board of higher education, the health and hospitals corporation,
and the housing authority. In addition, two major agencies are bi-state or regional
in character: the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls airports
and interstate buses, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which controls
subway and bus operations in the city and commuter railroad service in New York
Legislative authority is vested in the city council, made up of 51 members, who
are elected from individual districts for four-year terms. The presiding officer
is the public advocate, chosen for a four-year term by a citywide electorate. The
advocate can vote only to break a tie. The most powerful member of the council is
the speaker, who is chosen by a majority of the members and appoints the heads of
the various council committees. The council introduces and enacts all laws and approves
the budget; it can override a mayoral veto by a vote of two-thirds of all the members.
Each borough has a president elected to a five-year term. The borough president’s
position is largely ceremonial with primary responsibilities in the area of public
improvements. The five borough presidents had more political power when they served
on the Board of Estimate, which controlled the city’s budget approval process. The
Board of Estimate was abolished in 1990.
Politically, the city is strongly Democratic. Two small political groups are the
Conservative and Liberal parties. The Democratic Party traditionally controls the
mayoralty unless one of the other parties or an alliance of them draws many Democratic
votes. Though the five counties or boroughs have little administrative authority,
the political centers of gravity in the city are the county party machines in the
At the end of the 20th century, New York City can point to a number of important
accomplishments. Partly because of a spectacular reduction in the crime rate between
1990 and 1998, the city is no longer among the 150 most violent American cities.
The streets have been cleaned, the panhandlers removed, and the subways repaired.
The city also cleaned up 42nd Street, which as late as 1994 was typified by sex
shops, prostitution, and a barely disguised drug trade. As a result of these changes
and the publicity accompanying them, many tourists have flocked to the city.
Several major challenges remained, however. First, the infrastructure of the city,
and especially the century-old sewer and water mains beneath the streets, was rotting
and at times collapsing altogether. Second, the loss of manufacturing jobs has meant
that many local residents have been excluded from the expanding employment market.
Thus, the gap between the rich and the poor has become greater in New York than
in most other U.S. communities. Finally, the public schools, with more than 1 million
students, were too often failing in their primary mission. Although the Board of
Education operated some of the best schools in the nation and many public school
graduates have achieved distinction, the system remains troubled by high truancy
and drop-out rates, by occasional violence on school property, and by deteriorating
History - Early History
Before Europeans came to the place now known as New York City, it had been the home
of Native Americans of the Algonquian language group. Literally hundreds of these
self-governing bands lived along the East Coast from North Carolina to Canada. At
least 18 of them lived in the New York City area. The Canarsees, who were especially
prominent in what is now Brooklyn, had settlements in present-day Gowanus, Sheepshead
Bay, Flatlands, and Canarsie.
Although these local groups were not as advanced as the Maya, Inca, or Aztecs, who
lived farther south in the western hemisphere, they lived in peace with nature and
with each other. They constructed long bark houses, replete with thatched domes,
of substantial size, and they planted wheat, maize, beans, and squash. Many modern
roads, such as Flatbush Avenue and Kings Highway, follow the route of paths that
connected the various Native American villages.
History - Colonial Period
In 1524 Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian in the employ of France, became the first
white man known to have sailed up the narrows into the lower bay. In 1609 the English
navigator Henry Hudson, who had been hired by the Dutch East India Company to search
for a water route through North America to Asia, arrived in New York harbor aboard
his 74-foot ship, The Half Moon
History - Colonial Period - Dutch Rule
Hudson discovered that the vast area between French Canada and British Virginia
was unfortified and unclaimed and that the Native Americans who lived at the mouth
of the Hudson River would happily trade furs for European goods. Excited by the
commercial prospects of Manhattan Island, which was in the midst of a vast harbor
that was ice-free in all seasons, Dutch merchants promptly dispatched other expeditions
to the vicinity.
The Dutch East India Company established the first permanent European settlement
in what is now New York City in 1624. Although most of the Dutch settlers established
themselves in the northern Hudson Valley, near the future site of Albany, about
eight or ten Protestants from Belgium, who had taken refuge with the Dutch to escape
religious persecution, settled on Governors Island in New York harbor. In 1625 the
tiny community moved to the southern tip of Manhattan Island. A year later, according
to legend, Dutch colonial governor Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan from the Canarsees
for 60 guilders (approximately $24) in trinkets and goods.
The city of New Amsterdam, as it was soon called, operated as part of the colony
administered by the Dutch West India Company. It was moderately successful and attracted
settlers and merchants from a variety of nations. At least 18 different languages
were being spoken in the city as early as 1650. Germans, Swiss, Moravians, French,
English, and Portuguese joined the Dutch, and New Amsterdam quickly became a cosmopolitan
In 1647 Peter Stuyvesant became governor. Stuyvesant governed autocratically. The
West India Company originally combined the administration of the city of New Amsterdam
with that of the entire Dutch colony, which extended up the Hudson River into upstate
New York. However, pressure from the city’s citizens led to the granting of a municipal
government in 1653. Despite the change, Stuyvesant maintained tight control over
the city and appointed all the important officials. During his rule, however, New
Amsterdam saw many basic improvements in city life: cobblestone streets replaced
dirt roads, the city introduced fire protection and police patrols, and the first
hospital opened. The city built a protective wall where Wall Street now runs, and
settlers began moving into outlying areas that eventually became part of New York
History - Colonial Period - English Rule
The Dutch period ended in 1664 when a European conflict between the Dutch and English
spread to the American colonies. A fleet of four English warships and 500 professional
soldiers arrived in the harbor on August 18. Stuyvesant wanted to fight and he prepared
Fort Amsterdam for battle. But the citizens, resentful of Stuyvesant’s autocratic
rule and faced with the powerful naval guns of the English, decided to surrender.
The English renamed the community New York, in honor of the Duke of York, the brother
of King Charles II of Britain. The city then gave its name to the entire colony.
Trade and commerce provided the chief basis of the city's prosperity. Ships of New
York City's merchants plied the coastal waters of North America and carried merchandise
to the West Indies and Europe. By the mid-18th century, trade between New York City
and the neighboring colonies of Connecticut and New Jersey was extensive. The local
economy received a boost during the long struggle for empire between Britain and
France that began in the late 17th century. The British government bought provisions
from local suppliers and licensed private ship owners to attack enemy vessels at
sea. City merchants also engaged in a profitable illegal trade with non-British
colonies in the Americas, despite British restrictions on such activities.
The city's merchant elite played a predominant role in local government, even though
large landholders, most crafts workers, and many laborers were eligible to vote.
The mayors, appointed for annual terms by the governor with the advice of his council,
almost invariably were affluent merchants. Merchants also held a disproportionately
large number of seats on the elected city council.
During the colonial period, New Yorkers outside the traditional circles of power
gained substantial influence over city government on two occasions. In 1689, taking
advantage of the confusion surrounding the revolution that deposed English king
James II, Jacob Leisler, a German-born merchant, seized control of the provincial
government in defiance of the English governor. The new government authorized the
election of the mayor by Protestant freemen; Peter Delanoy, their choice, thus became
New York's first elected mayor. British authorities regained control of the city
in 1691, and they promptly executed Leisler and his chief assistant.
During the 18th century, aldermen identified with a "popular party" took control
of the council during the municipal election of 1734. The new council was sympathetic
to publisher John Peter Zenger. In 1735 Zenger had been acquitted of charges of
libeling the royal governor in the New York Weekly Journal
. The decision
set a precedent for freedom of the press in the colonies.
History - American Revolution
Opposition to British policy became increasingly vocal by the mid-1760s. An economic
depression followed the French and Indian War (1754-1763) and coincided with the
British Parliament's decision to tighten control over economic activities in the
colonies. Parliament imposed a number of import taxes and fees in the colonies,
threatening profits to which New York's merchant gentry had become accustomed and
encouraging the resistant mood of the urban populace. In New York City, as elsewhere
in the colonies, a secret organization known as the Sons of Liberty sprang up to
oppose these laws. New York's City Hall was the site of the Stamp Act Congress,
at which delegates from nine colonies protested British policy.
Though opinion was divided in New York City on the question of resisting imperial
control, the patriotic element had the upper hand by May 1775, a month after the
American Revolution (1775-1783) broke out. In April 1776, after colonial forces
drove the British out of Boston, Massachusetts, General George Washington moved
his headquarters to New York City and began building defenses. Between August and
November the Continental Army formed by the rebelling colonists lost a series of
engagements with the British, including the Battle of Long Island. Washington then
retreated to Manhattan Island, fighting delaying actions at Harlem Heights near
the present-day campus of Columbia University.
In November troops under British command stormed Fort Washington and Fort Tryon
in upper Manhattan and killed or captured more than 2,000 American soldiers. As
General Washington retreated dejectedly across New Jersey, the British took full
control of New York City. The city remained the center for British army operations
in North America for the remainder of the American Revolution.
Almost immediately after the British occupation a disastrous fire raged through
the city and destroyed much of its older section. In 1778 a second fire burned down
more of the city. During the remainder of the war, thousands of Americans loyal
to Britain took refuge in New York City until the last British troops left the city
in 1783 when the war ended.
History - Growth of the City
New York City was the capital of the United States from 1785 to 1790 and capital
of the State of New York until 1797. It was host to the First Congress of the United
States in 1789. In April of that year, on the steps of Federal Hall, George Washington
was sworn in as president of the United States.
During its early years, New York was not the most important city in British America.
It was outdistanced in population between 1630 and 1750 by Boston and between 1690
and 1810 by Philadelphia. Following the American Revolution, however, New York swept
past its rivals in size and economic importance. By 1789 it was the leading city
in the coastal trade. It exceeded Philadelphia in total tonnage in 1794, in the
value of imports in 1796, and in exports in 1797. By 1830 New York City surpassed
Mexico City to become the largest metropolis in the Americas.
The city grew for several reasons. The open, cosmopolitan attitude of New Yorkers,
dating back to the early days of Dutch settlement, placed less importance on family
connections and class, while encouraging the kind of risk-taking and innovation
that led to rapid commercial growth. The city’s economy received a major boost following
the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain. The British chose New York
as the site to auction off large quantities of goods that had accumulated on British
docks during the war. The city also benefited from an excellent port centrally located
between the heavily populated regions of New England and Chesapeake Bay. It possessed
an easily navigable inland water route via the Hudson River. After 1825 the Erie
Canal connected the Hudson with the Great Lakes, providing easy access to Midwestern
markets and increasing the city’s importance as a center of commerce.
The city’s major advantages reinforced each other, and by the early part of the
19th century New York was the pre-eminent port of entry for immigrants to the United
States. Europeans arrived in such numbers during the 1840s and 1850s that by 1860
nearly half of the city’s residents were foreign-born. The Irish were the most numerous,
followed by the Germans.
These immigrants helped support a growing political organization known as the Tammany
Society (better known as Tammany Hall, after the name of the building in which its
members met). Originally founded in 1789 as a social and charitable club, Tammany
Hall soon acquired a new, political character. It gained control of the city’s Democratic
Party as the champion of the working class and later of the immigrant. The society
had a number of vote-getting techniques. It illegally granted citizenship to immigrants,
gave city jobs to its followers, and provided services to the newcomers and the
poor. Tammany was also accused of election fraud, bribery, and extortion.
These methods of getting votes were used most intensively in the 1860s when "Boss"
William M. Tweed was the Tammany leader. In 1871 it became known that Tweed and
his associates had misappropriated massive amounts of public funds. Tammany’s influence
was reduced, but only temporarily. Tammany revived during the 1880s, and it controlled
the city into the early 20th century, although, on occasion, reform candidates,
working with Republican voters, gained control of the city government.
By 1860 New York City and the adjacent community of Brooklyn had 1 million residents.
The area was the unchallenged center of American enterprise. New York City ranked
first in the nation in population, industrial production, bank deposits, and wholesale
trade. But unlike London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Vienna, and other world cities that
had grown to substantial size, New York was not the capital of a nation, a region,
or even a single state.
Throughout the first three centuries of the city’s history, the cornerstone of its
growth was commerce and the backbone of its economy remained at the bustling wharves
along the water’s edge. For more than a century the port of New York ranked as the
world’s busiest. Between 1830 and 1906 the harbor annually handled between 37 percent
and 71 percent by value of the nation’s foreign trade.
History - The Transformation of the Metropolis
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of major changes in technology
and infrastructure transformed the city. Gas illumination was available by 1825
and electric lighting by the 1880s. The Croton Aqueduct, completed in 1842, provided
the city with the best and largest municipal water supply on earth. The Brooklyn
Bridge, a major feat of engineering that connected Manhattan with Brooklyn across
the East River, was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was completed
Urban mass transit also improved with the introduction of horse-drawn streetcars
by the 1850s, elevated trains by the 1870s, electric trolleys by the 1890s, and
the first subway in 1904. These changes helped relieve the residential congestion
of the lower and central city. The demand for space was eased when the modern apartment
building was introduced in about 1870. Within a few decades, New Yorkers were building
skyscrapers, high rise buildings constructed with new engineering techniques. In
1902 New York’s first skyscraper, the 21-story Flatiron Building, was erected around
a steel framework that supported the structural load of the building. This new engineering
technique allowed architects to design taller buildings that made more efficient
use of limited urban space. Within a few decades this new type of building would
dramatically change the skyline of the city.
An increase in cultural and recreational facilities also added greatly to New York's
appeal. Central Park was opened in 1859. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was organized
in 1870. The collections of several libraries combined to form the New York Public
Library in 1895. By the late 1860s, 20 theaters offered a broad choice of entertainment
nightly. Opera, available as early as 1825, was performed more frequently after
the opening of the Academy of Music in 1854 and the Metropolitan Opera House in
As the city grew, many of the adjacent communities became more closely integrated
into an expanding urban area. Public sentiment grew for a merger of the surrounding
cities and towns into a single city. In 1898, following the passage of a referendum,
Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx were incorporated into the city.
By 1900 the population of the recently expanded city was 3,437,202.
The years between the consolidation of the five boroughs in 1898 and the end of
World War II represented a kind of golden age for New York. It contained the largest
concentrations of architects, bankers lawyers, engineers, designers, and corporate
officials on the continent. By the beginning of the 20th century, Wall Street had
become a national institution and investment bankers like J. P. Morgan and August
Belmont had become legendary figures. As national corporations took shape, wealthy
entrepreneurs such as oil company executive John D. Rockefeller, steel manufacturer
Andrew Carnegie, and retailer F. W. Woolworth, who had started their empires elsewhere,
moved their business offices to New York City.
The poor, of course, came in much greater numbers, and overcrowding, a problem ever
since the original Dutch settlers huddled together below Wall Street for protection
against Native Americans, reached frightening proportions between 1870 and 1920.
For the middle class, the preferred dwelling type was the single-family brownstone,
a large row house with a front facade faced in the plentiful local stone that gave
the structure its name. But the poor immigrants of the Lower East Side and elsewhere
in the city were packed into tenements that offered little light and minimal sanitation.
Because the center of the city was so congested, the New York metropolitan region
began to decentralize as early as the 1870s. By 1920 tens of thousands of families
were moving out of the city every year. This outward movement proceeded more quickly
in New York than in most other world cities because the city rapidly adopted every
new development in transportation technology. A system of bridges and underground
tunnels facilitated travel between the city and outlying areas. A wonder of modern
engineering, the Brooklyn Bridge was later eclipsed, at least in terms of size,
by the Triborough Bridge, which linked Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx in 1936;
by the George Washington Bridge, which became the world’s largest suspension structure
when it opened in 1931; and by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which assumed that
title in 1964. All pointed out an important difference between New York and other
world cities-the waterways around Manhattan were broad and the structures that spanned
them were huge, unlike the human-scale bridges of Paris, London, Rome, and Berlin.
History - New York City Since the 1930s
In the 1930s the collapse of the world economy, known as the Great Depression, led
to the election of reform candidate Fiorello H. La Guardia in 1933. La Guardia,
one of the most popular mayors in the city’s history, was elected as a fusion candidate
(a candidate who receives the support of disaffected Democrats and member of other
political parties) after disclosures of improper financial conduct on the part of
his Tammany predecessor, James J. Walker. LaGuardia’s administration marked the
end of Tammany control over New York City politics. Funds made available by new
federal relief programs initiated by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt displaced
the patronage system that had kept Tammany Hall in power, as federal programs provided
jobs and financial assistance to individuals who had once relied on political patronage.
Federal funds also allowed the city to improve municipal services and public facilities.
The La Guardia administration administered projects that gave New York City more
schools, parks, and playgrounds. These funds also helped build a modern sewage disposal
system; clear slums and construct public housing; provide more efficient relief;
significantly improve health care; as well as build piers, airports, bridges, parkways,
and express highways.
Robert Moses, park commissioner and head of the city planning commission, oversaw
major public works projects and emerged as one of the most powerful unelected public
officials in the United States. Between 1924 and 1968, Moses conceived and executed
public works costing $27 billion. He was responsible for building virtually every
parkway, expressway, and public housing project in the region, as well as Lincoln
Center, Shea Stadium, and two world’s fairs. Meanwhile, he built hundreds of new
city playgrounds and ordered the planting of 2 million trees.
World War II brought prosperity to the metropolitan region. The Brooklyn Navy Yard
operated around the clock, as its 70,000 workers produced dozens of warships and
merchant vessels. The Bush Terminal Complex, also in Brooklyn, functioned as the
major transshipment point for most of the troops and military hardware headed for
the invasion of Europe. Satellite cities like Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Newark,
New Jersey, were centers of munitions manufacture, and Long Island factories contributed
thousands of warplanes to the Allied cause. Moreover, World War II helped make Wall
Street the most important financial market in the world. The war so devastated the
economies of most other countries that their financial institutions could not compete
with those of New York.
In many respects, however, New York has reinvented itself since 1945, replacing
blue-collar jobs with better-paying opportunities in law, insurance, and financial
services. Meanwhile, the city has absorbed hundreds of thousands of new immigrants
from the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, and Russia. During the 1950s and 1960s,
a construction boom dotted the city skyline with many new skyscrapers and produced
in new civic institutions, such as Rockefeller Center and Lincoln Center.
Mayor John V. Lindsay was elected with Republican and Liberal Party support in 1965
and was reelected in 1969 as an independent and Liberal candidate. Lindsay consolidated
administrative agencies and attempted to decentralize authority by creating neighborhood
councils and encouraging local decision-making. Under Lindsay's leadership, the
city weathered racial crises during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and made
some gains in the provision of public housing.
Beginning in the late 1960s, New York City was confronted with serious fiscal problems.
Its tax base narrowed as many middle-class people moved out of the city. The city
lost more than 600,000 jobs, particularly during the national economic slumps of
the 1970s. Meanwhile, the cost of social services, especially welfare, rose sharply,
partly as a result of widespread unemployment. In the face of these fiscal problems,
New York City borrowed heavily. The city accumulated a deficit totaling $3.3 billion
by 1975. To avoid bankruptcy, the city sought help from the federal government,
which provided loan guarantees. Newly created financial entities, such as the Municipal
Assistance Corporation, kept the city from defaulting on its loans.
During the next three years, the city reduced its government work force by 87,000
and cut city services across the board. The poor were hardest hit, but cutbacks
in education, law enforcement, and transportation lowered the quality of life of
all New Yorkers. However, by 1981 the city budget was back in balance and by the
end of the 1990s the city was generating budget surpluses in the billions of dollars.
The transformation of the economy has been matched by substantial changes in government.
In March 1989 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the powerful Board
of Estimate, which controlled the city’s budget, was unconstitutional because it
gave disproportionate weight to the less populous boroughs. Each borough had equal
weight on the Board of Estimate, even though some had much smaller populations.
Staten Island, for example, had only a fraction of the residents of Brooklyn and
Queens. In November 1989 voters approved a revised charter, eliminating the Board
of Estimate and reassigning its powers to the mayor, the city planning commission,
and an expanded city council. In 1990 the new government system took effect.
Edward I. Koch became mayor in 1977. After 12 years in office, he was defeated in
his quest for a fourth term by David N. Dinkins, a former Manhattan Borough president
who became the city’s first black mayor. Dinkins was defeated in 1993 by Rudolph
W. Giuliani, the first Republican to occupy the city’s top office since 1965. Giuliani
was easily re-elected in 1997, in large part because his administration had reduced
the crime rate, cleaned the streets, and restored a sense of order to the metropolis.
Giuliani was prohibited from running for a third term because of the city's term
limits. In 2001 another Republican, Michael Bloomberg, was elected mayor.
New York was remarkably free of terrorism over its centuries-long history until
1993. In February of that year, a car bomb exploded in an underground garage below
the 110-story World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Six people were killed, and
more than 1,000 people were injured in the blast, which caused about $600 million
worth of damage to the building. In 1994 ten individuals opposed to U.S. support
for Israel were convicted of conspiracy in connection with the bombing and were
sentenced to long prison terms.
On September 11, 2001, a clear and cloudless day, a coordinated terrorist attack
struck at the heart of New York City (see
September 11 Attacks). At 8:46
am a hijacked Boeing 767 carrying
thousands of gallons of explosive jet fuel slammed into the north tower of the World
Trade Center in lower Manhattan. A second Boeing 767, traveling at an even greater
speed, struck the south tower 16 minutes later. As the towers burned, tens of thousands
of men and women ran for their lives, flooding the surrounding streets. On a typical
day, more than 50,000 people worked in the World Trade Center complex itself, while
another 50,000 people could be found in the adjacent skyscrapers. At 9:59
am, the south tower suddenly collapsed
in a huge roar, and at 10:28 am the
north tower did the same. The largest office complex on earth was reduced to smoldering
steel, broken concrete, and a whitish dust that coated lower Manhattan.
The human toll, more than 2,800 victims in New York, made the September 11 attack
easily the worst terrorist incident in all of U.S. history. But tales of heroism
and sacrifice eased the pain for a sorrowing nation. In particular, public attention
focused on the bravery of New York’s uniformed emergency personnel—especially New
York firefighters, more than 300 of whom died in the line of duty at the World Trade
Center. The city’s hardship and courage inspired Americans across the country and
led to unprecedented outpourings of charitable donations and assistance.