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New York Is Only Manhattan

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"Wake up, Manhattan! Wake up, Brooklyn! Wake up... the other three boroughs!"
Bill, NewsRadio

New York City is made up of five boroughs: Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Of them, however, Manhattan by far gets the most attention in fiction. This is changing, however, as Brooklyn is becoming trendier. New York State has it even worse.

Despite what fiction may lead you to think, Manhattan is actually the smallest of the boroughs by land area and by population, it still lags well behind Brooklyn and Queens. New York City as a whole is only a relatively small part of New York State.

If a character is identified as a New Yorker, they'll usually hail from some portion of Manhattan, unless they come from a troubled background (in which case, Brooklyn and the Bronx are fair game). If they're from a suburban or "rural" part of New York, they might be from Long Island or the lower Hudson Valley, which are still considered part of the NYC metropolitan area; everywhere else is regarded as "Upstate".

This trope exists in a certain tension with Big Applesauce: in practice, there can be a fine line between treating New York as a cartoon or Manhattan-centric version of itself, and treating familiarity with NYC as something to be assumed in one's audience (to the frequent irritation of non-New Yorkers). Predictably, the location and fineness of this line can vary by individual.

In video games, this trope is often due to New York City's sheer size making it hard to fit everything in.

Related to Britain Is Only London, which is a similar situation in a different country. Compare Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe. Hollywood Provincialism is similar, except with the whole United States being assumed to be like Southern California. Fulton Street Folly deals with concentrating on Lower Manhattan in particular.


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  • There are NY state vacation advertisements with the slogan "There's more to New York than New York" meant to put emphasis on places besides Manhattan.
  • A New York City advertisement for Seamless boasts about how everything is "big" in NYC, except for the kitchens, by using clips of Manhattan. Small kitchens are also usually associated with Manhattan more than the other boroughs due to the astronomical housing costs.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 
  • The Disney feature Oliver & Company transpires almost entirely in Manhattan; the climax occurs on the Manhattan Bridge. Further, the opening scene is a slow pan of western Manhattan, and the closing scene is a zoom-out on Times Square.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Elf: Buddy travels to New York City to reconnect with his birth father. In this case, New York City is treated as synonymous with Manhattan as all of the action takes place there.
  • Home Alone 2: Lost in New York: When Kevin realizes he's accidentally traveled to New York City by himself, he takes advantage of the opportunity to have his own vacation. He proceeds to see the sights and landmarks that are only in Manhattan and stay at The Plaza Hotel without any of the city's other boroughs being acknowledged.
  • Averted in the silent film The Crowd. It mainly takes place in Manhattan however the characters do visit Coney Island in Brooklyn.
  • Averted in the films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Manhattan gets the majority of the focus, a sizable amount of the action does take place within the other boroughs.
    • Iron Man 2 sticks to Queens whenever the plot heads to New York.
    • Captain America: The First Avenger stays largely within Brooklyn for the NYC parts, though the final scene and The Stinger (the latter a shortened scene from The Avengers) are in Manhattan.
    • The Avengers has the climax take place in Manhattan, but it's completely justified. Aside from needing Stark Tower's power source for his plan, Loki wants to make a spectacle of his invasion and is invoking this to ensure visibility.
    • Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place mostly in Queens, while the climactic battle is fought on Coney Island in Brooklyn.
  • Averted in Saturday Night Fever, which focuses on Brooklyn.
  • Averted in The Snake Pit. When the mentally ill protagonist is tested on whether she's well enough to leave the mental institution:
    Man: Where were you living when you became ill?
    Virginia: New York.
    Man: Where in New York?
    Virginia: New York City.
    Man: I mean, where in New York City?
    Virginia: Manhattan.
  • Lampshaded in Coming to America. When Prince Akeem and Semmi arrive at JFK airport in New York City, they ask the cab driver to take them to Queens. Noticing that they are clearly wealthy foreigners, the driver asks if they're sure they don't want him to take them to Manhattan and one of its ritzy hotels. Akeem declines and insists he take them to one of Queens' working class neighborhoods.

  • Subverted in Annie on My Mind. Liza lives in Brooklyn while her girlfriend Annie lives in Manhattan. Liza mentions early on that she lives in a suburban-looking area that isn't much like people expect from NYC.
  • In Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., New York is treated as equivalent with Manhattan.
  • The Babysitters Club treats New York City as Manhattan. Stacey is from Manhattan and the girls later visit Manhattan.
  • In Cities in Flight, the flying city of New York consists only of Manhattan.
  • Averted in the Young Wizards series. The protagonists live in Nassau County on Long Island, and the series consequently spends quite a bit of time there. The entire second book is set in The Hamptons. (That said, the main action of the first book does take place on a day trip to Manhattan.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Discussed at the start of an episode of The 1980s: The Deadliest Decade. It juxtaposes the trendy, high-tech and fabulous world of 1983 "New York City" (Manhattan) with its neighbor, the nearby suburban (and sometimes rural) Long Island.
  • Averted by Blue Bloods. The Reagan family is from Brooklyn, with Frank and Henry still living in the same house they grew up (and raised their kids) in, and Danny lives in Staten Island with his two boys. Jamie and Erin both live in Manhattan, though.
  • CSI: NY:
    • Invoked by the owner of the Manhattan Minx roller derby team in "Jamalot" who exclaims, "New York isn't Queens or the Bronx, it's Manhattan!"
    • Hinted at with Lindsay Monroe. Upon her arrival in season 2, she's got her heart so set on an apartment in Manhattan, that she's willing to sleep on her uncle's couch in Tarrytown until she finds one.
    • But averted by the series as a whole, since crimes happen in all five boroughs throughout the nine year run. There's even an episode in season 1 entitled "Tri-Borough" with cases spread across the city. Also, Det. Danny Messer is from Staten Island, Det. Don Flack is from Queens and Det. Adien Burn was from Brooklyn.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe has TV examples, too:
    • Daredevil (2015) primarily takes place in Hell's Kitchen, but it does have parts set elsewhere, such as in season 2 when Karen breaks into Frank Castle's house, which is clearly in Queens.
    • Jessica Jones (2015) primarily takes place in Manhattan, but does avert this as large portions of the show do take place in other boroughs, primarily Queens.
    • Luke Cage (2016) plays with this:
      • Season 1 strictly limits itself to Harlem and the upper part of Manhattan. It gets particularly bad when you tie it in with Jessica Jones (2015) where Luke was the main love interest. At the end of the season, Luke decides to leave to reinvent himself. But not only does he not leave New York City, he doesn't even leave Manhattan.
      • Averted in the second season, where the action is split between Harlem and Crown Heights in Brooklyn.
    • Hawkeye (2021) never leaves Manhattan, but does acknowledge the other four boroughs (most notably Brooklyn, due to Rogers: The Musical getting showcased).
  • Everybody Loves Raymond averts this. The location is Lynbrook, a New York City suburb on Long Island.
  • Averted in The King of Queens. Which, as it says on the label, is set in and around Queens. However, trouble is caused when Carrie discovers the dream home in Manhattan that she craves is within her grasp. And Doug doesn't want to leave Queens.
  • Averted in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which focuses on all the boroughs.
  • Invoked on NewsRadio when Bill gives an editorial. He can only name Manhattan and Brooklyn by name.
  • Alluded to in Sex and the City, where Miranda, an eternal Manhattanite like all four leads, is extremely apprehensive about the idea of moving to Brooklyn. Eventually averted as she decides to do it anyway.
  • Zigzagged on Saturday Night Live. While the sketches will make references to all of the boroughs, the title sequence only shows Manhattan's landmarks and scenery.
  • The Nanny downplays this. Although the series primarily takes place in Manhattan, the protagonist is Flushing, Queens native Fran Fine, who imbues the Sheffield household with her street smarts, and some episodes have her spending time with her family in Flushing.

    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed III Connor and Desmond only visit Manhattan, though in the former's case it's justified because during the 18th Century New York City was comprised solely of what would later be called Lower Manhattan.
  • Averted in The Crew where despite the game's version of NYC being condensed as part of a map spanning the entire United States, it managed to include the other boroughs (except Staten Island).
  • The Division starts out in Brooklyn but the rest is in Manhattan.
  • Averted by Driver and Driver: Parallel Lines. Driver takes place in New York in the last part of the game and part of the map includes Brooklyn. Parallel Lines, on the other hand, includes not only Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx (but not Staten Island), but a portion of New Jersey as well.
  • Liberty City, the New York City stand-in from the Grand Theft Auto series, has averted this in each of its incarnations:
    • The 2D Universe features a version of Liberty City that is most obviously modeled on New York, with counterparts to Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx: Brocklyn, Kings, Island City, and the Brix, respectively. While there's no counterpart to Staten Island, the smaller islands of Rikers (Law Island) and Roosevelt (Nixon Island) are depicted, along with a counterpart to New Jersey, New Guernsey.
    • In the 3D Universe, the second area of Staunton Island stands in for Manhattan, with the game beginning in the Brooklyn/Queens-like Portland, and the third island representing parts of upstate New York and New Jersey.
    • In the HD Universe every borough except Staten Island, and even part of New Jersey (in the form of Alderney), is represented.
  • In LEGO Marvel Super Heroes the island of Manhattan is used as a conveniently well-defined location for everything to happen on. For this to work, the game's designers have moved some things to Manhattan that are normally situated in greater New York (such as the X-Mansion, which in the comics is upstate in Salem Center).
  • The first Midnight Club starts off in New York, but is limited to Manhattan. The only evidence that the other boroughs exist is that one of your rivals, Larry Muller, proudly states he's from Queens.
  • In Need for Speed: The Run plays a downplayed example. The final leg of the transcontinental street race takes place in New York, though because the linear style of the game we only see what's between the Holland Tunnel to the harbor where the finish line is. Though the early parts of the race starts around the Brookyln area and the track crosses through the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Parasite Eve takes place entirely within Manhattan while the finale takes place on a navy ship near the Statue of Liberty.
  • Spider-Man games are always almost set in Manhattan only, with some of the smaller islands maybe accessible depending on the game. That said, there have been a few times this has been averted.
    • Ultimate Spider-Man has a decently-sized playable area in Queens, since Peter still lives and goes to school there.
    • Downplayed in Marvel's Spider-Man: While the other four boroughs (and Jersey City) are acknowledged, gameplay is strictly limited to Manhattan.
    • Marvel's Spider-Man 2 has been confirmed to include both Queens and Brooklyn in addition to Manhattan.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Averted with Mario's original backstory. Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, and Pauline were originally from Brooklyn.
    • Super Mario Odyssey retcons Brooklyn away and introduces a Fantasy Counterpart Culture in New Donk City. NDC, however, is more based on Manhattan than Brooklyn. There is more to the city than is playable, so that doesn't discount other boroughs having equivalents.
  • True Crime: New York City takes place in New York City (as you can tell from the title). Once again, the city seems to be relegated to Manhattan. Debug mode reveals other areas of New York. They have named streets, vehicles and pedestrians, but no buildings. It's possible they were Dummied Out due to NYC being too large.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • For a good 250 years, New York was only Manhattan. The original Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (founded 1624), renamed New York when the English captured it in 1664, was on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. The communities of the Bronx, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens were independent municipalities separate from New York City. (This is why Manhattan is still officially New York County.) Between 1874 and 1898 those outlying boroughs were merged with the old New York City to create what was then informally called "Greater New York". But old attitudes persisted, and even now it's not uncommon for residents of the "outer" boroughs to refer to Manhattan as "the City".