New York, New York: the city so nice they named it twice. AKA The Big Apple, Gotham, and The City That Never Sleeps.
Officially, the City of New York, within the State of New York (although the greater metro area spills over into Connecticut and New Jersey — hence the oft-mentioned Tri-State area — and even a county in Pennsylvanianote ).
The most populous city in the United States by far,note the largest English-speaking city in the world, and home to a massive media industry outclassed in the U.S. only by Hollywood. It is undoubtedly one of the most cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse, and culturally influential cities in history (if not the most). Despite all of which, it's still not the capital of its state; that title goes to Albany.
The Five Boroughs
While the New York Metropolitan Area is a massive urban conurbation, the best known parts are the five boroughs (basically counties with no administrative power whatsoever) of New York City proper:
- The Bronx (Bronx County): The birthplace of hip-hop, it's also home to a famous zoo and the New York Yankees baseball team, until recently the most successful sports franchise on Earthnote and still arguably the most hated. New York City FC of Major League Soccer also plays in Yankee Stadium (the Yankees own a minority interest in that team), but will get its own stadium in Queens in a few years. Since The '60s, it's been the borough most associated with urban deprivation, especially in the South Bronx (a longtime unofficial slogan was "only the strong survive"); though it's still the least affluent of the Five Boroughs, it's not nearly as much of a Wretched Hive as it once was. Fun piece of trivia: this is the only borough on the US mainland.note Manhattan and Staten Island are their own islands, while Brooklyn and Queens are on the western end of Long Island◊.
- Brooklyn (Kings County): The home of immigrants and, recently, trendy youngsters priced out of Manhattan. Historically, most sections are better known as working-class neighborhoods, though many neighborhoods, especially those close to the East River, are growing increasingly gentrified. It's sometimes called "The Bedroom of New York" because it is the most populous borough—being home to more than 2.5 million people—and while many of its people may work in Manhattan or elsewhere, Brooklyn is where they live and sleep. The borough is also well-known for Brooklyn accents, the most famous subset of the New York accent, its iconic brownstone buildings, and the Brooklyn Bridge, which connects Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. One popular tourist attraction is Coney Island Amusement Park at the southern end of the borough, which contains the Cyclone, the oldest operating roller coaster in America. Fun trivia: before it merged with the rest of New York City in 1898, Brooklyn was its own city and the 3rd largest in the US, as measured in population. In fact, if each borough was considered a city unto itself, Brooklyn would still be the 3rd largest in the country, behind only Los Angeles and Chicago.
- Manhattan (New York County): Geographically smallest but third most populated and most densely urbanized of the five boroughs; its population density (66,940 people per square mile) is higher than any other county in the US. The home of most of the city's most famous landmarks, including Times Square, Wall Street, Broadway, arguably the world's most iconic skyline, and more museums, theaters, and restaurants than you can shake a stick at. The hub of the world's financial engine, and the site of some of the most expensive real estate on the planet; the few remaining working-class and middle-class neighborhoods are largely clustered at the north and south ends of the island, respectively. Before 1874, this was all New York City was, and when you hear a local say "The City" (or an out-of-towner say "New York City"), they're referring to Manhattan. Even the U.S. Postal Service regards "New York, NY" as synonymous with the borough, and prefers that people who send letters to Manhattan addresses write "New York" as the destination instead of "Manhattan".note Fun trivia: for all that it's thought of as "the Big City", Manhattan is a small sliver of land. At its widest it's just about 2.3 miles wide (and is less than a mile wide at some of its narrower points), and is about 13.4 miles long. Though it sure doesn't feel that way if you've ever been caught in gridlock...
- Queens (Queens County): The home of the two NYC airports, LaGuardia (named after the city's Depression-era mayor) and JFK (originally Idlewild), two World's Fairs, underdog baseball team The Mets, New York City FC in the coming years, the site of tennis' US Open, and lots and lots of graveyards (Manhattan hasn't had room for burials since the 1850s, so most New Yorkers who opt to be buried wind up resting in Queens). The second most populous borough, with a mix of working-class neighborhoods in the west and suburbia in the east. Fun trivia: it is the most ethnically and linguistically diverse area in the world, with native speakers of at least 140 different languages living within its 178 square miles. You can find a family-owned restaurant that represents virtually every ethnicity. It's home to nearly half the city's Asian population, and is also one of the few counties in the US where African-Americans (who make up one in five residents) make more money on average than whites. Fun fact: due to "New York City" only absorbing Brooklyn and Queens in the late 1800's, plus local political factors, the "New York Public Library system" covers the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, but not Queens and Brooklyn, which have their own independent library systems. Queens is also home to Jamaica station, the main train hub for all east-west travel going into Manhattan - all of the rail lines heading west on Long Island converge at Jamaica, which is also on the subway grid. For travelers heading in to NYC via JFK airport (the bigger of the two airports), a direct train line runs from the airport to Jamaica station, where you then either take an LIRR train or the subway to continue west into Manhattan.
- Staten Island (Richmond County): Known by other New Yorkers for the Ferry to Manhattan, high tolls, and relative suburbanity (in that order). Third-largest in geographic size but least populous by far with a population of 480,000, it is the least dense borough and the only one not connected to the subway (though it has its own local train that uses the same fare system). As a result, Staten Islanders are more likely to own cars than other New Yorkers. Combined with the fact that it stands at a bit of a remove from the rest of the city geographically but is only separated by a narrow channel from New Jersey (specifically Hudson, Union, and Middlesex Counties), this different character has led to occasional grumblings from New Jerseyans that the island should really be part of NJ, and frequent jokes from other New Yorkers that it basically already is. Its four road bridges are tolled at $14-16, rising from time to time.note If this article was written two decades ago, Fresh Kills Landfill would've replaced "high tolls" in this entry's first sentence. It's now being turned into a park three times the size of Central Park. Incidentally, a third of Staten Island is protected parkland, including beaches, wildlife refuges, and dense woodlands. Two large hills straddle a ridge spanning most of the island; Todt Hill is the highest natural point along the Eastern Seaboard. Numerous historical sights, some pre-Revolution, dot the island. Richmondtown in particular is a preserved colonial village, a subject of many field trips for New York schoolkids. If you're into urban exploration, the island's brownfield areas have much to offer. According to census records and exit polls, Staten Island is the most consistently conservative of the five boroughs, usually voting Republican while the other four usually vote Democrat. Staten Island has occasionally elected Democrats in congressional races, but there have been only two since 1981, both of whom were given the boot after one term. After years of general cultural neglect, Staten Island is gradually acquiring a new pop culture cachet for being very weird—the whole island competes with Manhattan's Washington Square for the title of "most reputably haunted place in New York State" and the television version of What We Do in the Shadows (2019) has its main cast of vampire roommates sharing an old house there. Maybe it's best to let SI natives Pete Davidson, Method Man and Big Wet tell you the rest.
Popular landmarks (and whether CSI NY killed someone there)
- The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (Yes to both), the latter of which famously housed the United States' main immigration processing station on the East Coast. An estimated 40% of Americans had at least one ancestor pass through here. Interestingly, the islands are partly in both New York and New Jersey. The parts of the islands that were created by landfill, mostly dirt and rock from the building of the Subway, are in NJ. The rationale was that the laws and agreements respecting the two islands granted the land of the islands as they naturally are/were to New York, but the water and submerged land remained New Jersey territory. Therefore, while Liberty Island is in New York (because there's no landfill), it's entirely surrounded by New Jersey territorial waters and thus technically an exclave of NY in NJ (and thus of NYC in Jersey City).
- The Empire State Building. (Yes.) The distinctive Art Deco skyscraper was the tallest building in the world when it was finished and held the record for 36 years. It is the most iconic building in New York and perhaps the United States as a whole.
- Rockefeller Center, home of a large Christmas tree and where NBC is based.
- The Brooklyn Bridge. (Correct.)
- The New York City Subway. (Yep.)
- The Chrysler Buildingnote (Not yet!)
- Grand Central Terminalnote , which is near the above
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and the American Museum of Natural History.
- The original World Trade Center, a complex of seven buildings with the 1,368 and 1,362 foot high Twin Towers as its centerpiece, was the most visible feature of the city skyline from the towers' completion in the early 1970s to the Trade Center's complete destruction in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The towers were edited out of post-9/11 prints of old movies and TV shows for a while; after an appropriate amount of healing time had passed, this practice was eventually discontinued. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum was constructed on-site for remembering, honoring, and paying respect to the innocent lives that were lost.
- With the construction of a new group of World Trade Center buildings surrounding the memorial and museum, most notably the 1,776 foot skyscraper One World Trade Center, this location has been appearing in movies and TV shows since 2010.
- Coney Island in southern Brooklyn, which contains a beach, the 'Cyclone' roller coaster (there used to be several large theme parks, but all but two have shut down), the New York Aquarium, and the original Nathan's Hot Dogs. Also, a popular hang-out for a local youth organization. (Nope.)
- Central Park, a large park in the center of Manhattan.
- St. Patrick's Cathedral
- New York Public Library
- Carnegie Hall
- Lincoln Center
- Grant's Tomb
- Washington Square
- Madison Square Garden, "The World's Most Famous Arena", and home of the NHL's Rangers, NBA's Knicks, the NCAA's St. John's Red Storm men's basketball team (for most games), and the Big East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament (which includes St. John's). The WNBA's Liberty played here until moving first to Westchester County and then to Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The current building is the fourth to carry the name, and it was built over the Penn Station railroad and subway stop (formerly an above-ground terminal, Penn Station is still the busiest rail station in the USnote ). MSG is actually a few blocks northwest of Madison Square Park, where the first two Gardens stood; the third Garden, open from 1925-1968, was several blocks further north. As of this writing, the city has shown signs it intends to show the current incarnation of MSG the door, only approving a 10-year extension of its license, with many locals calling for the arena to use that time to find an alternate location and thus allow the aging Penn Station to have an aboveground facility again.
- Times Square. In the 1920s, the most popular theater district in the world, from the 1960s through the 1980s a center of pornography and crime, today a center of safe, friendly tourist attractions. Has always been full of neon signs and throngs of people. Has been turned into a street park where you can sit in the middle of the road, and construction isn't even done yet. (Yes.)
- Broadway. The street itself is an avenue that runs mostly north-south through the entire island of Manhattan, and up into the Bronx and beyond—one of the few to cut diagonally across the Manhattan grid. However, unless you're giving directions, "Broadway" means the stretch near Times Square that serves as the epicenter of live theater in America. "Broadway" has become so synonymous with big-scale theatrical productions that the terms "Broadway" and "Off-Broadway" are now used generically to refer to big and small-scale productions, respectively, no matter where the theater physically resides. (Not yet.)
- The original, flagship stores for Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Ave, Barnes & Noble, and other major chains.
- The Bronx Zoo.
Minor outlying islands
New York City has a few outlying islands besides Manhattan, Staten, and parts of Long Island. Each of them belong to one of the five boroughs. Discounting small coastal rocks and reefs, those of note include:
- New York Bay (south of Manhattan):
- Liberty Island and Ellis Island - federally owned, containing the Statue of Liberty and historic immigration processing center, respectively. Both are federal museum sites, with no permanent inhabitants. Due to a land dispute, the islands are technically considered to held in joint custody between New York/Manhattan and neighboring New Jersey.
- Governors Island - part of Manhattan but not permanently inhabited, only accessible by ferry. Converted into public park land, and the site of many festivals and cultural events.
- Jamaica Bay (south of mainland Brooklyn)
- Broad Channel Island - located between the mainland and Coney Island (which is actually a peninsula)note . Connected to the mainland by bridges and the subway train system (which extends all the way to Coney Island). Jamaica Bay has many marshy islets which are uninhabited or bird sanctuaries: Broad Channel is the only island that is permanently inhabited, with a population of over 3,000. Generally just considered a neighborhood of Brooklyn.
- East River (east of Manhattan, west of Brooklyn and Queens)
- Roosevelt Island - a long, narrow island running north-south in the East River, politically a part of Manhattan, though the only road entry is via Queens. Visitors coming from Manhattan can arrive either via the subway- there's one station on the island- or the semi-famous tram that carries passengers over the river parallel to the 59th St Bridge. Once known as Blackwell's Island and then Welfare Island before it arrived at its present name, it was once the site of almost all of the city's grimmer institutions- the pre-Rikers jails, the workhouses, hospitals for very specific diseases like tuberculosis, and most infamously an insane asylum that helped cement the popular image of the Bedlam House. Today, it is almost entirely residential (even the asylum's former administrative building is now part of a luxury housing complex). Population of over 11,000.
- Randall's Island - technically part of Manhattan, but located at the tri-point between Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx - the "Triborough" bridge crosses over the island, linking the Bronx with Queens. It's also located at the point where the Harlem River flows into the East River. Not really a "neighborhood", the city government decided that this relatively large but isolated island would be a good place to put a lot of public "infrastructure" that services the main islands: train yards, police stations, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, water treatment plants, a few homeless shelters, etc. The official resident population is actually less than 2,000 - mostly to house support staff for the facilities there. Randall's Island isn't connected to the subway network - though it is accessible by bridges and buses. Most New Yorkers are aware of Randall's Island, but only as "that river island I see out my window as I drive over the Triborough bridge".
- Rikers Island - filled by a large prison complex, Rikers Island is technically part of the Bronx, even though it is closer to Brooklyn and connected to the latter by bridge. The inmate population averages about 10,000 at any given time, though it processes over 100,000 temporary inmates per year (awaiting trial, etc.). Infamous for accusations of prisoner abuse, in legal shows you can often see lawyers threatening to send suspects to Rikers Island if they don't agree to a plea bargain. There are efforts to shut down Rikers Island by 2026.
- North Brother Island and South Brother Island - small islands located between Randall's and Rikers, accessible only by boat, currently uninhabited and not open to the public. They have a combined land area of only 6 acres, less than half that of Liberty Island. Semi-infamous for being one of the isolated parts of "New York City" that even most New Yorkers have never heard about. Since the late 1800s several hospitals were located on them - specifically due to their isolation, they were either hospitals for infectious diseases or psychiatric hospitals. Both isles have been abandoned since the 1960s, and while various proposals were made to repurpose them (everything from homeless shelters to new prison space for Rikers), no decision could be made, and they've been abandoned bird sanctuaries ever since.
- During its time as a quarantine hospital-island, North Brother Island's most notorious resident was probably one Mary Mallon, more (in)famously known as Typhoid Mary.
- Pelham Islands (east of the Bronx and East River isles)
- City Island - connected to the mainland by bridge, considered just a neighborhood of the Bronx, with a population of over 4,300.
- Hart Island - located at the extreme eastern edge of NYC's territories, most New Yorkers have never heard of it, and would be surprised that NYC territory extends this far into Long Island Sound (it's at roughly the same longitude as the eastern land border of Queens). It is only accessible by boat and is not open to the public. Despite its obscurity, it has a relatively large land area: 131 acres, not that much smaller than Roosevelt (147 acres) or Governors (172 acres), and much bigger than North and South Brother Islands (6 acres combined). The problem is that city government could never figure out what to do with this isolated piece of land, but cycled between various failed ventures over the years, giving it a long and checkered archeological history, with new structures built over ruins of the old.
- The first constructions date back to the Civil War, when it was a training base for US Colored Troops, and was later used as a Civil War POW camp for over 3,000 captured Confederates.
- In the late 1800s it shuffled between uses as a quarantine station for tuberculosis and yellow fever, and a psychiatric hospital, as well as a delinquent boys' workhouse. In the early 1900s the workhouse was used as overflow for prisoners from Rikers Island, though this was shut down after World War II.
- In the early 1950s it was repurposed yet again as a homeless shelter and alcoholics' sanitorium, with a population of over 1,200.
- In 1956, the military constructed Nike Ajax surface-to-air missile silos on Hart Island, but they were eventually shut down in 1974.
- By 1966 the homeless shelter and prison facilities were closed, but replaced the next year with a drug rehab facility that housed 350 people - but it closed ten years later, in 1977. After this point permanent settlement on the island was abandoned, but after a few years, city government found other uses for it:
- In the early 1980s, during the height of the AIDS epidemic, the idea came about to bury HIV victims on the isolated island - due to unsubstantiated fears that their graves were contagious. Thousands of AIDS victims were ultimately buried there. Hart Island always had cemetery facilities for its associated prisons and plague hospitals, so as something of a natural outgrowth, the city increasingly shifted to using it as overflow for not just AIDS deaths, but the prison system, and ultimately the homeless population in general. After a few years in the 1980s, Hart Island grew into New York City's largest "potter's field" - cheap burial ground for unclaimed remains. Burials are carried out by prisoners from Rikers Island, transported by ferry.
- Hart's Island returned to the public eye again during the COVID-19 pandemic, when - true to the island's historical use - large numbers of COVID-19 victims were buried in its cemetery. There were some lurid descriptions in the press that these were "mass graves", prompting the city government to point out that they're doing what they always did: not rolling multiple corpses into the same ditch, but stacking a lot of cheap plywood coffins in the same large burial (that's what a "potter's field" is).
The city now known as New York City was originally inhabited by the Delaware tribe of Native Americans. The first European contact was in 1524 by the Italian (how fitting) explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (whose name now graces, misspelled, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn), but credit for mapping the region goes to Henry Hudson, an Englishman working for the Dutch East India Company, in 1609. (The Hudson River would be named after him.) The Dutch established a trading post on the southern tip of Manhattan in 1613, and built Fort Amsterdam nearby in 1624 to protect their growing influence in the Hudson River valley. Within a year, a small town, known as Nieuw Amsterdam, began to grow around the trading post and the fort, and in 1626, the Dutch bought all of Manhattan and Staten Island from the natives in exchange for trade goods. As the beaver trade (the main reason for Dutch colonization) moved further north up the Hudson River, Nieuw Amsterdam became one of the main trading hubs of the East Coast of North America. The Dutch, viewing the Nieuw Nederland colony as more of a trading operation than a colonial enterprise, were unconcerned with its ethnic makeup, and thus allowed people of all ethnicities and religions to settle the growing city and turn it into a hub for immigration — something that it remains to this day.
Dutch rule over the Nieuw Nederland colony ended in 1664, when the British landed in present-day Brooklyn and captured Nieuw Amsterdam without a fight. They renamed both the city and the colony New York, after the king's brother James, Duke of York. The Dutch briefly regained control in 1673, but they were quickly thrown out. However, Dutch influence remains in the city to this day in the form of various place names, including Coney Island (Konijnen Eiland — Dutch for "Rabbit Island"), Brooklyn (Breukelen), Harlem (Nieuw Haarlem), Greenwich Village (Greenwijck), and Staten Island (Staaten Eylandt).
During the French and Indian War, New York was the main base of operations for the British in North America. During The American Revolution, New York was one of the most heavily Loyalist cities in the Thirteen Colonies — a situation that was exacerbated after the British occupied it and made it the center of their operations, which led to both Patriots fleeing the city and Loyalists fleeing into the city from Patriot-held areas. New York was the keystone for Britain's "Divide and Conquer" strategy, in which they tried to push north up the Hudson River in order to cut off New England from the rest of the Thirteen Colonies. It was also the site of the prison ships that the British used to house American prisoners of war, which were notorious for their squalid conditions — more Americans died on those ships than in battle.
Congress, which had been reduced to sharing time and space with the Maryland Legislature and even to meeting in taverns in New Jersey during and immediately after the war, elected to move to New York a few months after the 1784 ratification of the Treaty of Paris stabilized matters in the young country. The Congress continued to meet in New York's old city hall (now Federal Hall) even after the ratification of the new United States Constitution in 1789; George Washington was inaugurated for his first term as the first President on the balcony of Federal Hall on the 14th of April that year. Originally, New York was to remain in the role until such time as the federal capital stipulated in the new constitution could be built. However, Pennsylvania offered the federal government a very good deal if it moved back to Philadelphia; as a result, the role of temporary capital was transferred to Philly in 1790. This ended up biting the federal government in the ass: the Pennsylvania Legislature was constantly at pains to try to keep the capital in Philadelphia permanently (doing things like building a place to house Congress and buying a townhouse for the President) which proved to be a major annoyance to Congress and the Washington Administration.
Capital or no, the city grew into America's financial capital not long after, thanks to a combination of three factors: the Erie Canal allowing easy access to the Midwest, the economic policies of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury (and proud adoptive New Yorkernote ) and the city's massive natural harbor. By 1835, it would surpass Philadelphia to become America's largest city. New York was a favored destination for immigrants, particularly the Irish, who made up one-quarter of New York's population by 1850. During this time, services like police and schools were established to keep pace with the growing population, and the Tammany Hall political machine, led by the notorious William M. "Boss" Tweed, began its rise to power by courting immigrant voters. It would elect its first mayor, Fernando Wood, in 1855. During the Civil War, New York's trade links to the South, its large immigrant population, and Tammany Hall's association with the Democratic Party made it one of the most anti-war places in the North, which culminated in the Draft Riots of 1863. To avoid the ravages of war and stay neutral, Mayor Wood proposed having New York secede and become a neutral city-state called the City of Tri-Insula.
After the war, immigration increased further, and New York's status as the gateway to America was acknowledged with the construction of the Statue of Liberty in 1886. Tammany Hall took advantage of this immigration to consolidate its own power through the Gilded Age, becoming the codifier for corrupt political machines. It used its power to win the votes of the poor masses and muzzle opposition through a combination of handouts, cronyism, police oppression and The Mafia, letting the city fall into squalor and turn into a premier Wretched Hive as the city's tenements became increasingly packed. Social reformer Jacob Riis would document New York's poverty in his 1890 book How the Other Half Lives, which soon became one of the pioneering examples of photojournalism.
The year 1898 marked the beginning of the modern City of New York, with the consolidation of New York (then composed of Manhattan and the Bronx), the city of Brooklyn, and outlying areas in what is now Queens and Staten Island. This was a fiercely debated decision at the time which barely acquired a majority to vote for it, and for nearly a century afterward there were a few diehard holdouts (mostly in Brooklyn) who insisted that the decision to merge with the rest of New York was wrong and continually referred to it as "The Great Mistake of '98". The cities of Yonkers and Mount Vernon were also given a vote to join NYC and become the sixth and seventh boroughs, but this was rejected by voters. The New York City Subway would be established in 1904.
In the early 20th century, a number of factors helped to reduce immigration and relieve New York's overcrowding (and the associated problems with poverty and crime): the disruption of trade routes by World War I, the creation of new immigration restrictions, and The Great Depression eliminating the need for new labor. The development of municipal sewers and the replacement of horses with automobiles helped to clean up New York's filthy streets. Disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911 led to the establishment of building codes and workplace safety regulations, and spur on the growth of organized labor. As immigration from Europe dried up, African-Americans began taking up the slack, pouring into New York and other northern cities during what is known as the Great Migration. The neighborhood of Harlem became the center of African-American cultural life during The Roaring '20s, in what is known as the Harlem Renaissance. The city's first skyscrapers also began going up during this era, giving New York its trademark Art Deco skyline.
The Great Depression started in New York with the Stock Market Crash of 1929, and the ensuing economic collapse led to the election of Fiorello La Guardia as mayor in 1933. A progressive social reformer and supporter of the New Deal, La Guardia is sometimes considered to be New York's greatest mayor. He abolished the corrupt "ward" system, broke the power of Tammany Hall (the organization stuck around In Name Only until 1968), heavily expanded the subways, brought down Lucky Luciano, and instituted massive public works projects to build bridges, parks, airports (including the one that now bears his name, though rendered as LaGuardia) and highways. Parts of his legacy, however, are rather controversial, particularly those related to his chief planner, Robert Moses (who served long after La Guardia's retirement). Moses' critics have accused him of destroying neighborhoods (particularly the South Bronx and Coney Island) and uprooting thousands through the construction of highways, causing the departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants baseball teams for Los Angeles and San Francisco respectively, and facilitating the growth of the suburbia that now blankets Long Island. Supporters, meanwhile, claim that he had built valuable infrastructure that allowed New York to avoid the fate of many Rust Belt cities and thrive into the present day and beyond.
After World War II, with most of Europe in ruins, New York emerged to replace London as the world's premier financial center and Paris as the capital of the art world. The United Nations Headquarters was built in Manhattan along the East River, turning New York into a political center as well. Midtown Manhattan went through a huge construction boom fueled by post-war prosperity. However, not all was well. Starting in 1950, New York's population began dropping, thanks to the highways (many of them built by the aforementioned Robert Moses) running out into the growing suburbs (though Moses' plans to put through freeways through the heart of Manhattan never went through due to neighborhood protests and the slow decline of his power). In The '60s, the city, under the inept mayorship of John Lindsay, experienced a series of strikes by transit workers, teachers and sanitation workers, a riot between college students and construction workers, and a blizzard that crippled the city. The rise of container shipping killed New York's ports, as the new Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey could handle the massive stacks of shipping containers that New York could not. Times Square became increasingly seedy, filled with porn theaters and other disreputable businesses, and came to symbolize the city's decline.
By The '70s, the only good thing one could say about New York City was that it wasn't as wretched a hive as nearby Newark was. The city nearly went bankrupt in 1975 before it was bailed out by a federal loan. The "Son of Sam" Serial Killer was on the loose in 1976-1977, terrorizing the city. The middle classes started pouring out into the suburbs, feeling that the city was in an irreversible decline. The city's Darkest Hour — both figuratively and literally — came at 8:37 PM on July 13, 1977, when a lightning strike at an electrical substation in Westchester County, combined with gross negligence on the part of the Con Edison power company, caused the entire city to lose power for 25 hours — which meant no air conditioning in the middle of a brutal July Heat Wave. The result was an outbreak of looting, vandalism and arson that made national headlines.
Several residents of the city, such as Fran Leibowitz, have stated that this emphasis on social decay and weak infrastructure emphasizes the worst points in favor of the good. New York's cosmopolitan spirit attracted immigrants and intellectuals from around the world, as well as several aspiring artists cheaply because the pre-1980s rent used to be cheap. Greenwich Village, SoHo and several other parts of the city created an artistic revolution. New York's Anthology Archives was the centre for American experimental film, it was also the location of Martha Graham's dance academy, the home of Leonard Bernstein, Abstract Impressionism and of course the folk scene was so vital that a young Robert Zimmerman left Minnesota to the city to become Bob Dylan.
The '80s marks the beginning of the city's gentrification, albeit initially, it was not by much. Wall Street was booming, and unemployment was inching down, but crime was still out of control, AIDS was widespread (#1 in descending order along with San Francisco's #2, now #3 and Los Angeles' [first reporting U.S. city for its symptoms in 1981] #3, now #2 in the three original high reporting U.S. cities for it), racial tensions were running high, and crack cocaine, gangs and homelessness were becoming epidemics. This all came to a climax in 1990, when a record 2245 murders were recorded. The mayor during this time, Ed Koch, was far more conservative than many of his predecessors (he called himself a "liberal with sanity"), winning the endorsement of both the Democratic and Republican parties in 1981. He took a tough "law and order" stance in handling crime in the city, banning the playing of radios on the subways, and giving the police broader powers in dealing with homeless people, and he has since become famous for his hawkish pro-Israel views. He was also nationally famous for taking his love of New York City to levels that many would consider extreme; he tried to block the creation of a second area code for the city on the grounds that he felt it would divide New Yorkers, and when the New York Giants won Super Bowl XXI in 1987 he refused to grant them a permit to hold their victory parade in the city, saying that they should parade "in front of the oil drums in Moonachie" on the grounds of their stadium being based in New Jersey. While highly popular both during and after his three terms as mayor, he was brought down by his harsh criticism of Jesse Jackson in the 1988 Democratic primaries (which alienated black voters) and a series of corruption scandals during his third term that undermined his "clean" image.
Of unique note was Koch's stance towards LGBT rights. While he was fairly progressive for the time, enacting a landmark anti-discrimination act, he's also a controversial figure among gay people for his perceived lack of response to the AIDS crisis, opposing needle exchange programs and mandatory AIDS education in schools. His biggest move to contain the epidemic was to shut down the city's homosexual bathhouses, only later extending the ban to heterosexual "swingers' clubs" (such as the famous Plato's Retreat) to avoid running afoul of the very law that he had enacted. It's long been speculated that Koch, a lifelong bachelor, was a closeted homosexualnote , and that his softening of his pro-gay rights views was done in order to shore up concerns about his sexuality. The fact that he had to make several statements over the course of his career explicitly affirming his heterosexuality only added fuel to the rumors.
The economic boom of The '90s was especially noticeable when looking at the city's perspective thanks to its modern transportation and communications infrastructure, and as a result, the crime rates had dropped hard and fast. The man who is often credited for this, particularly the latter, is Mayor Rudolph "Rudy" Giuliani, a former prosecutor who became famous for his "tough on crime" attitude and for cleaning up Times Square, turning it into the tourist-friendly mecca of neon that it is today. Whether he deserves this credit... well, let's just say it's controversial. Supporters point to his implementation of the CompStat system to make the NYPD more efficient, as well as his embrace of the "broken windows" theorynote , while detractors point to the nationwide drop in crime during The '90s, the fact that New York's drop in crime (as well as the cleanup of Times Square) had actually begun under Giuliani's predecessor, David Dinkins (New York City's first black mayor), allegations of Police Brutality, and criticism of the "broken windows" theory. In any event, New York City was prospering in a way not seen since the immediate post-war period.
And then came 9/11.
The destruction of the World Trade Center turned Giuliani into a national figure overnight, earning him a reputation as "America's Mayor."note The city of New York, once thought of as a degenerate slum, likewise turned into a patriotic symbol. Perhaps the best illustration of how much things had improved would come in 2003, when the city was again blacked out in the middle of a summer heat wave (this time as part of a power outage that hit the entire Northeast). Partly due to the huge drop in crime, partly due to solidarity against what many immediately assumed was caused by terrorism, and partly because the blackout began during daylight hours, the looting and arson of the 1970s were replaced by goodwill, particularly of "celebratory" block parties of ice cream and restaurant food that was going to spoil.
Giuliani's immediate and chosen successor, billionaire businessman and engineer Mike Bloomberg, initially ran for mayor as a member of the Republican party, but after two terms where he was often swimming against the mainstream Republican current, officially changed his designation to Independent, and would run the city in ways that borrowed from and infuriated both Republicans and Democrats. Bloomberg continued to preside over an economic boom, and gentrification and real estate development quickly reached into neighborhoods that had been ghettoes just a few years before. Bloomberg wanted his main legacy to be fixing New York City's schools, and to accomplish this he abolished the bureaucracy of the Board of Education and took direct control over the school system. The result was something of a mixed bag; high school graduation rates skyrocketed during his mayorship, but many other indicators of student achievement remained flat or worsened slightly (leading critics to charge that Bloomberg was pushing students to graduate to make his policies look good, regardless of whether or not it was deserved or there was any actual improvement among students), and Bloomberg and the teacher's union were quite antagonistic towards each other in ways that turned the education system into a battleground between the mayor's office and the union.
What might actually be Bloomberg's legacy is the unprecedented and forceful move he made to push New York towards becoming a modern tech hub. This included the donation of city land on Roosevelt Island to become a brand new campus dedicated to applied sciences and engineering. The result was that, in the years since, New York City has become an American tech hub second only to Silicon Valley itself, and this in turn has been a key reason why technological and internet based companies, including Google and Amazon, have developed a far greater physical presence in New York City than in years past.
The city's crime rate also continued to drop, eventually dipping to levels not seen since the 1950s, although evidence from a police whistleblower (later backed by an internal report the NYPD conducted) showed that at least some of that was due to manipulation of the statistics. Bloomberg also became known outside the city for policies seen as nanny-state paternalism, including, among other things, his legislation banning trans fats and large sodas and reducing salt in city restaurants, calling on a ban on styrofoam, his presenting a bill to put cigarettes out of sight in stores, and the sting operations that he carried out in other states to catch people who were smuggling guns into the city. Another controversial decision was to extend New York's term limits for its mayor from two to three terms, which was roundly criticized. It came surprisingly close to backfiring against Bloomberg, as the 2009 election against Bill Thompson (a longtime city official and former president of the Board of Education), which Bloomberg had been expected to win easily, wound up being decided by less than 5 percentage points. This was especially surprising given the relative lack of name recognition for Thompson and the HUGE disparity in the operating budgets for the two campaigns.
In 2012, the city was hit by Hurricane Sandy, which caused severe damage in Staten Island as well as widespread power outages, flooding in the subways and gas shortages. Mayor Bill De Blasio was elected in 2013, and took a much more conciliatory tone towards the city's various public workers unions such as teachers, transportation, and sanitation, many of which had clashed with both Bloomberg and Giuliani and had been working for years without a contract, which De Blasio began settling. In general De Blasio struck something of a populist note, occasionally saying things such as that in recent years laws and policy have been in favor of the richest New Yorkers rather than all New Yorkers. Perhaps the most debated pledge of De Blasio's was his promise to end the NYPD's controversial "Stop and Frisk" policy, which gave the police the ability to stop and search anyone they suspected of criminal intent. The law had frequently been criticized for disproportionately targeting black and Latino citizens, had run into numerous 4th Amendment challenges (the right against "unreasonable search and seizure"), and despite the fact that the law is intended to prevent violent crime, only a minuscule percentage of the searches ever turned up weapons or any other contraband. Many residents felt that the law worked as a deterrent and prevention method, however, and feared a return to the crime rates of the 1970s and 1980s with it and other other police protections/policies being relaxed. As of November 2018, that has not happened, and in fact crime statistics indicate that crime has fallen further after the city stopped using the tactic. The matter was somewhat moot by the time that De Blasio actually assumed office, however, as a 2013 court ruling from the last months of the Bloomberg administration had sharply curtailed the powers police had assumed under "Stop and Frisk" and effectively defanged the practice. Even the NYPD took a moment to point out the continued fall in crime◊ after the end of "Stop and Frisk" when that policy and New York City's crime rate became a subject of contention during the first Presidential debate of 2016.
The other thing of note during De Blasio's time in office was a decidedly soured relationship between the Mayor's Office and the police. De Blasio was harshly criticized by the union after making public statements about how he has told his multiracial son Dante to take special care in his interactions with the police. Simmering tensions exploded after a wave of racially charged shootings and deaths in the country during 2014, including when Staten Island resident Eric Garner was choked to death by police officers on the suspicion that Garner was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, and resisting arrest. When the officer who put Garner in a chokehold was not indicted (despite chokeholds specifically being against NYPD policy), the response was widespread protests against the police that De Blasio took a hands-off approach to handling (which contrasts with the approach of Bloomberg and especially Giuliani, who had unequivocally backed the police during such occasions), again angering members of the police force and drawing condemnation from Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, one of the largest police unions in the city.note A week after the protests, a deranged gunman from Baltimore traveled to New York City, where he ambushed and killed a pair of police officers before killing himself. Lynch responded by proclaiming the blood to be on De Blasio's hands, and when De Blasio attended the funerals of the slain officers, the police force turned their backs on De Blasio in protest. The relationship between the mayor and the police union continued to be strained, at best, for years afterward.
While De Blasio managed to secure a second term as mayor in 2017, his image among NYC residents only continued to sour. His progressive base began to accuse him of not doing enough to help curb the growing quality of life disparity between the richest and poorest New Yorkers such as improve affordable housing. 2019 saw him launch a bid for the Democratic nomination for the US Presidency, only to be met with little to no support from the electorate. He quietly ended his bid after failing to quality for any of the late-stage primary debates. Things came to a head during the COVID-19 Pandemic when De Blasio, ignoring the warnings from health officials as well as his advisors, encouraged New Yorkers to continue going about their day-to-day business. This backfired horribly as the disease was rapidly spread by asymptomatic carriers. Despite New York Governor Andrew Cuomo immediately implementing a stay-at-home order across the state, it was too late and the NYC metropolitan area became the worst-affected area of the country. As a result, De Blasio's approval rating plummeted to new lows as the city adapted to the widespread health, economic, and social effects of the virus. He would not run for a third term in 2021, with Brooklyn Borough President and former NYPD captain Eric Adams winning a crowded Democratic primary that also featured another 2020 presidential candidate in Andrew Yang and easily winning the general election. Adams is the city's second black mayor, following David Dinkins.
New York City in Fiction
Main article: Big Applesauce
Four separate pages on The Other Wiki for media listings, 6,797 results as a keyword on IMDB... it's fair to say that the city features a lot in fiction. Probably every reader here has at least one NY-set TV show on their regular watchlist or has had at some time.
Attempting to even prune these down to the "highly notable" department would still get you at least a hundred results.
Tropes associated with New York City
The "other" New York
Main article: New York State
Note that New York State isn't called the "Empire State" for nothing — while the NYC suburbs within the state reach well up the Hudson River and nearly all the way down Long Island, the other 90% of the state (often known as "upstate") is culturally and geographically distinct from the city, and often resents the association. There have been several attempts to split the upstate off into the 51st state, and just as many attempts by downstaters (the city and its suburbs) to do likewise; such attempts usually flounder on who gets to keep the name "New York".
Don't even try to mention it here, yank! Why don't you go to some Other British Towns and Cities instead?