New York has always been a city of superlatives: biggest, brashest, best – at least that’s the opinions of its proud inhabitants – and with over 30 million visitors a year it seems that there are plenty of others who agree! After the events of 9/11 it’s now a city known as much for its resilience in the face of tragedy as its economic power, cultural dominance and ethnic diversity.
The area known as New York has been inhabited for over 10,000 years; first by Native American tribes, then from the sixteenth century by the Dutch who named it New Amsterdam and finally by the British who turned it into New York four decades later. At the year of American independence (1776) the city was a busy, dirty seaport of 33,000 – by 1900 it had ballooned to 3 million as its commercial clout and improving infrastructure drew more and more immigrants to the promised land. By 1930 New York was seven million strong but suffered terribly during the Depression.
It was only after World War Two that it finally took the title of America’s leading city and even then its position wasn’t guaranteed. A middle-class flight to the suburbs alongside a commercial drain (especially in TV production and manufacturing) to the West Coast left it reeling and it wasn’t until the 1980s, under the three-term mayor Ed Koch, that the city regained its poise and economic clout.
Sitting on the mouth of the River Hudson, New York straddles some 50 islands and is divided into five boroughs: Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx. Built on the labour of immigrants from across the world; even now, 30 per cent of its population are born abroad. The city has large Jewish, Italian, Hispanic and African American populations spread across Manhattan, Harlem and The Bronx. Koreans have made their home in Flushing, while Washington Heights is home to Central Americans and Queens to South Americans.
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