History of New York City
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- This article traces the history of New York City. For the history of the State of New York, see the article History of New York.
|History of New York City|
 Lenape and New Netherland: Prehistory:1613-1664
Prehistory in the area began with the geological formation of the peculiar territory of what is today New York City. The area was long inhabited by the Lenape; Lenape in canoes met Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first European explorer to enter New York Harbor, in 1524. Giovanni da Verrazzano named this place New Angoulême in the honor of the French king Francis I. Although Verrazano sailed into New York Harbor, he is not thought to have traveled further than the present site of the bridge that bears his name, and instead sailed back into the Atlantic. It was not until the voyage of Henry Hudson, an Englishman who worked for the Dutch East India Company, that the area was mapped. He discovered Manhattan on September 11, 1609, and continued up the river that bears his name, the Hudson River, until he arrived at the site where New York State's capital city, Albany, now stands.
European settlement began with the founding of the Dutch fur trading settlement in Lower Manhattan in 1613 later called New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam) in the southern tip of Manhattan in 1624. Later in 1626, Peter Minuit established a long tradition of shrewd real estate investing when he purchased Manhattan Island and Staten Island from native people in exchange for trade goods. (Legend, now long disproved, has it that the island was purchased for $24 worth of glass beads.) Minuit's settlement was also a haven for Huguenots seeking religious liberty.
In 1640, Peter Stuyvesant was appointed governor, and ruled as a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. He curtailed the city's religious freedoms and closed all of the city's taverns. The colony was granted self-government in 1652. In 1664, the British conquered the area and renamed it "New York" after the English Duke of York and Albany. The Dutch briefly regained it in 1673, renaming the city "New Orange", before permanently ceding the colony of New Netherland to the British for what is now Surinam in November 1674.
- See also: New Amsterdam
 British and Revolution: 1665-1783
This period began with the establishment of English rule over formerly Dutch New Amsterdam and New Netherland. As the newly renamed City of New York and surrounding areas developed, there was a growing independent feeling among some, but the area was decidedly split in its loyalties. The site of modern Greater New York City was the theatre of the New York Campaign, a series of major battles in the early American Revolutionary War. After early success in that campaign the city became the British political and military center of operations in North America for the remainder of the war. Nathan Hale was hanged in Manhattan after the Battle of Long Island. In addition, the British began to hold the majority of captured American prisoners of war aboard prison ships in Wallabout Bay, across the East River in Brooklyn. More Americans lost their lives from neglect aboard the prison ships than died in every battle of the war, combined. New York was greatly damaged twice by fires of dubious origin during the British occupation that followed the Battle of Brooklyn at the start of the American Revolutionary War. The occupation lasted until November 25, 1783. George Washington returned to the city that same November 25th as the last British forces left the United States. For about a century afterward the day was widely celebrated locally as "Evacuation Day". The Continental Congress met in New York City under the Articles of Confederation.
| City of New York |
Population by year 
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boroughs" before the
 Federal and early American: 1784-1854
New York City became the first capital of the newly formed United States on September 13, 1788 under the U.S. Constitutional Convention. On April 30, 1789 the first President of the United States, George Washington, was inaugurated at Federal Hall on Wall Street. New York City remained the capital of the U.S. until 1790, when the honor was transferred to Philadelphia.
New York grew as an economic center, first as a result of Alexander Hamilton's policies and practices as the first Secretary of the Treasury and, later, with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. After the Revolutionary War thousands of mostly New England Yankees moved into the city. Their numbers were such that by 1820, the city had far outstripped it's pre-War population, was largely middle class with a growing upper-class, and was fully 95% of American born heritage. Its economy was a vigorous artisan and craftsman society second to none in the United States while its banking and commercial sectors were fast becoming dominant in the country as a while. From 1800-1840 the city grew in wealth and power and never again would the city have such a substantial stable society of American born citizens.
It was into this stable Protestant middle class American society of stockbrokers, guildsmen, bankers, artisans, craftsmen, merchants, shippers, porters, and shopkeepers, and well paid laborers, all operating in an early republican environment of volunteer firefighters, watchmen, and other civic organization that thousands of mostly illiterate unskilled Catholic Irish fleeing the rural depression of their homeland disembarked onto New York City in the 1840's. The social change was an earthquake. Lacking the bureaucratic civic structure of today, the city's infrastructure built as it was an a volunteer network of similar minded individuals collapsed. Partisan networks developed to protect neighborhoods of native Americans from the Irish, and the Irish formed gangs to protect themselves. Crime rose as competing ethnic volunteer groups vied for control of the municipal patronage and its utility networks of fire, sanitation, garbage, and police.
 Tammany and Consolidation: 1855-1897
This period started with the inauguration in 1855 of Fernando Wood as the first mayor from Tammany Hall, an institution that would dominate the city throughout this period. During the 19th century, the city was transformed by immigration, a visionary development proposal called the Commissioners' Plan of 1811, which expanded the city street grid to encompass all of Manhattan, and the opening of the Erie Canal, which connected the Atlantic port to the vast agricultural markets of the Mid-western United States and Canada in 1819. By 1835, New York City had surpassed Philadelphia as the largest city in the United States. Local politics became dominated by Tammany Hall, a Democratic Party political machine. Public-minded members of the old merchant aristocracy pressed for a Central Park, which was opened to a design competition in 1857: it was the first landscape park in an American city.
During the American Civil War (1861–1865), the city's strong commercial ties to the South, its growing immigrant population, and anger about conscription led to divided sympathy for both the Union and Confederacy, culminating in the Draft Riots of 1863, one of the worst incidents of civil unrest in American history. After the Civil War, the rate of immigration from Europe grew steeply, and New York became the first stop for millions seeking a new and better life in the United States, a role acknowledged by the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886.
The new European immigration brought further social upheaval, and old world criminal societies rapidly exploited the already corrupt municipal machine politics of Tammany Hall, while local American barons of industry further exploited the immigrant masses with ever lower wages and crowded living conditions. In a city of tenements packed with cheap foreign labor from dozens of nations, the city was a hotbed of revolution, syndicalism, racketeering, and unionization. In response, the upper classes used partisan hound-outs, organized crime groups, heavy handed policing and political oppression to undermine groups which refused to be coopted. Groups such as the anticapitalist labor union IWW, native American patriot organizations such as the American Protestant Association, and reformers of all stripes were fiercely repressed, while crime lords that became too independent disappeared.
 Early 20th century: 1898-1945
This period began with the formation of the consolidated city of the five boroughs in 1898. Manhattan and the Bronx, though still one county, were established as two separate boroughs and joined together with three other boroughs created from parts of adjacent counties to form the new municipal government originally called "Greater New York". The Borough of Brooklyn incorporated the independent City of Brooklyn, recently joined to Manhattan by the Brooklyn Bridge, and several municipalities in eastern Kings County, New York; the Borough of Queens was created from western Queens County (with the remnant established as Nassau County in 1899); and The Borough of Staten Island contained all of Richmond County. All municipal (county, town and city) governments contained within the boroughs were abolished. In 1914, the New York State Legislature created Bronx county, making five counties coterminous with the five boroughs.
On June 15, 1904 over 1,000 people, mostly German Immigrants, were killed when the steamship General Slocum caught fire and burned on North Brother Island, in the East River; and on March 25, 1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Greenwich Village took the lives of 146 garment workers, which would eventually lead to great advancements in the city's fire department, building codes, and workplace regulations.
A series of new transportation links, most notably the New York City Subway, first opened 1904, helped bind the new city together. The height of European immigration brought social upheaval. Later, in the 1920s, the city saw the influx of African Americans as part of the Great Migration from the American South, and the Harlem Renaissance, part of a larger boom time in the Prohibition era that saw dueling skyscrapers in the skyline.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the city became a world center for industry, commerce, and communication. Interborough Rapid Transit (the first New York subway company) began operating in 1904, and the railroads operating out of Grand Central Terminal thrived. New York City became the most populous city in the world in 1925, overtaking London, which had reigned for a century.
New York City's ever accelerating changes and rising crime and poverty rates ended when World War One disrupted trade routes, the Immigration Restriction Acts limited additional immigration after the war, and the Great Depression ended the need for new labor. The combination ended the rule of the Guilded Age barons. The period between the World Wars saw the election of reformist mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and the fall of Tammany Hall after eighty years of political dominance. As the city's demographics stabilized, labor unionization brought new protections and affluence to the working class, the city's government and infrastructure underwent a dramatic overhaul under LaGuardia, and his controversial parks commissioner, Robert Moses, ended the blight of many tenement areas, expanded new parks, remade streets, and restricted and reorganized zoning controls.
Despite the effects of the Great Depression, the 1930s saw the building of some of the world's tallest skyscrapers, including numerous Art-Deco masterpieces that are still part of the city's skyline today. Both before and after World War II, vast areas of the city were also reshaped by the rise of the bridges, parks and parkways coordinated by Moses, the greatest proponent of automobile-centered modernist urbanism in America.
In 1938 the political designation "ward" was abolished. New York City had used this designation for the smallest political units since 1686, when Governor Thomas Dongan divided the city, then entirely in Manhattan, into six wards. In 1791, wards were given numerical designations. The First Ward was the tip of Manhattan, and the wards going north were given consecutive numbers with new added as the city expanded. The older wards were also subdivided as their populations swelled. Brooklyn had also composed of wards since it became a city in 1837. It originally had nine, and by the time of the 1898 consolidation it had 32.
 Post-World War II: 1946-1977
Returning World War II veterans and immigrants from Europe created a postwar economic boom and led to the development of huge housing tracts in eastern Queens. In 1951, the United Nations relocated from its first headquarters in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, to the East Side of Manhattan. During the 1960s, the views of real estate developer and city leader Robert Moses began to fall out of favor as the anti-Urban Renewal views of Jane Jacobs gained popularity. Citizen rebellion killed a plan to construct an expressway through lower Manhattan.
Like many major U.S. cities, New York suffered race riots and population and industrial decline in the 1960s. By the 1970s the city had gained a reputation as a crime-ridden relic of history. In 1975, the city government avoided bankruptcy only through a federal loan and debt restructuring by the Municipal Assistance Corporation, headed by Felix Rohatyn. The city was also forced to accept increased financial scrutiny by an agency of New York State. In 1977, the city was struck by the twin catastrophes of the New York City blackout of 1977 and the Son of Sam serial murderer's continued slayings. These events were perhaps the impetus to the election of Mayor Ed Koch, who promised to revive the city.
 Modern period: 1978-2001
The 1980s saw a rebirth of Wall Street, and the city reclaimed its role at the center of the world-wide financial industry. In the 1990s, crime rates dropped drastically and the outflow of population turned around, as the city once again became the destination not only of immigrants from around the world, but of many U.S. citizens seeking to live a cosmopolitan lifestyle that New York City can offer. In the late 1990s, the city benefited disproportionately from the success of the financial services industry during the dot com boom, one of the factors in a decade of booming residential and commercial real estate value increases
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 Post 9/11: 2001-present
New York City was the site of a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 people were killed by a terrorist strike on the World Trade Center, including those employed in the buildings, passengers and crew on two commercial jetliners, and hundreds of firemen, policemen, and rescue workers who came to the aid of the disaster. Thick, acrid smoke continued to pour out of its ruins for months following the Twin Towers' fiery collapse. The city has since rebounded and the physical cleanup of the World Trade Center site was completed ahead of schedule. The Freedom Tower, intended to be exactly 1,776 feet tall (a number symbolic of the year the Declaration of Independence was written), is to be built on the site and is slated for construction between 2006 and 2010.
 See also
Histories of New York City neighborhoods, such as Harlem, San Juan Hill, Upper West Side, Lower East Side, Chinatown, the Financial District (which includes the South Street Seaport) and others. New York has many famous thoroughfares, including Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, Broadway and others. The city also has numerous smaller streets with rich histories, including Wall Street.
The history of New York City's Water Supply System.
There is also a Timeline of New York City crimes and disasters.
Compare history of Brooklyn, New York.
- The Encyclopedia of New York City, ed. by Kenneth T. Jackson, 1350 pages, Yale University Press 1995
- Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Oxford University Press, 1998, hardcover, 1416 pages, ISBN 0-19-511634-8, trade paperback, 2000, 1424 pages, ISBN 0-19-514049-4
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