Know Your City: New York's Five Boroughs

The five boroughs that make up New York City, Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island, are well-known to many. However, this was not always the case. In 1898, the boroughs were brought into the fold and consolidated with New York City to create the city people are familiar with today. Although the boroughs are all part of the city, they are each also their own county. As such, they each have their own borough president, who acts as a leader for ceremonial purposes but also serves to advise the mayor of New York City on borough budgets, land use, and projects to be implemented. In 1904, the construction of the New York subway system was instrumental in making sure residents of the different parts of the city could get back and forth as needed.

When people think of New York, they most often think of Manhattan. The island is also New York County. The city itself was built around this borough, with the others being added on over the years. Lenape Indians were the first settlers of the area now known as Manhattan, but on his excursion up the river now named after him, Henry Hudson was the first Englishman to map the area. In 1625, the area was purchased from the Lenape Indians for what would be the modern sum of only a few thousand dollars or less in order to build a welcome place for new arrivals: Fort Amsterdam. New York City saw its share of battles during the Revolutionary War and acted as the capital of the United States from March 1789 to April 1790. After the Civil War, New York saw an increase in immigration, and it also received a famous gift from the French: the Statue of Liberty. With the influx of immigrants came the development of culturally focused neighborhoods people are familiar with today such as Chinatown, Little Italy, and Koreatown.

As the most visited of New York City's boroughs, Manhattan has many attractions and landmarks to offer. Some of the more well-known include Times Square, Ellis Island, and the Empire State Building. Another well-known city attraction is Central Park. The park draws in many visitors with its own zoo, walking paths, ice-skating rinks, and monuments. For those looking to infuse some cultural appreciation into their city visit, the Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts and the American Museum of Natural History can be found in Manhattan as well.

In 1816, Breuckelen, a small Dutch colony on the shore of Long Island, became the village of Brooklyn. In 1883, when the Brooklyn Bridge was completed and connected the island of Manhattan to Long Island, the effort to consolidate the boroughs was made. Originally, the people of Brooklyn were not keen on this move. Like other parts of New York City, Brooklyn has its share of well-known and diverse neighborhoods, such as Bedford-Stuyvesant, better known as "Bed-Stuy," a hub of African-American culture.

Many know of the Brooklyn Bridge, but perhaps the most widely known Brooklyn attraction is Coney Island. Visitors come to New York from all over to enjoy the amusement park. Other sightseeing attractions in Brooklyn include the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Prospect Park.

Known more for its crime and grittiness than for what it truly has to offer, the Bronx was the last borough to consolidate with New York City and was connected to Manhattan in 1904 via subway. The Bronx has seen an influx of both immigration and crime over the years. Eventually, the area became settled by mainly African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and some European-Americans, giving the area its signature culture that people know today. Although it has had some hard times, the Bronx is home to Co-op City, the world's largest cooperative housing development, built in 1968, and over the years has developed other positive public works projects. The growth and improvement of the Bronx continues today.

The Bronx also has sightseeing attractions to offer visitors. Some of the more popular attractions include the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden. There's also the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, Van Cortlandt Park, Orchard Beach, Woodlawn Cemetery, and Crotona Park. But by far, the most widely known attraction in the Bronx is Yankee Stadium.

Queens, located on Long Island, became part of New York City in 1898. Like the other boroughs, Queens boasts a diverse population, with more than a hundred languages spoken throughout the county. Along with diversity, Queens has a rich history in music. Jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong got their starts in Queens. Other artists from Queens include Run-DMC and LL Cool J.

For those interested in the arts, Queens offers a variety of attractions, such as the Flux Factory, SculptureCenter, and the Museum of the Moving Image. Other popular sightseeing destinations include Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, Belmont Park, the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Staten Island is the least populated of New York's five boroughs, and although it did not get its current name until 1975, there is evidence of human habitation in the area as far back as 14,000 years ago. Unlike the other boroughs, Staten Island cannot be accessed by subway. Ferry or bridge are the main modes of transportation to and from the island. Many make the mistake of catching the ferry to Staten Island to get glimpses of Liberty and Ellis islands only to journey back to Manhattan without realizing what Staten Island has to offer. For those interested in history, there's the Staten Island ferry memorabilia display a short walk from St. George Terminal, the Alice Austen House, and the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. Fans of movies like The Godfather, Goodfellas, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and more can go sightseeing on the island looking for the spots in which their favorite films were made.

For those looking to find a city that is culturally diverse and has so many attractions to offer, there's no place like New York City. Though the five boroughs are all connected, each offers its own history, splendor, and adventures.