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New York History

 

Long before the arrival of European settlers, the New York City area was inhabited by the Lenape people, including such tribes as the Manahattoes, Canarsies and Raritan; Lenape in canoes met Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first European explorer to enter New York Harbor, in 1524. Following the 1609 voyage of Henry Hudson, European settlement began with the founding of the fortified Dutch fur trading settlement of New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam) in the New Netherland colony on the southern tip of Manhattan in 1626. In that year, Peter Minuit established a long tradition of shrewd real estate investing when he purchased Manhattan Island and Staten Island from Algonquin tribesmen 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 freedom.

In 1664, English ships captured the city without struggle, and the Dutch formally ceded it to the English in the Treaty of Breda at the conclusion of the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1667. The city was renamed New York, after James, Duke of York, and became a royal colony in 1685 when James succeeded his brother as King of England.

New York was greatly damaged by fire during the Battle of Brooklyn at the start of the American Revolutionary War, and was occupied by the British until November 25, 1783. On this date, marked annually thereafter as "Evacuation Day," George Washington returned to the city and the last British forces left the United States. On April 30, 1789 Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States at Federal Hall on Wall Street. The Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation met there, and New York City remained the capital of the US until 1790.

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 overtook 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 (18611865), 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, the worst 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.

In two separate actions in 1874 and 1895, New York City (and New York County) annexed sections of southern Westchester County known as the Bronx. In 1898, New York City took the political form in which it exists to this day. 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 in the East River; and on March 25, 1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Greenwich Village took the lives of 145 female garment workers, which would eventually lead to great advancements in the city's fire department, building codes, and workplace regulations.

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. 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 of coordinator Robert Moses, the greatest proponent of automobile-centered modernist urbanism in America.

A post-World War II economic and residential boom was associated with returning veterans and immigration from Europe, and huge tracts of new housing were constructed in eastern Queens. In 1951, the United Nations relocated from its first headquarters in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, to the East Side of Manhattan. Like many US cities, New York suffered population decline, an erosion of its industrial base, and race riots in the 1960s, and by the 1970s, the city had gained a reputation for being a crime-ridden relic of history. In 1975, the city government was on the brink of financial collapse and had to restructure its debt through the Municipal Assistance Corporation, headed by Felix Rohatyn. The city was also forced to accept increased scrutiny of its finances by an agency of New York State called the Financial Control Board.

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 only 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.

New York City was the site of a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 when nearly 3,000 people were killed by the terrorist strike on the World Trade Center, including New Yorkers employed in the buildings and hundreds of firemen, policemen, and rescue workers who came to their aid. 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 Ground Zero was completed ahead of schedule. The Freedom Tower, intended to be exactly 1,776 feet tall (a symbolic number as the year the Declaration of Independence was written), is to be built on the site and is slated to be constructed between 2006 and 2010.

Over the next ten years, the city expects a wave of public and private-sector building projects to reshape large sections of the city, and a residential construction boom has resulted in permits being issued for over 25,000 new residential units every year.

 


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