New York City: The Borough Of Manhattan – Part One

New York City: The Borough Of Manhattan – Part One

Sitting in the New York Bay are a cluster of four islands – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island – and a section of mainland to the North of them called The Bronx. These are the five boroughs that, together, make up New York City.

Despite this fact, when most people outside the metropolitan area hear “New York City”, they think mainly of Manhattan. Indeed, its 23.7 square miles have become the cultural, artistic, financial, and entertainment hub of New York City in total, and the world.

The magic of Manhattan lies in its fascinating history, and its rich variety of neighborhoods – so many, in fact, that we’ll cover them in two parts, starting with a brief look at the history of Manhattan.

The History of Manhattan In A New York Minute

Manhattan has always been shaped and molded by its culturally diverse inhabitants, starting with the first true native New Yorkers – The Lenape Indians. In fact, the name Manhattan is the English translation of the Lenape word Manna-hata, meaning “Island of many hills.”  

The Lenape farmed, hunted and fished on this land, while living peaceably among the French, English, and Dutch people who eventually established settlements there.

In 1626, however, the Dutch traded 60 guilders’ ($24) worth of goods with the Lenape for what they believed was ownership of the island. Since the Lenape didn’t believe anyone can “own” natural resources, they believed the trade was in appreciation for them sharing the land.

Despite the colossal misunderstanding, the Dutch assumed ownership of the land (then named New Amsterdam), and fiercely defended it, in part, by building a wall to keep the Lenape, English settlers, and other indigenous people out.

After several bloody conflicts – including the Anglo-Dutch wars – the Dutch eventually surrendered the land to the English in a peace treaty in 1664. The English named it New York, tore down the wall, and paved a street over it – called it Wall Street.

After the Revolutionary War against the British, New York became the first Capital of the United States, where George Washington was inaugurated at Federal Hall in 1789 on the very street – Wall Street – that the English had torn down nearly a century before.

wall street nyc

With the immigration boom of the late 1800s, More than 70% of all immigrants entered the United States through New York City, earning it the nickname, “The Golden Door.” Many of these people settled in Manhattan and New York City’s other boroughs, making it the melting pot of cultures it is today.

 

The Neighborhoods Of Manhattan – Part One

The unique and varied neighborhoods are the heart and soul of Manhattan. Each has its own exclusive characteristics and charm, with plenty to do and see. Here is an overview of the island’s Northern half.

Upper Manhattan

Starting at the northernmost point is the neighborhood of Marble Hill. Due to the construction of the Harlem River Ship Canal, this mostly-residential section was separated from the island of Manhattan in 1895, later to be joined with the mainland of Bronx.

From Marble Hill, walk or drive across the Broadway Bridge into the northern tip of Manhattan island’s Inwood neighborhood – known for its beautiful parks. Also in Upper Manhattan is the mostly-residential Fort George, the up-and-coming arts community of Washington Heights (including the Cloisters museum of medieval art and architecture), and Alexander Hamilton’s old stomping grounds – Hamilton Heights.

Harlem & East Harlem

Harlem is rich with African-American culture, and bursting with music halls – such as the legendary Apollo theater – museums, nightlife, distinctive shops and so much more.

An influx of Puerto Rican emigrants in the early 1920s has dubbed East Harlem “El Barrio”. The mixture of Puerto Rican culture, along with established landmarks of the neighborhood’s earlier Italian influence, makes this community come alive.

Morningside Heights, Central Park,

The Upper West Side, And The Upper East Side

On the Southeastern edge of Harlem, is beautiful Morningside Heights – home to several colleges including Columbia University, and Barnard.

Central Park’s sprawling 843 acres – the most visited city park in America – hosts 25 million people a year.

Flanking Central Park is the Upper West Side – an area well known for its celebrity inhabitants, The Lincoln Center, shopping and dining. And the Upper East Side, with legendary upscale boutiques and designer stores along 5th Avenue, and “museum mile”.

Midtown

From the Southern tip of Central park down to 34th Street, lies Midtown with its landmark attractions including Broadway, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Empire State Building, Restaurant Row, and more.

Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton

West of Midtown to the Hudson River is Hell’s Kitchen (aka Clinton) – home to The Daily Show, ethnic eateries, the Actor’s Studio, and the Intrepid Air & Space Museum.

The East Side of Mid-Manhattan

The neighborhoods East of Midtown to the East River are a bit more tranquil, yet just as cultured as others in the city – from Sutton down to Stuyvesant. Turtle Bay has the Chrysler Building and the United nations, Murray Hill has its trendy cafes and hot spots, and Gramercy boasts beautiful brownstones, and was the birthplace of President Theodore Roosevelt.

The Story Continues…

While we’ve begun to tell the story of Manhattan’s neighborhoods, there is more to be told. As in the immortal words of the NYC crime drama The Naked City, “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This is one of them.”

Look for the continuation of this story in next week’s blog: “New York City: The Borough Of Manhattan – Part Two