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New York, New York, U.S.A.
“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years” – Thomas Wolfe
New York, New York, a city of bright lights and big dreams--chewing you up, spitting you out and have you coming back for more.
Whether through pop art to pop culture, the city has infiltrated the consciousness and imagination of people all over the world.
Every year, thousands of people from all over the globe head to New York to turn their dreams into reality. Although, the city’s sharp claws may leave some worse for wear, young and old continue to flock to the city urban hub.
It has become a cliché to say, “New York is a melting pot,” but in a city of immigrants, transients and vagabonds, the phrase holds true. New York’s diverse population have carved out the city landscape into five main boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island) which contain numerous districts and neighbourhoods. Manhattan is the most popular or the five boroughs and is where most of the city’s main sites are located. The area is a sensory assault of sights, smells and sounds. Its diverse neighbourhoods – from Lower Manhattan to the Upper East Side – include the ‘Financial Hub of Wall Street and Battery Park, Chinatown and Little Italy, Greenwich Village (The Vilage), Soho and Tribeca, the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, Central Park, Harlem, and much more.
History of New York
Though often touted as the epicentre of the Modern World, the first inhabitants of this now-bustling metropolis were the Iroquois Confederacy (the indigenous people of America) in the Western area and the Lenape people (another society of Native Americans) who lived in the far South. The islands were their home for 500 hundred years until 1524 when the Italian explorer, Giovanni da Varrazo, arrived in what is now known as Staten Island. In 1608, Henry Hudson came to claim the land for the Dutch East India Company. In 1626, Peter Minuit allegedly bought the area from the Algonquin-speaking people for $24. (Though this is unlikely, since the Lenape culture did not believe in private property and would not have agreed to sell it.) Nonetheless, by1930, the Dutch colony’ claimed the land. Their population, which included Belgians (Walloons), French Huguenots and the English, rose to 270. There was much unrest throughout the settlement and in 1647, Peter Suyvesant arrived to restore order. In 1664, the British came in Battleships. Stuyvesant surrendered and the city was named New York, after King Charles II brother, the Duke of York.
During the Revolutionary War during the 1770s, the British
stronghold in the islands remained loyal to George III. However, George
Washington and his army of disenfranchised men, fought the settler
colonialist. Though they were nearly wiped out by the British,
Washington was eventually victorious. The British left in 1783 and on
April 30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated President of the
United States at Federal Hall on Wall Street.
New York was a thriving city. It acquired the nickname “The Empire
State” due to its booming economic success. The New York Stock Exchange
opened soon after.
However, the tides soon turned and the mid-1800s were rife with disease, poverty, intense immigration, overpopulation, political corruption and urban unrest. The population grew to 25,000, most of whom were immigrants, who came in through Ellis Island, working in factories and living in tenements.
Gangs, portrayed in many popular films such as Scorsese’s “The Gangs of New York” controlled the different districts. From politicians to industrialists, corruption ran rampant throughout the city.
Although it was a difficult period in the city’s history, the metropolis was growing – bridges, skyscrapers, subways and elevated trains were constructed. In 1898, Staten Island, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan merged and became the five boroughs we know today.
The 1900s is when the Golden Age of New York began. It was during this time that the cultural, artistic and liberal vitality of the city was cultivated and became legendary. Despite the difficult economic times- the collapse of the stock market in 1929 – the city was also the site of sweeping movement, change and cultural milestones, such as the Harlem Renaissance, the Jazz Era, and the Civil Rights Movement.
Though the city and its people weathered numerous catastrophes, none was as devastating as the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Often referred to as 9/11 or September 11, al-Qaeda launched a suicide attack by hijacking four commercial passenger jet airlines and crashing it into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. No passengers on the planes survived and thousands of people working in the Twin Towers as well as the nearby buildings died. The total death count? 2,973.
The world stood still, but for New Yorkers, there is no choice but to honour the past while looking forward to what lies ahead. And the beat goes on…
The New York Cultural Beat
From Woody Allen (Manhattan, Bullets over Broadway, Annie Hall), Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of Vanities, Sex and the City, the Ramones, Andy Warhol, Sesame Street, to Billie Holiday, and to nearly anything by Scorcese or with DeNiro (Taxi Driver at the top, of course), the city’s many layers have been the source and subject for pop culture’s greatest developments.
It’s the reason why so many bright-eyed, hopeful dreamers and visionaries continue to flock to the Big Apple. And who can blame them?