New York City is among the most densely populated places in the United States. Its population is more than eight million (2000U.S. Census), and its land area is 831 km2 (320 square miles); hence the density is ca. 10,000/km².
At the start of the American Revolutionary War, the city was the scene of important early fighting at the Battle of Brooklyn, suffered a great fire in which much of it burned, and fell into British control for the remainder of the war, not to be regained by the Americans until 1783. "Evacuation Day" was long celebrated in New York.
During the 19th century, the city population boomed by an influx of a vast number of immigrants. In 1811, the city street grid was expanded to encompass all of Manhattan with a visionary development proposal called the Commissioner's Plan. By 1835, New York City overtook Philadelphia as the largest city in the United States.
During the Civil War, the city's strong commercial ties to the South, as well as its growing immigrant population, led to a split in sympathy between the Union and Confederacy, culminating in the Draft Riots of 1863, the worst civil unrest in American history.
After the 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.
In 1898, New York City took the political form in which it exists to this day. Prior to 1898, New York City consisted of Manhattan and the Bronx, which was annexed by the city from southern Westchester County in two separate actions: the western portion in 1874, and the remaining portion in 1895. In 1898, a new municipal government, originally called Greater New York, was created by new legislation. It was divided into five boroughs. The Boroughs of Manhattan and The Bronx covered the original city and the rest of New York County. The Borough of Brooklyn consisted of the City of Brooklyn as well as several municipalities in eastern Kings County. The Borough of Queens was established in western Queens County, and covered several small cities and towns, including Long Island City, Astoria and Flushing. The Borough of Staten Island contained all of Richmond County. All municipal governments contained within the boroughs were abolished. A year later, the area of Queens County not contained within the Borough of Queens became Nassau County. In 1914, the state legislature created Bronx County, shrinking New York County so it contained only Manhattan. The five boroughs are now considered to be generally coterminous with their respective counties. However, there are some small exceptions, some of which remain a legal mystery, such as Marble Hill.
In the first half of the 20th century, the city became a world center for industry, commerce, and communication. Interborough Rapid Transit (the first subway company) began operating in 1904. The New York skyline soared in the 1930s with the building of some of the world's tallest skyscrapers.
In the decades after World War II, however, the city slid into gradual decline with the loss of population to the suburbs and the erosion of its industrial base. Like many US cities, New York suffered severe 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 hit bottom and had to declare bankruptcy.
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 dot com boom fueled another frenzy of financial speculation that sent the economy soaring.
Out of all of the affected cities, New York suffered the most during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the city has rebounded and pushed forward new plans for the destroyed areas of the World Trade Center. One building in the current plan for the World Trade Center site is the Freedom Tower, which would be the world's highest skyscraper when completed in 2008.
New York City is governed pursuant to the New York City Charter, as amended. The charter is enacted and amended by the New York State legislature, and occasionally through referendum. Though subservient to the State of New York, the city enjoys a high degree of legislative and executive autonomy. Like most governmental entities in the United States, the city government is divided into executive, legislative and judicial branches.
The boroughs are coterminous with their respective counties, but the counties do not have actual county governments. Each borough elects a Borough President, but under the current city charter, the Borough President's powers are limited—he or she has a small discretionary budget to spend on projects within the borough. (The last significant power of the borough presidents—to appoint a member of the Board of Education —was abolished, with the board, on June 30, 2002.) Currently, borough presidents serve as ex officio members of various boards and committees.
Residents of the city often refer to the city itself as "the Five Boroughs," reserving the phrase "the City" to refer to Manhattan. Those less familiar with the city often (incorrectly) think Manhattan is synonymous with New York City. The boroughs other than Manhattan are also referred to as "the Outer Boroughs."
The executive branch of New York City is headed by the Mayor, who is elected by direct popular vote. The mayor has executive authority over five divisions of city government as well as several independent government offices. The divisions, each comprising several city agencies and headed by an appointed Deputy Mayor, are:
Economic Development and Rebuilding
The mayor has broad emergency powers which can be exercised in cases of emergency weather conditions, natural disaster, riots, civil unrest, invasion or other emergency. Most recently, Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared a state of emergency during the 2003 blackout.
Legislative power in New York City is vested in a unicameral City Council, which contains 51 members, each representing a district of approximately 157,000 people. Councilmembers are elected every four years, and the leader of the majority party is called the Speaker. The current Speaker of the City Council is Gifford Miller, a Democrat. Like most legislative bodies, the City Council is divided into committees which have oversight of various functions of the city government. Bills passed by a simple majority are sent to the mayor, who may sign it into law. If the mayor vetoes the bill, the Council has 30 days to override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote.
Criminal cases are handled on indictment by the Supreme Court in each New York City county. The Supreme Court also handles larger civil cases, and grand juries sit in each county. Thus, unlike other states and the Federal Government, in New York, the Supreme Court is not the highest court. Appeals are handled by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. The highest court in the state is the Court of Appeals.
New York has had a reputation as a crime-ridden city, partly due to the hundreds of TV and movie crime dramas set in it. However, in recent years it has been ranked in the top ten safest large cities in the United States by City Crime Rankings (9th edition, 2003). In addition, New York has been growing safer for most of the last decade—FBI data indicate that the murder rate in 2000 was the lowest since 1967.
There have been some notorious crime sprees, however. For example, on July 29, 1976 the "Son of Sam" pulled a gun from a paper bag killing one person and seriously wounding another in the first of a series of attacks that terrorized the city for the next year.
As soon as the Sicilian Mafia moved to New York in the 1920s, they became infamous with their hits on businesses that did not pay money to them. They had also set up smuggling rings and fixed boxing matches. The Mafia flourished due to a distrust of the police in the Italian-American communities in New York.
The five largest crime families in New York were the Bonnanos, the Colombos, the Gambinos, the Genovese, and the Luchese. The assimilation of the Italian-American population is choking the Mafia in New York, although they still operate.
As of 2000, there are 8,008,278 people, 3,021,588 households, and 1,852,233 families residing in the city. The population density is 10,194.2/km² (26,402.9/mi²). There are 3,200,912 housing units at an average density of 4,074.6/km² (10,553.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 44.66% White, 26.59% African American, 0.52% Native American, 9.83% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 13.42% from other races, and 4.92% from two or more races. 26.98% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 3,021,588 households out of which 29.7% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.2% are married couples living together, 19.1% have a female householder with no husband present, and 38.7% are non-families. 31.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.59 and the average family size is 3.32.