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New York City history
The history of New York City
Article added in July 2001; last update: November 6, 2013

On November 5, 2013 over 73% of New Yorkers voted for their left-wing populist Bill de Blasio (*1961) to be their new mayor. He once told the journalist Chris Smith: “My worldview is one part Franklin Roosevelt - the New Deal - one part European social democracy and one part liberation theology.”

Bill de Blasio has no executive experience, but will have to run one of the world's most important cities.

Since 1993, the Republicans Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg - who had joined the GOP before his first election and left it again towards the end of his years as mayor - had cleaned up a half-way ruined, dirty and crime city. They made it an attractive place of investment and attraction again. Will the outspoken socialist Bill de Blasio undo the successes of his two direct predecessors? More public housing and more taxes for the rich earning over $500,000 are on his agenda. We will soon find out.

A history of New York City

Article added in July 2001

Indian communities were camped around the mouth of the Hudson River when, in 1524, the New York Bay was "discovered" by the Florentine Giovanni da Verrazzano. He was exploring the North American coastline for the French king Francis I.
In 1609, Henry Hudson was seeking a water route to the Orient for the Dutch East India Company. He was the first white man to set his foot on "Manahtin", as the place was called by the Algonquin Indians. Hudson explored the harbor region and sailed upriver to the site of Albany.
In 1625, the first permanent settlement was made in lower Manhattan and named New Amsterdam. It was founded as a trading post on the periphery of the Dutch mercantile empire which received little attention from the colonial power.
In 1626, the Governor General Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan Island from the Indians for 60 guilders (according to the Blue Guide New York estimated at $24).
In 1664, New Amsterdam was forcibly appended to the rising British Empire and renamed after James, Duke of York, the brother of King Charles II. In 1673, the Dutch recaptured New York and renamed it Nieuwe Oranje (New Orange). The following year, the treaty of Westminster made New York British again. In 1689, King James II facing rebellion abdicated and fled to France. In New York, Jacob Leisler lead an uprising against the British.
New York became a vital seaport supplying agricultural products from the Caribbean sugar islands and serving as a British strategic base for military actions against the French. In 1763, the French and Indian War ended with the Treaty of Paris which confirmed English control of North America.
In 1776, the Declaration of Independence marked the beginning of the American revolution after which New York emerged as the linkage point between industrializing Europe and the agricultural hinterland of North America. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris concluded the War of Independence as Britain recognized the independence of the 13 colonies. The British army left New York which, in 1784, became the capital of the state and nation. In 1789, the United States Constitution was ratified and George Washington was sworn in as the nation's first President in Federal Hall on Wall Street. In 1790, the capital moved to Philadelphia, in 1800 to Washington, D.C.
In 1792, the Buttonwood Agreement led to the formation of the New York Stock Exchange. In 1811, a plan to redesign Manhattan was born. Hills, swamps, springs, ponds and forests were eliminated in favor of today's street grid. In 1820, New York became the nation's largest city with a population of 123706. In 1825, the Erie Canal opened, linking NYC with the Great Lakes; it was to be an essential factor in the city's successful development.
In 1725, the city's first newspaper, the New-York Gazette, was founded by William Bradford. In 1851, the New York Daily Times, now the New York Times, began publication.
After the Civil War 1861-1865, New York became the principal facilitator of the industrialization of the United States as well as of its imperial westward expansion, the home of America's great banking houses and exchanges, the preeminent portal for immigration, the leading export port, in short the economic, social and cultural capital of the US.
In 1891, Carnegie Hall and the New York Botanical Gardens opened. The following year, an immigration station opened on Ellis Island. In 1898, Greater New York was created by joining the five boroughs under a single municipal government. The population of 3.4 million made New York the world's second largest city behind London (4 million).
After the First World War, New York City rivaled London. In 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. In 1941, the United States entered the Second World War. New York, as the major Atlantic port, became important. Brooklyn Navy Yard operated at full capacity.
In 1945, the Second World War ended. Since then, New York is the Blue Planet's first city. The same year, an army bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. The United Nations charter was passed and, in 1946, the U.N. selected New York as their permanent headquarters. The same year, another army plane crashed into the Bank of Manhattan Co. building's 58th floor. New York was booming and its population reached over 7 million people.
On January 1, 1990, David Dinkins took over as New York's first African-American mayor. Tax income declined, severe cuts in public spending became necessary. A recession in connection with the Gulf War hit the city. Tourists stayed away. Big corporations left NYC. In 1993, Muslim terrorists bombed the World Trade Center.
In the troubled times of 1993, the Republican Rudolph Giuliani was elected as the 107th Mayor of the City of New York. Before, as an US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, he had a record of 4125 convictions with only 25 reversals. He had successfully fought drug dealers, organized crime, corruption in government and prosecuted white-collar criminals. In his two terms as Mayor, crime decreased by over 50%. He reduced taxes and cut welfare rolls in half . His welfare-to-work initiative made the number of people on social welfare decline by over 600,000 people. In 1997, Giuliani became the first Republican mayor to be re-elected in over 50 years although his sometimes ruthless methods were not appreciated by everybody (especially in his second term).
On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists hijacked four passenger planes, two from American Airlines and two from United Airlines. In an unprecedented act of terrorism, the hijackers crashed two of them into New York City's 110-storey twin towers of the World Trade Center, killing some 3000 civilians.
On January 1, 2002, billionaire Michael Bloomberg was sworn in as NYC's 108th mayor. The successful media tycoon had spent $69 million in his electoral campaign.
Besides being the world's financial center, "the city that never sleeps" is the capital of entertainment (the Broadway, jazz clubs, concert halls, night clubs) and the world's artistic capital with the leading art market, famous museums and galleries. The Big Apple is a melting pot, uniting African, Anglo-Saxon, Chinese, German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Latin American and other influences.

Added on November 9, 2005: Michael Bloomberg was re-elected mayor of New York.

NYC's financial district. Photograph: Abramson: Skyscraper Rivals.
The AIG Building and the Architecture of Wall Steet

The Plaza Hotel, Fith Avenue & Central Park South (Photograph: Reiseführer Marco Polo New York).

The Waldorf Astoria, 301 Park Avenue (Photograph: Reiseführer Marco Polo New York).
Travel & city guides, books, literature on NYC
The sources for the article on the left
AIA Guide to New York City. Elliott Willensky, ed. Paperback, Times Books, 2000, 1024 p. Probably the best English guide for today's traveler. Get it from,, or
Blue Guide New York. By Carol von Pressentin Wright. W.W. Norton, 3rd ed. 2002, 862 p. Get it from or Not brand new and with no photographs. Still, this is a very detailed and well-informed guide on the history of NYC. For people who want to dig deeper.
The Park and the People: A History of Central Park by Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar. Paperback, 1998, 640 p., reprint edition, Cornell University Press. Get it from or
New York's 50 Best: Places to Discover and Enjoy in Central Park by Karen Putnam and Marianne Cramer. Paperback, 1999, 112 p. City & Co.
Cass Gilbert: Inventing the Skyline. New York Historical Society, Columbia University Press, 2000, 312 p. Get it from,,,

Daniel M. Abramson: Skyscraper Rivals. The AIG Building and the Architecture of Wall Steet. Hardcover, Princeton Architectural Press, December 2000, 176 p. Get it from,,,

Mike Wallace, Edwin G. Burrows: Gotham - A History of New York City to 1898, Paperback, OUP, October 2000, 1383 p. The 1998 Pulitzer Prize winner. A history of New York as rich and detailed as never seen before. Get it from,, or
New York. The PBS documentary by Ric Burns. Get it from on DVD or VHS.
Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass. Originally published in 1855. Paperback from, or
Paul Auster: New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, The Locked Room. Penguin, paperback. Get it from,,, German edition:
Paul Auster: The Book of Illusions: A Novel. Henry Holt & Co., 2002. Get it from,,, German edition, Rowohlt:

Maps of NY and NYC
Map of the state of New York. Order a custom map of NY.

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.