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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York City: Research and History: The Five Boroughs

Guide for Library Research on NYC and its Neighborhoods

Manhattan

Manhattan
Bound by the East, Hduson, and Harlem rivers, Manhattan island makes up the central and most densely populated part of New York City. The city and Manhattan in particular are considered by many to be the economic and cultural capital of the United States. The word Manhattan comes from the Lenape Indian language, meaning "Land of many hills". The island is usually divided into three parts - Downtown, Midtown, and Uptown - with the financial district including Wall Street and the Stock Exchange being in Downtown, and a much of the theatre district including Times Square in Midtown.

Manhattan is home to many world famous neighborhoods including Harlem, Hell's Kitchen, Alphabet City, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, Little Italy and SOHO to name just a few. There are also many famous landmarks including Columbus Circle, Times Square, the South Street Seaport, as well as many building as skyscrappers.

Bronx

Bronx

Located north of Manhattan, and the only part of New York City that is not an island, is the Bronx. While being densely populated, much of the borough is open space including the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo. The name of the borough comes from the Bronx River which was named after a Dutch settler Jonas Broncks. The Bronx suffered a steep decline in the 1960s, particularly after the construction of the Bronx Expressway, but has in recent years seen significant recovery and redevelopment.

Staten Island

Staten Island

The most southern borough and least populated one is Staten Island (also known as Richmond County). It is connected to the rest of the city by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as well as by ferry. The island is largely suburban with excellent views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Lower Manhattan. Politically the inhabitants of the island feel mostly neglected by the rest of the city.

Brooklyn

 

Brooklyn
The most populous of the five boroughs, Brooklyn (also known as Kings county) is a major residential part of New York City. It was also at one point its own independent city but after the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge(in 1883) linking it directly to Manhattan, the area chose in 1898 to become part of "Greater New York" or just plain New York City. The borough was first settled by the Dutch who named it "Breuckelen" after a town in the Netherlands. Many parts of Brooklyn were settled by the Dutch and many neighborhood names (Gravesend, Flatlands, Flatbush, New Utrecht, Bushwick) come from the original Dutch settlements.

Queens

Queens

East of Brooklyn is Queens, the second largest borough in New York City. It was named in 1683 for the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza who was Queen of England at the time. (The English had taken possession of the territory from the Dutch by this point in time.) Queens is a very diverse borough especially in terms of the types of neighborhoods ranging from dense urban areas full of apartment buildings to lightly populated areas full of suburban single-family homes. The borough is home to two airports - JFK and LaGuardia - as well as the New York Mets.