Manhattan is the most densely populated and smallest in area of the five boroughs of New York City. It is a major commercial, economic and cultural centre of the United States and many major media and publishing companies are based there. Manhattan has many famous landmarks, tourist attractions, museums, universities and others, which were extensively covered in Woody Allen’s productions.
Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the borough is conterminous with New York County, an original county of the state of New York. It is the centre of New York City and the New York metropolitan area, hosting the seat of city government and a large portion of the area’s employment, business and entertainment activities. It is also the location of the United Nations Headquarters. As a result, the residents of New York City’s other boroughs, such as Brooklyn and Queens often refer to a trip to Manhattan as “going to the city”, despite the comparable populations between these boroughs, and the fact that they are also part of the city proper. Manhattan has some of the nation’s most valuable real estate, and has a reputation as one of the most expensive areas in the United States.
The area that is now Manhattan was long inhabited by the Lenape Indians. According to documents, Manhattan was bought in 1626 from Native American Lenape people in exchange for trade goods worth 60 guilders, often said to be worth $24, though (by comparing the price of bread and other goods) it actually amounts to around $1000 in modern currency.
In 1524 Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, sailing in service of the French king Francis I, was the first European to visit the area that would become New York City. It was not until the voyage of Henry Hudson, an Englishman who worked for the Dutch East India Company, that the area was mapped. Hudson came across Manhattan Island and the native people living there in 1609, and continued up the river that would later bear his name, the Hudson River. A permanent European presence in New Netherland (the 17th-century colonial province of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands on the East Coast of North America) began in 1624 with the founding of a Dutch fur trading settlement on Governors Island. Manhattan Island was chosen as the site of Fort Amsterdam, a citadel for the protection of the new arrivals; its 1625 establishment is recognised as the birth date of New York City. In 1664, the English conquered New Netherland and renamed it “New York”.
Manhattan was at the heart of the New York Campaign, a series of major battles in the early American Revolutionary War. The Continental Army was forced to abandon Manhattan after the disastrous Battle of Fort Washington on November 16, 1776. The city became the British political and military centre of operations in North America for the remainder of the war. The area was greatly damaged by the Great Fire of New York during the British military rule that followed. British occupation lasted until November 25, 1783, when George Washington returned to Manhattan, as the last British forces left the city.
New York grew as an economic centre, first as a result of Alexander Hamilton’s policies and practices as the first Secretary of the Treasury and, later, with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, which connected the Atlantic port to the vast agricultural markets of the Midwestern United States and Canada. During the American Civil War, the city’s strong commercial ties to the American South, its growing immigrant population (prior to then largely from Germany and Ireland), anger about conscription and resentment at those who could afford to pay $300 to avoid service, led to animosity towards Lincoln’s war policies, culminating in the three-day-long New York Draft Riots of July 1863, one of the worst incidents of civil disorder in American history, with an estimated 119 participants and passers-by massacred. The rate of immigration from Europe grew steeply after the Civil War, and New York became the first stop for millions seeking a new life in the United States, a role acknowledged by the dedication of the Statue of Liberty on October 28, 1886, a gift from the people of France.
Like many major US cities, New York suffered race riots as well as population and industrial decline in the 1960s. By the 1970s, the city had gained a reputation as a graffiti-covered, crime-ridden site. The 1980s saw a rebirth of Wall Street, and the city reclaimed its role at the centre of the worldwide financial industry.
On September 11, 2001, two of four hijacked planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The collapse of the Twin Towers caused extensive damage to surrounding buildings and skyscrapers in Lower Manhattan, and resulted in the deaths of 2,606 people. Since then, however, most of Lower Manhattan has been restored.
Modern Manhattan is familiar to many people around the globe thanks to its popularity as a setting for films and television series. Notable films set here include many of Woody Allen’s productions, such as “Annie Hall” and one of his greatest masterpieces – “Manhattan”. Other famous productions set in NYC include, among others, “Godfather” and “Ghostbusters”.
At the 2010 Census, there were 1,585,873 people living in Manhattan. Only 20.3% of them lived in owner-occupied housing, the second-lowest rate of all counties in the nation, behind the Bronx. Interestingly, Manhattan is one of the highest-income places in the United States, with a population greater than one million.
Skyscrapers that have shaped Manhattan’s distinctive skyline, have been closely associated with New York City’s identity since the end of the 19th century. Between 1890 and 1973, the world’s tallest building was in Manhattan; however, nine different buildings held the title.
Surrounded mostly by water, the city has amassed one of the largest and most varied collections of skyscrapers in the world. The Roaring Twenties saw a race to the sky, with three separate buildings pursuing the world’s tallest title in the span of a year. The former Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were located in Lower Manhattan. The 417-metre-tall buildings were the world’s tallest at the time of their construction. One World Trade Center, a replacement for the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, is currently under construction and is scheduled to be ready for occupancy in 2013.
Since 1990, crime in Manhattan has plummeted in all categories. A borough that saw 503 murders in 1990 has seen a drop of nearly 88% to 62 in 2008. During the period also motor vehicle theft has been reduced by more than 93%. Overall crime has declined by more than 75% since 1990, and statistics show continuing declines.
New York City experienced a sharp increase in crime during the 1960s and 1970s, with a near fivefold jump in the total number of police-recorded crimes. Starting circa 1990, the city saw record declines in homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, violent crime, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and property crime, a trend that has continued to date.
Manhattan has been the scene of many important American cultural and art movements. It is a place widely known for its numerous art galleries, cultural events, Broadway and off-Broadway theatres, opera houses (including the world’s most famous Metropolitan Opera), and a great many museums.
Manhattan’s vibrant visual art scene in the 1950s and 1960s was a centre of the American pop art movement. A popular haven for art, the downtown neighbourhood of Chelsea is widely known for its galleries and cultural events, with more than 200 art galleries that are home to modern art from both upcoming and established artists. Broadway theatre, also located in Manhattan, is often considered the highest professional form of theatre in the United States. Plays and musicals are staged in one of the 39 larger professional theatres with at least 500 seats, almost all in and around Times Square. Off-Broadway theatres feature productions in venues with 100–500 seats. A little more than a mile from Times Square is the Lincoln Center, home to one of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, that of the Metropolitan Opera. Manhattan is additionally home to some of the most extensive art collections, both contemporary and historical, in the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Frick Collection, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Education in Manhattan is provided by a vast number of institutions. Public schools in the borough are operated by the New York City Department of Education, the largest public school system in the US. Being the location of great many famous educational establishments, Manhattan has one of the nation’s densest concentrations of highly educated people.