Boroughs of New York City

New York City is split into five different county-level administrative divisions called boroughs: Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Unlike boroughs in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, the New York City boroughs have limited powers, since they are administratively located below the city-level government.

Boroughs have existed since the consolidation of the city in 1898, when the city and each borough assumed their current boundaries. Currently, each of the boroughs is coextensive with a respective county, which are the primary administrative divisions of New York State. However, the boroughs have not always been coextensive with their respective counties. Before 1914, the Bronx consisted of the southern part of Westchester, and before 1899, the borough of Queens consisted of the western part of its namesake county.

5 Boroughs Labels New York City Map.svg
  1. Manhattan
  2. Brooklyn
  3. Queens
  4. The Bronx
  5. Staten Island

Terminology

The term borough was adopted to describe a form of governmental administration for each of the five fundamental constituent parts of the newly consolidated city in 1898. Under the 1898 City Charter adopted by the New York State Legislature, a "borough" is a municipal corporation that is created when a county is merged with populated areas within it. This system, in which New York City's borough governments are inferior to the powers of the citywide government, differs significantly from borough forms of government used in Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in which a borough is an independent level of government, as well as other borough forms used in other states and Greater London.

Background

New York City's five boroughs
Jurisdiction Population Land area Density
Borough County Estimate
(2015)
square
miles
square
km
persons /
sq. mi
persons /
sq. km
New York
1,644,518 22.83 59.1 72,033 27,826
Bronx
1,455,444 42 110 34,653 13,231
Kings
2,636,735 71 180 37,137 14,649
Queens
2,339,150 109 280 21,460 8,354
Richmond
474,558 58.5 152 8,112 3,132
8,550,405 303.33 781.1 28,188 10,947
19,795,791 47,214 122,284 416.4 159
Sources: see individual borough articles
Above Gotham.jpg
The borough of Manhattan is the economic, cultural, and administrative center of New York City.

New York City is often referred to collectively as the five boroughs; the term is used to refer to New York City as a whole unambiguously, avoiding confusion with any particular borough or with the Greater New York metropolitan area. The term is also used by politicians to counter a frequent focus on Manhattan and thereby to place all five boroughs on equal footing. In the same vein, the term outer boroughs refers to all of the boroughs excluding Manhattan, even though the geographic center of the city is along the Brooklyn–Queens border.

All of the boroughs were created in 1898 during consolidation, when the city's current boundaries were established.

Changes after 1898

The Bronx originally included parts of New York County outside of Manhattan that had previously been ceded by neighboring Westchester County in two stages; in 1874 and then following a referendum in 1894. Ultimately in 1914, the present-day separate Bronx County became the last county to be created in the State of New York.

The borough of Queens consists of what formerly was only the western part of a then-larger Queens County. In 1899, the three eastern towns of Queens County that had not joined the city the year before—the towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead, and Oyster Bay—formally seceded from Queens County to form the new Nassau County.

The borough of Staten Island, concurrent with Richmond County, was officially the borough of Richmond until the name was changed in 1975 to reflect its common appellation, while leaving the name of the county unchanged.

Description of the boroughs

Chinatown manhattan 2009.JPG
Chinatown in Manhattan, the most densely populated borough of New York City, with a higher density than any individual American city.
Greenpoint Houses.JPG
Landmark 19th-century brownstones in the Greenpoint Historic District of Brooklyn, New York City's most populous borough.
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The Unisphere in Queens, the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world.
Staten Island Borough Hall sign.jpg
Borough Hall in the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island, the most suburban borough of New York City.
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The Bronx, the northernmost borough of New York City and the only borough situated on the United States mainland.

There are hundreds of distinct neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs of New York City, many with a definable history and character to call their own.

Governance

New York City Demographics 01 500px Julius Schorzman-yellowbrooklyn.png
The percentage of New York City population residing in each borough (from bottom to top): 1. Manhattan, 2. Brooklyn, 3. Queens, 4. The Bronx, and 5. Staten Island. (Populations before 1898 are for the areas now enclosed in the present boroughs.)

Since 1914, each of New York City's five boroughs has been coextensive with a county of New York State – unlike most U.S. cities, which lie within a single county or extend partially into another county, constitute a county in themselves, or are completely separate and independent of any county.

Each borough is represented by a borough president. Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island each have a Borough Hall. The Manhattan Borough President's office is situated in the Manhattan Municipal Building. The Bronx Borough President's office used to be in its own Bronx Borough Hall but has been in the Bronx County Courthouse for decades. Since the abolition of the Board of Estimate in 1990 (due to a 1989 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court), the borough presidents have minimal executive powers, and there is no legislative function within a borough. Executive functions in New York City are the responsibility of the Mayor of New York City, while legislative functions reside with the New York City Council. The borough presidents primarily act as spokesmen, advocates, and ceremonial leaders for their boroughs, have budgets from which they can allocate relatively modest sums of money to community organizations and projects, and appoint the members of the 59 largely advisory community boards in the city's various neighborhoods. The Brooklyn and Queens borough presidents also appoint trustees to the local public library systems in those boroughs.

Because they are counties, each borough also elects a district attorney, as does every other county of the state. While the district attorneys of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island are popularly referred to as such by the media (e.g., "Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, Jr.", or "Brooklyn D.A. Kenneth P. Thompson"), they are technically and legally the district attorneys of New York County, Kings County and Richmond County, respectively. There is no such distinction made for the district attorneys of the other two counties, Queens and the Bronx, since these boroughs share the respective counties' names. Because the five district attorneys are, technically speaking, state officials (since the counties are considered to be arms of the state government), rather than officials of the city government, they are not subject to the term limitations that govern other New York City officials such as the mayor, the New York City Public Advocate, members of the city council, or the borough presidents. Some civil court judges also are elected on a borough-wide basis, although they generally are eligible to serve throughout the city.

Sixth borough

The term sixth borough is used to describe any of a number of places that have been metaphorically called a part of New York City because of their geographic location, demographics (they include large numbers of former New Yorkers), special affiliation, or cosmopolitan character. They have included adjacent cities and counties in the New York metropolitan area as well as in other states, U.S. territories, and foreign countries. In 2011, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg referred to the city's waterfront and waterways as a composite sixth borough during presentations of planned rehabilitation projects along the city's shoreline, including Governor's Island in the Upper New York Bay. The Hudson Waterfront in the U.S. state of New Jersey lies opposite Manhattan on the Hudson River, and during the Dutch colonial era, was under the jurisdiction of New Amsterdam and known as Bergen. Jersey City and Hoboken in Hudson County, New Jersey, are sometimes referred to as the sixth borough, given their proximity and connections by rapid transit PATH trains. Fort Lee, New Jersey, in Bergen County, opposite Upper Manhattan and connected by the George Washington Bridge, has also been called the sixth borough. Miami and nearby areas in Florida, Philadelphia and China are locales entirely outside the city's metropolitan area which have been called New York City's sixth borough.

See also

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