Things to see and do - New York
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- Nieuw Amsterdam to New York
- British Rule
- Empire City
- Growth and Greening
- A City of Immigrants
- Culture and Crash
- Bust and Boom
- Terrorist Strikes
- Standing Tall
Nieuw Amsterdam to New York
Before the arrival of Europeans, Algonquian- and Iroquoian-speaking Indians inhabited the island of Manhattan. The Algonquin tribe is credited for naming the island Manhattan, meaning “island of the hills.” Following Henry Hudson’s exploratory journey, the Dutch East India Company founded the colony of New Netherland on the site of present-day New York City in 1614. In 1625 the company established the trading post of Nieuw Amsterdam. Unlike other American colonies, New York was not founded by a religious group, but for purely commercial purposes, and it became the private property of the Dutch West India Company. This fact, combined with the difficulty of attracting immigrants from a generally content Dutch populace, gave New York a cosmopolitan makeup from the very start, attracting French Huguenots and non-Dutch immigrants from Holland. A fort and roundout batteries were constructed at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, controlling the entrance to the Hudson River. A city grew up to the south of a defensive wall, while farms and estates, called bouweries , were established farther north on Manhattan Island, as well as in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. Initially ruled by a director-general, the town attained some form of self-government in 1653. The British, already established in New England to the north, took control of the colony in the late 17C, accepting the surrender of Director-General Peter Stuyvesant in 1664.
1524 – Giovanni da Verrazano , an Italian explorer in the service of the French king François I, is the first European to land on Manhattan.
1609 – Henry Hudson sails up the river (now bearing his name) in his ship, the Half Moon, while on a voyage for the Dutch East India Company.
1614 – The name New Netherland, given to the newly founded Dutch colony, designates the area around present-day New York City. The territory north of New York is called New England.
1625 – The first permanent European settlement is established on Manhattan. The trading post is named Nieuw Amsterdam and includes a fort and 30 houses.
1626 – Peter Minuit of the Dutch West India Company buys Manhattan from the Algonquin Indians in exchange for trinkets valued at 60 guilders, the equivalent of $24.
1647 – Peter Stuyvesant (1592–1672) is appointed director-general of New Netherland, serving until 1664.
1653 – The city of Nieuw Amsterdam receives a charter and municipal rule. Stuyvesant erects a protective wall along present-day Wall Street.
1664 – As a repercussion of the English and Dutch trading rivalries in Europe, the English take Nieuw Amsterdam without a struggle and rename it New York after the Duke of York, brother of the English king Charles II.
New York blossomed as an important trading post in the colonies of North America, second only to Boston in the trade of furs and farm products. By 1700 the tip of Manhattan claimed some 4,000 residents and had grown north beyond the Dutch palisade fortifications at Wall Street. The city began its passionate embrace of journalism with the creation of several newspapers. Columbia University and the city’s first library were founded. Dutch language and culture began to wane in the century following Stuyvesant’s surrender, although numerous Dutch families remained important in local society, government and business. New York’s pivotal role as a commercial port for the American colonies placed the city in the center of the taxation controversies leading up to the American Revolution. The city was one of the first targets of the British Army, which occupied New York throughout the War for Independence.
1667 – The Treaty of Breda, ending the second Anglo-Dutch war, confirms English control over the province of New Netherland. The city of New York passes under the English system of municipal government, and English replaces Dutch as the official language.
1673 – The Dutch retake New York without a fight and rename it New Orange.
1674 – By the Treaty of Westminster in 1674, the province of New Netherland becomes permanently English.
1720 – With 7,000 inhabitants, New York is the third-largest city in the colonies.
1725 – The city’s first newspaper, the New-York Gazette , is founded by William Bradford.
1733 – John Peter Zenger founds the New York Weekly Journal , in which he attacks the governor. A year later Zenger is imprisoned for slander. His acquittal marks the beginning of a free press.
1754 – The city’s first college, King’s College , now Columbia University, opens. The New York Society Library is founded.
1763 – Marking the end of the French and Indian War, or Seven Years’ War (1756–63), the Treaty of Paris confirms English control of the North American continent.
1765 – The Stamp Act Congress meets in New York, and representatives from nine colonies denounce the English colonial policy of taxation without re-presentation.
1766 – Repeal of the Stamp Act. A statue is erected to William Pitt , the British statesman who did most to obtain the repeal.
1767 – Parliament passes the Townshend Acts, a series of four acts that increase taxation and threaten the already established traditions of colonial self-government. The repeal three years later coincides with the Boston Massacre.
1776 – The Declaration of Independence (July 4) is adopted and New Yorkers pull down the statue of George III at Bowling Green. On November 17, Fort Washington in northern Manhattan falls and the British occupy all of present-day New York City until 1783.
1783 – The Treaty of Paris (September 3) ends the American Revolution and England recognizes the independence of the 13 colonies. The last British troops evacuate New York, and George Washington returns to the city in triumph before bidding farewell to his troops at Fraunces Tavern on December 4.
After briefly serving as US capital, New York established the commercial links and financial institutions that led the new nation into the Industrial Age. As the population of New York exploded beyond all predictions—despite outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera—the island of Manhattan grew northward along the gridiron plan established in the early 19C.
Broadway, a poplar-lined residential boulevard in 1790, became a commercial thoroughfare by 1820. Following the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, the city handled more trade than all other US ports combined and became a leading shipbuilding center. The population doubled in the 1820s as immigrants arrived by the thousands from Germany, Ireland and Scandinavia.
1784 – New York City becomes the capital of New York State and a year later is named US capital under the Articles of Confederation.
1789 – George Washington , elected first president, takes the oath of office at Federal Hall.
1790 – The first official census counts 33,000 people in Manhattan. The federal capital moves to Philadelphia.
1792 – The forerunner to the New York Stock Exchange is founded.
1804 – Vice President Aaron Burr mortally wounds political rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel on the Hudson River.
1812 – War of 1812 : the US declares war on Britain and the Port of New York suffers from the ensuing blockade until the war ends in 1814. Present City Hall opens.
1820 – New York is the most populous city in the nation with 123,705 inhabitants. Growth also brings disease, including a severe yellow fever epidemic in 1822.
1825 – Opening of the Erie Canal . New York becomes the gateway to the Great Lakes and the West as 500 new mercantile businesses open.
1832 – Cholera epidemic kills 4,000 citizens.
1835 – The Great Fire destroys an extensive area in the business district.
1845 – Another fire levels 300 buildings in lower Manhattan. The first telegraph line connects the city to Philadelphia. The first baseball club, the New York Knickerbockers, is organized.
Growth and Greening
Large waves of immigration from Europe and the Americas spurred commercial and industrial growth, which led to a doubling of the city’s population every 20 years, exceeding a million people by 1875. Shantytowns developed on vacant land to the north of the growing city, while aging neighborhoods became slums, including the infamous “Five Points” district north of City Hall.
The massive immigrant population fed a political machine based at Tammany Hall that established new heights of public graft and corruption in the 1860s and 70s by bilking taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars—more than $9 million during construction of the “Tweed Courthouse” alone.
The adjacent city of Brooklyn blossomed with residences and factories. Following the success of America’s first World’s Fair here in 1853, New York established itself as the cultural capital of America with the creation of Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
1849 – Astor Place Riot: 31 die and 150 are wounded in a theater riot protesting British actor William Macready.
1851 – The New York Times is published for the first time.
1853 – The World’s Fair opens at the Crystal Palace. Modeled on London’s Great Exhibition of 1851, the fair is an early showplace for iron and glass architecture and the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution.
1857 – Construction of Central Park begins in the wake of a depression brought on by financial panic; the park is officially completed in 1876.
1860 – New York City counts 813,660 inhabitants, as immigration from Ireland, Germany and other European countries continues. Brooklyn counts 279,000 residents, double the number it had 10 years earlier.
1863 – The city is rocked by the Draft Riots. Opposition by the poor to the rich man’s practice of hiring a substitute to fight the Civil War spreads to encompass general discontent and racism, leaving 1,200 dead and 8,000 injured.
1865 – The Civil War ends. After President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated, his body lies in state at New York’s City Hall.
1868 – Opening of the El , the first elevated railway in lower Manhattan.
1869 – On September 24, financier Jay Gould, who had tried to corner the gold market with his associate James Fisk, sells out and brings about the financial panic known as “Black Friday.” The American Museum of Natural History is founded in Central Park’s Arsenal.
1871 – The New York Times finally ex-poses Boss Tweed’s Tammany Hall ring of corrupt city officials. Tweed goes to prison, where he dies in 1878.
1872 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens, moving to its present location in 1880.
A City of Immigrants
Wall Street became the center of banking, finance and insurance in the US, and by the second decade of the 20C it began occupying its key position in the world economy. Immigration not only continued but increased dramatically as the 19C waned, bringing new groups from Southern and Eastern Europe.
New York became home to the largest Jewish community in the world as millions fled Russian persecution. Italian immigrants created Little Italy next to Chinatown, which was established in the 1870s but stunted by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Beginning in the late 1880s, Jacob Riis took his camera to New York’s dark streets to expose the social ills of the tenement districts, ushering in the Progressive Era. Tammany Hall was exposed by an 1894 investigation, led by New York native Theodore Roosevelt , of police corruption, thus launching a political career that would take him to the presidency. William Randolph Hearst’s purchase of the New York Journal in 1895 and subsequent circulation battle with Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World instigated the era of yellow journalism—largely responsible for the Spanish-American War.
1880–84 – Some two million people arrive in New York City during a period of rapid immigration. Tenements and sweatshops proliferate, exploiting the new residents.
1882 – Electricity is first offered for general use by Thomas Edison’s plant in lower Manhattan.
1886 – Inauguration of the Statue of Liberty .
1889 – The first telephone exchange opens on Nassau Street two years after Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his invention in New York.
1891 – Carnegie Hall opens with Tchaikovsky’s American conducting debut.
1892 – The ongoing rush of immigration leads to the completion of the Ellis Island facility – more than 12 million persons will be processed here by the mid-1920s.
1898 – Greater New York City is created, comprising five boroughs: Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. With a population of more than three million, New York is the world’s largest city.
1902 – One of the city’s first skyscrapers, the Flatiron Building , is completed.
1904 – The first underground subway line opens.
Culture and Crash
New York served as the major US transshipment point for Allied matériel during World War I. Immigration began to slow following exclusionary legislation in the 1920s, but the city’s population still increased from 4.8 million in 1910 to almost 7 million in 1930. Prohibition began in 1920, doubling the number of illegal liquor outlets in the city to 32,000 and providing the backdrop for bootlegging gangs and underworld influence in politics and government. Greenwich Village became an intellectual and artistic bohemia and the Algonquin Hotel’s Round Table hosted the likes of the witty writers of the new New Yorker magazine. The Harlem Renaissance in African-American arts and letters introduced writers like Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, and jazz legends like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. A host of new theaters along 42nd Street perfected the Broadway musical with tunes written in Tin Pan Alley. The Armory Show and the Ashcan school promoted modern art in America in the 1910s, and the following decades saw the founding of the Museum of Modern Art , the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The gaiety of the Roaring 20s came to an end with the Wall Street stock market crash on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, signaling the onset of the Great Depression.
1908 – First celebration of New Year’s Eve at Times Square.
1911 – The Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire kills 145 sweatshop employees.
1913 – The Armory Show introduces modern art to America.
1920 – On September 16 , a bombing on Wall Street takes 38 lives.
1925 – The New Yorker magazine is founded. Alain Locke’s anthology The New Negro: An Interpretation marks the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance.
1929 – Stock market crash (financial panic of October) signals the start of the Great Depression.
1931 – The Empire State Building is completed after almost two years of work.
1932 – Mayor Jimmy Walker resigns from office in another Tammany Hall scandal.
Bust and Boom
The Great Depression prompted the closing of manufacturing plants in the city—thousands of homeless people slept in subway tunnels and waited in bread lines. Construction of Rockefeller Center and two World’s Fairs buoyed New York as reform mayor Fiorello La Guardia—“the Little Flower”—led the city through the trials of the Depression, arresting gangsters like “Lucky” Luciano and supervising huge public works projects. The first US public housing project—First Houses—was built in 1935 and followed by a dozen more in the next decade.
World War II made New York the busiest port in the world and solidified its international position in industry, commerce and finance. The United Nations established its headquarters in Manhattan following the war as the city began building again. The 1950s brought new immigrants, with large numbers arriving from Puerto Rico and Asia. A haven for refugee intelligentsia from Europe, New York made its bid for international cultural capital in the 1950s and 60s, welcoming painters Piet Mondrian, Jacques Lipchitz, Fernand Léger and others, while fostering a new generation of avant-garde artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Louise Nevelson and Andy Warhol. Off Broadway theaters enlivened the cultural scene and New York became a center for film and television.
1934 – Fiorello H. La Guardia becomes mayor of New York City, serving until 1945.
1935 – Harlem Riot exposes the effects of the Depression on African Americans.
1939–40 – World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows attracts more than 44 million visitors to preview postwar advances in domestic technology.
1945 – United Nations charter is drafted in San Francisco, and the organization announces it will locate in New York City.
1959 – Construction of Lincoln Center begins.
Racial and labor tensions beset the city in the 1960s, and in 1975 the city government defaulted into bankruptcy. The setbacks only stimulated New Yorker pluck, though, and by 1981, the city’s budget was balanced. Despite the 1987 stock market crash, by the late 1980s an upswing in the world economy led to a massive expansion on Wall Street that continued straight through the Bull Market of the late 1990s. Presaged by a truck-bomb explosion at the World Trade Center in 1993, the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, signaled the end of the stock market boom and brought the city into the international spotlight as residents banded together to mourn the dead.
1964 – The longest suspension bridge in the US, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opens between Brooklyn and Staten Island. The Harlem Uprising is the first major manifestation of Northern black unrest in the Civil Rights era.
1964-65 – World’s Fair held on the same site as the 1939–40 fair features the 140ft-tall Unisphere model of the earth.
1965 – Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.
1973 – The World Trade Center opens in Manhattan.
1977 – Ed Koch becomes mayor.
1980 – John Lennon is assassinated in front of his New York City residence, the Dakota.
1989 – New York City’s first African-American mayor, David Dinkins , is elected.
1993 – Terrorist bomb rocks the World Trade Center, injuring hundreds. Rudy Giuliani is elected mayor.
1996 – New York endures its worst blizzard in a century.
1999 – Two million people fill Times Square for a 24-hour-long New Year’s Eve celebration to welcome the new millennium.
2000 – Yankees win Subway Series against Mets.
2001 – On the morning of September 11, in the worst terrorist attack in US history, hijackers crash two passenger planes into the Twin Towers, destroying the entire World Trade Center and resulting in the loss of 2,979 lives.
In the wake of September 11, 2001, New Yorkers banded together with resolve. Cleanup was completed on schedule, but design, safety, and cost issues held up new construction at the site for five years. Forced out of office by term limits, Rudy Giuliani ceded the mayor‘s office to billionaire Mike Bloomberg , who put the city on a stable financial footing and passed a raft of legislation in an effort to make New Yorkers healthier.
2002 – Billionaire financial-data baron Mike Bloomberg is sworn in as mayor. Cleanup crews remove 1.5 million tons of debris from the World Trade Center site.
2003 – A cascading power outage leaves New York City in the dark for 29 hours beginning at 4pm on Thursday, August 14. The New York legislature enacts a law banning smoking in virtually all bars, clubs, and restaurants statewide.
2004 – Marking its 75th anniversary, the Museum of Modern Art reopens its Midtown location after two and a half years of renovation and expansion. Bloomberg is elected to a second term and bans trans fats from city restaurants.
2005 – For 16 days in February, Central Park is transformed by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates ; 7,500 orange-fabric panels mounted on poles placed over walkways throughout the park. The installation attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.
2006 – Work begins on the Freedom Tower, a 1,776ft skyscraper on the former World Trade Center site. The city welcomes a record 43.8 million visitors, up from 33.1 million in 1998, and ends the fiscal year with a $6 billion surplus.
2007 – Mayor Bloomberg drops out of the Republican Party and declares himself an independent. In October he announces a plan to plant 650,000 trees by 2017, five times the number planted the preceding decade.
2008 Collapse of New York-based Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, leading investment services firms, creates shock waves in global financial markets and accelerates economic downturn.