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BRIEF HISTORY OF NEW YORK

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    New York is the world’s first megacity. Most people know New York. Nevertheless let me tell you a few interesting facts about it.

    New York has always been a city of superlatives and first—the richest, most populated, most diverse, most innovative, home to the world’s longest bridge, tallest skyscraper, largest public park, most elaborate subway system, the first to have electricity, telephones, potato chips, pneumatic railway, teddy bears, credit cards, air-conditioning, Silicon Valley and Scrabble, among other things. It has attracted business people and artists, rich and poor, and privileged and persecuted. Today, let’s look at the journey of this vibrant city.

BORN FROM A SHEET OF ICE!

    New York originated when a massive sheet of ice started melting, some 12,000 years ago. Pine trees and grasses grew as the climate became warmer. Woolly mammoths, bison, bears and other large land mammals, as well as hunter-gatherers appeared. As many as 3,000 years later, those animals and humans vanished. The melting ice caused oceans to rise, turning valleys into estuaries and forming new islands and peninsulas. Soon, a new generation of human beings who called themselves “Lenape” arrived. Initially, they lived off deer, fish, nuts, berries and fruits. And about 1,000 years ago, they started growing their own food.

    In the 16th Century, Italian navigator Giovanni da Verazzano set out to find a shorter route to India and China. His quest was unsuccessful but it motivated other explorations, many of which ended up in Lenape-hoking. (Lenape-hoking is a term for the lands historically inhabited by the Native American people known as the Lenape in what is now the Mid-Atlantic United States), where the explorers started selling furs from Canada and Russia, as well as kettles, blankets, hoes, knives, etc., to the Lenape. In 1609, Henry Hudson, an English sailor, claimed an area up the North River (now the Hudson) for the Dutch East India Company. This area, was named New Amsterdam, and became a Dutch trading post in 1624.

    BOUGHT WITH GLASS BEADS

    In 1626, Dutch colonial governor Peter Minuit purchased New Amsterdam from the Lenape tribe, allegedly for glass beads worth $24. New Amsterdam’s population was just 1,500 people then, and included Dutch, Belgians, French and English. Dutch farmers built the earliest settlements. Jews and African slaves soon arrived, and by the 18th Century, it was an upmarket address. The Dutch eventually lost New Amsterdam to the British, who renamed it New York in honour of the Duke of York.

    In 1700, New York’s population was just 5,000 but it was growing rapidly. It multiplied 12 times within a century, and New York became an important trading hub with a slave-labour-driven economy. In 1785—almost 10 years after a failed attempt at achieving freedom from the British, and 13 years after the Great Fire of New York—President George Washington declared New York the largest city in the US, the capital of free America. (The capital shifted to Philadelphia later that year.) The Bank of New York was founded in 1784 and the New York Stock Exchange, in 1792.

    By 1810, New York was a major cotton trading port, and by 1817, thanks to the completion of the Erie Canal from Hudson river to Lake Erie, it was the undisputed trading capital with a population approaching 1,23,000. In the manner of rapidly growing urban spaces, the city’s growth was haphazard. To combat that, the governor appointed a commission to plan the layout of the city. In 1811, the “Commissioner’s Plan” proposed a neat, grid-like arrangement of streets and avenues for the entire city, including Manhattan. By the 1830s, the population swelled to 3,12,000 and efforts were initiated to provide clean water. The New York Police Department was established in 1844.

    THE 10-MILLION MARK

    Between 1892 and 1924, more than 12 million immigrants, arrived from Ireland, Germany, Europe, Asia and other places, and passed through New York and “settled” in the U.S.—forming communities, starting businesses and building places of worship. It was relatively recent, in the 20th century, that New York City took its present shape. Geographically, the city is situated on one of the world’s largest natural harbours and is composed of five boroughs—Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island. Each borough is a county in the State of New York. In 1895, the citizens of all five counties unanimously voted to merge with Manhattan to form Greater New York. Before the counties united, New York’s population was roughly two million people. After the merger, it increased to three million. By the 1920s, it had overtaken London, and by the 1930s, it had crossed the 10-million mark to become the first megacity in the world.

    The US economy, suffering after the Great Depression in the 1930s, picked up, because of increased wartime spending during World War II, and New York became the world’s leading city. Wall Street consolidated the country’s position in the global economy.

THE CITY TODAY

    New York continues to cope successfully with the pressures of explosive growth. The increased crime rates due to job losses triggered by industrial restructuring in the 1970s and 80s were effectively controlled by the 1990s. The 24-hour rapid transport system, buses, ferries and taxis continue to support the population that needs to be constantly on the move. Streets, expressways and nearly 2,000 bridges and tunnels—many of which are internationally acclaimed engineering marvels—link the various boroughs, supporting vehicles and pedestrians. The sprawling 843-acre Central Park, the New York Botanical Gardens, lavish baseball, soccer and basketball stadiums, internationally renowned museums, cultural institutions and historic sites, as well as Broadway—the dream destination for every theatre professional—provide open spaces as well as physical and intellectual stimulation.

    New York, symbolised by the iconic Manhattan skyline, altered, after 9/11, yet continues to be the world’s financial and architectural hub. It has something for everyone.

ACTIVITY

    The Empire State Building and Times Square are iconic spots in New York.

Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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