The area that is now Manhattan was long inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. In 1524, Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano – sailing in service of King Francis I of France – was the first European to visit the area that would become New York City. He entered the tidal strait now known as The Narrows and named the land around Upper New York Harbor "New Angoulême", in reference to the family name of King Francis I that was derived from Angoulême in France; he sailed far enough into the harbor to sight the Hudson River, which he referred to in his report to the French king as a "very big river"; and he named the Bay of Santa Margarita – what is now Upper New York Bay – after Marguerite de Navarre, the elder sister of the king.
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, until he arrived at the site of present-day Albany.
A permanent European presence in New Netherland began in 1624 with the founding of a Dutch fur trading settlement on Governors Island. In 1625, construction was started on the citadel of Fort Amsterdam on Manhattan Island, later called New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam), in what is now Lower Manhattan. The 1625 establishment of Fort Amsterdam at the southern tip of Manhattan Island is recognized as the birth of New York City.
According to a letter by Pieter Janszoon Schagen, Peter Minuit and Dutch colonists acquired Manhattan on May 24, 1626, from unnamed Native American people, which are believed to have been Canarsee Indians of the Lenape, in exchange for trade goods worth 60 guilders, often said to be worth US$24. The figure of 60 guilders comes from a letter by a representative of the Dutch Estates General and member of the board of the Dutch West India Company, Pieter Janszoon Schagen, to the Estates General in November 1626. In 1846, New York historian John Romeyn Brodhead converted the figure of Fl 60 (or 60 guilders) to US$23. "[A] variable-rate myth being a contradiction in terms, the purchase price remains forever frozen at twenty-four dollars," as Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace remarked in their history of New York. Sixty guilders in 1626 was valued at approximately $1,000 in 2006, according to the Institute for Social History of Amsterdam. Based on the price of silver, Straight Dope author Cecil Adams calculated an equivalent of $72 in 1992. Historians James and Michelle Nevius revisited the issue in 2014, suggesting that using the prices of beer and brandy as monetary equivalencies, the price Minuit paid would have the purchasing power of somewhere between $2,600 and $15,600 in current dollars. According to the writer Nathaniel Benchley, Minuit conducted the transaction with Seyseys, chief of the Canarsees, who were willing to accept valuable merchandise in exchange for the island that was actually mostly controlled by the Weckquaesgeeks.
In 1647, Peter Stuyvesant was appointed as the last Dutch Director General of the colony. New Amsterdam was formally incorporated as a city on February 2, 1653. In 1664, the English conquered New Netherland and renamed it "New York" after the English Duke of York and Albany, the future King James II. The Dutch, under Director General Stuyvesant, successfully negotiated with the English to produce 24 articles of provisional transfer, which sought to retain for the extant citizens of New Netherland their previously attained liberties (including freedom of religion) under new colonial English rulers.
The Dutch Republic regained the city in August 1673 with a fleet of 21 ships, renaming it "New Orange". New Netherland was ceded permanently to the English in November 1674 through the Treaty of Westminster, in exchange for Run Island, which was the long-coveted last link in the Dutch nutmeg trading monopoly in Indonesia.
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 Battle of Fort Washington on November 16, 1776. The city, greatly damaged by the Great Fire of New York during the campaign, became the British political and military center of operations in North America for the remainder of the war. British occupation lasted until November 25, 1783, when George Washington returned to Manhattan, as the last British forces left the city.
From January 11, 1785, to the fall of 1788, New York City was the fifth of five capitals of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, with the Continental Congress meeting at New York City Hall (then at Fraunces Tavern). New York was the first capital under the newly enacted Constitution of the United States, from March 4, 1789, to August 12, 1790, at Federal Hall. Federal Hall was also the site where the United States Supreme Court met for the first time, the United States Bill of Rights were drafted and ratified, and where the Northwest Ordinance was adopted, establishing measures for adding new states to the Union.
New York grew as an economic center, 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. By 1810, New York City, then confined to Manhattan, had surpassed Philadelphia as the largest city in the United States.
Tammany Hall, a Democratic Party political machine, began to grow in influence with the support of many of the immigrant Irish, culminating in the election of the first Tammany mayor, Fernando Wood, in 1854. Tammany Hall dominated local politics for decades. Central Park, which opened to the public in 1858, became the first landscaped public park in an American city.
New York City played a complex role in the American Civil War. The city's strong commercial ties to the southern United States existed for many reasons, including the industrial power of the Hudson River harbor, which allowed trade with stops such as the West Point Foundry, one of the great manufacturing operations in the early United States; and the city's Atlantic Ocean ports, rendering New York City the American powerhouse in terms of industrial trade between the northern and southern United States. New York's growing immigrant population, which had originated largely from Germany and Ireland, began in the late 1850s to include waves of Italians and Central and Eastern European Jews flowing in en masse. Anger arose about conscription, with resentment at those who could afford to pay $300 to avoid service leading to resentment against Lincoln's war policies and fomenting paranoia about free Blacks taking the poor immigrants' jobs, culminating in the three-day-long New York Draft Riots of July 1863. These intense war-time riots are counted among the worst incidents of civil disorder in American history, with an estimated 119 participants and passersby massacred.
The rate of immigration from Europe grew steeply after the Civil War, and Manhattan 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. The new European immigration brought further social upheaval. In a city of tenements packed with poorly paid laborers from dozens of nations, the city was a hotbed of revolution (including anarchists and communists among others), syndicalism, racketeering, and unionization.
In 1883, the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge established a road connection to Brooklyn, across the East River. In 1874 the western portion of the present Bronx County was transferred to New York County from Westchester County, and in 1895 the remainder of the present Bronx County was annexed. In 1898, when New York City consolidated with three neighboring counties to form "the City of Greater New York", Manhattan and the Bronx, though still one county, were established as two separate boroughs. On January 1, 1914, the New York State Legislature created Bronx County, and New York County was reduced to its present boundaries.
The construction of the New York City Subway, which opened in 1904, helped bind the new city together, as did additional bridges to Brooklyn. In the 1920s Manhattan experienced large arrivals of African-Americans as part of the Great Migration from the southern United States, and the Harlem Renaissance, part of a larger boom time in the Prohibition era that included new skyscrapers competing for the skyline. New York City became the most populous city in the world in 1925, overtaking London, which had reigned for a century. Manhattan's majority white ethnic group declined from 98.7% in 1900 to 58.3% by 1990.
On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Greenwich Village killed 146 garment workers. The disaster eventually led to overhauls of the city's fire department, building codes, and workplace regulations.
The period between the World Wars saw the election of reformist mayor Fiorello La Guardia and the fall of Tammany Hall after 80 years of political dominance. As the city's demographics stabilized, labor unionization brought new protections and affluence to the working class, the city's government and infrastructure underwent a dramatic overhaul under La Guardia. Despite the Great Depression, some of the world's tallest skyscrapers were completed in Manhattan during the 1930s, including numerous Art Deco masterpieces that are still part of the city's skyline today, most notably the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the GE Building.
Returning World War II veterans created a postwar economic boom, which led to the development of huge housing developments targeted at returning veterans, the largest being Peter Cooper Village-Stuyvesant Town, which opened in 1947. In 1952, the United Nations relocated from its first headquarters near Queens, to the East Side of Manhattan.
The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.
In the 1970s job losses due to industrial restructuring caused New York City, including Manhattan, to suffer from economic problems and rising crime rates. While a resurgence in the financial industry greatly improved the city's economic health in the 1980s, New York's crime rate continued to increase through the decade and into the beginning of the 1990s.
The 1980s saw a rebirth of Wall Street, and Manhattan reclaimed its role at the center of the worldwide financial industry. The 1980s also saw Manhattan at the heart of the AIDS crisis, with Greenwich Village at its epicenter. The organizations Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) and AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) were founded to advocate on behalf of those stricken with the disease.
By the 1990s crime rates started to drop dramatically due to revised police strategies, improving economic opportunities, gentrification, and new residents, both American transplants and new immigrants from Asia and Latin America. Murder rates that had reached 2,245 in 1990 plummeted to 537 by 2008, and the crack epidemic and its associated drug-related violence came under greater control. The outflow of population turned around, as the city once again became the destination of immigrants from around the world, joining with low interest rates and Wall Street bonuses to fuel the growth of the real estate market. Important new sectors, such as Silicon Alley, emerged in Manhattan's economy.
On September 11, 2001, two of four hijacked planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the original World Trade Center, and the towers subsequently collapsed. 7 World Trade Center collapsed due to fires and structural damage caused by heavy debris falling from the collapse of the Twin Towers. The other buildings within the World Trade Center complex were damaged beyond repair and soon after demolished. The collapse of the Twin Towers caused extensive damage to other surrounding buildings and skyscrapers in Lower Manhattan, and resulted in the deaths of 2,606 people, in addition to those on the planes. Since 2001, most of Lower Manhattan has been restored, although there has been controversy surrounding the rebuilding. Many rescue workers and residents of the area developed several life-threatening illnesses that have led to some of their subsequent deaths. A memorial at the site was opened to the public on September 11, 2011, and the museum opened in 2014. In 2014, the new One World Trade Center, at 1,776 feet (541 m) and formerly known as the Freedom Tower, became the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, while other skyscrapers were under construction at the site.
The Occupy Wall Street protests in Zuccotti Park in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan began on September 17, 2011, receiving global attention and spawning the Occupy movement against social and economic inequality worldwide.
On October 29 and 30, 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused extensive destruction in the borough, ravaging portions of Lower Manhattan with record-high storm surge from New York Harbor, severe flooding, and high winds, causing power outages for hundreds of thousands of city residents and leading to gasoline shortages and disruption of mass transit systems. The storm and its profound impacts have prompted the discussion of constructing seawalls and other coastal barriers around the shorelines of the borough and the metropolitan area to minimize the risk of destructive consequences from another such event in the future. Around 15 percent of the borough is considered to be in flood-risk zones.
On October 31, 2017, a terrorist killed eight people and injured a dozen when he took a rental pickup truck and deliberately drove down a bike path alongside the West Side Highway in Lower Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring a dozen others before crashing into a school bus.
The borough consists of Manhattan Island, Marble Hill, and several small islands, including Randalls Island and Wards Island, and Roosevelt Island in the East River, and Governors Island and Liberty Island to the south in New York Harbor.
According to the United States Census Bureau, New York County has a total area of 33.6 square miles (87 km2), of which 22.8 square miles (59 km2) is land and 10.8 square miles (28 km2) (32%) is water. The northern segment of Upper Manhattan represents a geographic panhandle. Manhattan Island is 22.7 square miles (59 km2) in area, 13.4 miles (21.6 km) long and 2.3 miles (3.7 km) wide, at its widest (near 14th Street).
Manhattan Island is loosely divided into Downtown (Lower Manhattan), Midtown (Midtown Manhattan), and Uptown (Upper Manhattan), with Fifth Avenue dividing Manhattan's east and west sides. Manhattan Island is bounded by the Hudson River to the west and the East River to the east. To the north, the Harlem River divides Manhattan Island from the Bronx and the mainland United States.
Early in the 19th century, landfill was used to expand Lower Manhattan from the natural Hudson shoreline at Greenwich Street to West Street. When building the World Trade Center in 1968, 1.2 million cubic yards (917,000 m³) of material was excavated from the site. Rather than dumping the spoil at sea or in landfills, the fill material was used to expand the Manhattan shoreline across West Street, creating Battery Park City, The result was a 700-foot (210-m) extension into the river, running six blocks or 1,484 feet (452 m), covering 92 acres (37 ha), providing a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) riverfront esplanade and over 30 acres (12 ha) of parks; Hudson River Park subsequently opened in 1998.
One neighborhood of New York County is contiguous with the U.S. mainland. Marble Hill at one time was part of Manhattan Island, but the Harlem River Ship Canal, dug in 1895 to improve navigation on the Harlem River, separated it from the remainder of Manhattan as an island between the Bronx and the remainder of Manhattan. Before World War I, the section of the original Harlem River channel separating Marble Hill from The Bronx was filled in, and Marble Hill became part of the mainland.
Marble Hill is one example of how Manhattan's land has been considerably altered by human intervention. The borough has seen substantial land reclamation along its waterfronts since Dutch colonial times, and much of the natural variation in its topography has been evened out.
In New York Harbor, there are three smaller islands:
Other smaller islands, in the East River, include (from north to south):
The bedrock underlying much of Manhattan is a mica schist known as Manhattan schist. It is a strong, competent metamorphic rock created when Pangaea formed. It is well suited for the foundations of tall buildings. In Central Park, outcrops of Manhattan Schist occur and Rat Rock is one rather large example.
Geologically, a predominant feature of the substrata of Manhattan is that the underlying bedrock base of the island rises considerably closer to the surface near Midtown Manhattan, dips down lower between 29th Street and Canal Street, then rises toward the surface again in Lower Manhattan. It has been widely believed that the depth to bedrock was the primary underlying reason for the clustering of skyscrapers in the Midtown and Financial District areas, and their absence over the intervening territory between these two areas. However, research has shown that economic factors played a bigger part in the locations of these skyscrapers.
According to the United States Geological Survey, an updated analysis of seismic hazard in July 2014 revealed a "slightly lower hazard for tall buildings" in Manhattan than previously assessed. Scientists estimated this lessened risk based upon a lower likelihood than previously thought of slow shaking near New York City, which would be more likely to cause damage to taller structures from an earthquake in the vicinity of the city.
Manhattan's many neighborhoods are not named according to any particular convention. Some are geographical (the Upper East Side), or ethnically descriptive (Little Italy). Others are acronyms, such as TriBeCa (for "TRIangle BElow CAnal Street") or SoHo ("SOuth of HOuston"), or the far more recent vintages NoLIta ("NOrth of Little ITAly"). and NoMad ("NOrth of MADison Square Park"). Harlem is a name from the Dutch colonial era after Haarlem, a city in the Netherlands. Alphabet City comprises Avenues A, B, C, and D, to which its name refers. Some have simple folkloric names, such as Hell's Kitchen, alongside their more official but lesser used title (in this case, Clinton).
Some neighborhoods, such as SoHo, which is mixed use, are known for upscale shopping as well as residential use. Others, such as Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, Alphabet City and the East Village, have long been associated with the Bohemian subculture. Chelsea is one of several Manhattan neighborhoods with large gay populations and has become a center of both the international art industry and New York's nightlife. Washington Heights is a primary destination for immigrants from the Dominican Republic. Chinatown has the highest concentration of people of Chinese descent outside of Asia. Koreatown is roughly bounded by 6th and Madison Avenues, between 31st and 33rd Streets, where Hangul (한글) signage is ubiquitous. Rose Hill features a growing number of Indian restaurants and spice shops along a stretch of Lexington Avenue between 25th and 30th Streets which has become known as Curry Hill.
In Manhattan, uptown means north (more precisely north-northeast, which is the direction the island and its street grid system are oriented) and downtown means south (south-southwest). This usage differs from that of most American cities, where downtown refers to the central business district. Manhattan has two central business districts, the Financial District at the southern tip of the island, and Midtown Manhattan. The term uptown also refers to the northern part of Manhattan above 72nd Street and downtown to the southern portion below 14th Street, with Midtown covering the area in between, though definitions can be rather fluid depending on the situation.
Fifth Avenue roughly bisects Manhattan Island and acts as the demarcation line for east/west designations (e.g., East 27th Street, West 42nd Street); street addresses start at Fifth Avenue and increase heading away from Fifth Avenue, at a rate of 100 per block on most streets. South of Waverly Place, Fifth Avenue terminates and Broadway becomes the east/west demarcation line. Though the grid does start with 1st Street, just north of Houston Street (the southernmost street divided in west and east portions; pronounced HOW-stin), the grid does not fully take hold until north of 14th Street, where nearly all east-west streets are numerically identified, which increase from south to north to 220th Street, the highest numbered street on the island. Streets in Midtown are usually one-way, with the few exceptions generally being the busiest cross-town thoroughfares (14th, 23rd, 34th, and 42nd Streets, for example), which are bidirectional across the width of Manhattan Island. The rule of thumb is that odd-numbered streets run west, while even-numbered streets run east.
Under the Köppen climate classification, using the 0 °C (32 °F) isotherm, New York City features a humid subtropical climate (Cfa), and is thus the northernmost major city on the North American continent with this categorization. The suburbs to the immediate north and west lie in the transitional zone between humid subtropical and humid continental climates (Dfa). The city averages 234 days with at least some sunshine annually. The city lies in the USDA 7b plant hardiness zone.
Winters are cold and damp, and prevailing wind patterns that blow offshore temper the moderating effects of the Atlantic Ocean; yet the Atlantic and the partial shielding from colder air by the Appalachians keep the city warmer in the winter than inland North American cities at similar or lesser latitudes such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. The daily mean temperature in January, the area's coldest month, is 32.6 °F (0.3 °C); temperatures usually drop to 10 °F (−12 °C) several times per winter, and reach 60 °F (16 °C) several days in the coldest winter month. Spring and autumn are unpredictable and can range from chilly to warm, although they are usually mild with low humidity. Summers are typically warm to hot and humid, with a daily mean temperature of 76.5 °F (24.7 °C) in July. Nighttime conditions are often exacerbated by the urban heat island phenomenon, while daytime temperatures exceed 90 °F (32 °C) on average of 17 days each summer and in some years exceed 100 °F (38 °C). Extreme temperatures have ranged from −15 °F (−26 °C), recorded on February 9, 1934, up to 106 °F (41 °C) on July 9, 1936.
Summer evening temperatures are elevated by the urban heat island effect, which causes heat absorbed during the day to be radiated back at night, raising temperatures by as much as 7 °F (4 °C) when winds are slow. Manhattan receives 49.9 inches (1,270 mm) of precipitation annually, which is relatively evenly spread throughout the year. Average winter snowfall between 1981 and 2010 has been 25.8 inches (66 cm); this varies considerably from year to year.
At the 2010 Census, there were 1,585,873 people living in Manhattan, an increase of 3.2% since 2000. Since 2010, Manhattan's population was estimated by the Census Bureau to have increased 3.7% to 1,644,518 as of 2015, representing 19.3% of New York City's population and 8.3% of New York State's population. As of the 2000 Census, the population density of New York County was 66,940 per square mile (25,846/km²), the highest population density of any county in the United States. If 2012 census estimates were accurate, the population density then approximated 70,518 people per square mile (27,227/km²). In 1910, at the height of European immigration to New York, Manhattan's population density reached a peak of 101,548 people per square mile (39,208/km²).
According to 2012 Census estimates, 65.2% of the population was White, 18.4% Black or African American, 1.2% American Indian and Alaska Native, 12.0% Asian, and 3.1% of two or more races. 25.8% of Manhattan's population was of Hispanic or Latino origin, of any race. Manhattan has the second highest percentage of non-Hispanic Whites (48%) of New York City's boroughs, after Staten Island (64%).
In 2006, the New York City Department of City Planning projected that Manhattan's population will increase by 289,000 people between 2000 and 2030, an increase of 18.8% over the period, second only to Staten Island, while the rest of the city is projected to grow by 12.7% over the same period. The school-age population was expected to grow 4.4% by 2030, in contrast to a small decline in the city as a whole. The elderly population was forecast to grow by 57.9%, with the borough adding 108,000 persons ages 65 and over, compared to 44.2% growth citywide. However, these 2006 projections may have become outdated, as Lower Manhattan has been experiencing a baby boom, well above the overall birth rate in Manhattan, with the area south of Canal Street witnessing 1,086 births in 2010, 12% greater than 2009 and over twice the number born in 2001. The Financial District alone has witnessed growth in its population to approximately 43,000 as of 2014, nearly double the 23,000 recorded at the 2000 Census. The southern tip of Manhattan became the fastest growing part of New York City between 1990 and 2014.
According to the 2009 American Community Survey, the average household size was 2.11, and the average family size was 3.21. Approximately 59.4% of the population over the age of 25 have a bachelor's degree or higher. Approximately 27.0% of the population is foreign-born, and 61.7% of the population over the age of 5 speak only English at home. People of Irish ancestry make up 7.8% of the population, while Italian Americans make up 6.8% of the population. German Americans and Russian Americans make up 7.2% and 6.2% of the population respectively.
In 2000, 56.4% of people living in Manhattan were White, 17.39% were Black, 14.14% were from other races, 9.40% were Asian, 0.5% were Native American, and 0.07% were Pacific Islander. 4.14% were from two or more races. 27.18% were Hispanic of any race.
There were 738,644 households. 25.2% were married couples living together, 12.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 59.1% were non-families. 17.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them. 48% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was two and the average family size was 2.99.
Manhattan's population was spread out with 16.8% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 38.3% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.9 males.
Manhattan is one of the highest-income places in the United States with a population greater than one million. As of 2012, Manhattan's cost of living was the highest in the United States, but the borough also contained the country's most profound level of income inequality. Manhattan is also the United States county with the highest per capita income, being the sole county whose per capita income exceeded $100,000 in 2010. However, from 2011–2015 Census data of New York County, the per capita income was recorded in 2015 dollars as $64,993, with the median household income at $72,871, and poverty at 17.6%.
In 2012, The New York Times reported that "the income gap in Manhattan, already wider than almost anywhere else in the country, rivaled disparities in sub-Saharan Africa.... The wealthiest fifth of Manhattanites made more than 40 times what the lowest fifth reported, a widening gap (it was 38 times, the year before) surpassed by only a few developing countries".
Manhattan is religiously diverse. In 2000, the largest religious affiliation was the Catholic Church, whose adherents constituted 564,505 persons (more than 36% of the population) and maintained 110 congregations. Jews comprised the second largest religious group, with 314,500 persons (20.5%) in 102 congregations. They were followed by Protestants, with 139,732 adherents (9.1%) and Muslims, with 37,078 (2.4%). Other religious affiliations including Hinduism, as well as Atheism and irreligion, composed the majority of the remainder.
As of 2010, 59.98% (902,267) of Manhattan residents, aged five and older, spoke only English at home, while 23.07% (347,033) spoke Spanish, 5.33% (80,240) Chinese, 2.03% (30,567) French, 0.78% (11,776) Japanese, 0.77% (11,517) Russian, 0.72% (10,788) Korean, 0.70% (10,496) German, 0.66% (9,868) Italian, 0.64% (9,555) Hebrew, and 0.48% (7,158) spoke African languages at home. In total, 40.02% (602,058) of Manhattan's population, aged five and older, spoke a language other than English at home.
Broadway and the Theater District surrounding Times Square, Central Park, Chinatown, the Chrysler Building, Columbia University, the Empire State Building, the Flatiron Building, Fulton Center, Grand Central Station, Harlem, the High Line, Koreatown, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Little Italy, Madison Square Garden, Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue, the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, New York University and the Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village, One World Trade Center, Penn Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Stonewall Inn, Trump Tower, gateways to numerous iconic river-crossing bridges, and an emerging number of supertall skyscrapers, are all located on densely populated Manhattan Island; the Statue of Liberty rests on a pedestal on Liberty Island, an exclave of Manhattan. The borough has many energy-efficient green office buildings, such as the Hearst Tower, the rebuilt 7 World Trade Center, and the Bank of America Tower—the first skyscraper designed to attain a Platinum LEED Certification.
The skyscraper, which has shaped Manhattan's distinctive skyline, has been closely associated with New York City's identity since the end of the 19th century. From 1890 to 1973, the title of world's tallest building resided continually in Manhattan (with a gap between 1901 and 1908, when the title was held by Philadelphia City Hall), with nine different buildings holding the title. The New York World Building on Park Row, was the first to take the title in 1890, standing 309 feet (94 m) until 1955, when it was demolished to construct a new ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge. The nearby Park Row Building, with its 29 stories standing 391 feet (119 m) high took the title in 1899. The 41-story Singer Building, constructed in 1908 as the headquarters of the eponymous sewing machine manufacturer, stood 612 feet (187 m) high until 1967, when it became the tallest building ever demolished. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, standing 700 feet (210 m) at the foot of Madison Avenue, wrested the title in 1909, with a tower reminiscent of St Mark's Campanile in Venice. The Woolworth Building, and its distinctive Gothic architecture, took the title in 1913, topping off at 792 feet (241 m). Structures such as the Equitable Building of 1915, which rises vertically forty stories from the sidewalk, prompted the passage of the 1916 Zoning Resolution, requiring new buildings to withdraw progressively at a defined angle from the street as they rose, in order to preserve a view of the sky at street level.
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. As the stock market soared in the days before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, two developers publicly competed for the crown. At 927 feet (283 m), 40 Wall Street, completed in May 1930 in only eleven months as the headquarters of the Bank of Manhattan, seemed to have secured the title. At Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, auto executive Walter Chrysler and his architect William Van Alen developed plans to build the structure's trademark 185-foot (56 m) spire in secret, pushing the Chrysler Building to 1,046 feet (319 m) and making it the tallest in the world when it was completed in 1929. Both buildings were soon surpassed with the May 1931 completion of the 102-story Empire State Building with its Art Deco tower reaching 1,250 feet (380 m) at the top of the building. The 203-foot (62 m) high pinnacle was later added bringing the total height of the building to 1,453 ft (443 m).
The former Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were located in Lower Manhattan. At 1,368 and 1,362 feet (417 and 415 m), the 110-story buildings were the world's tallest from 1972 until they were surpassed by the construction of the Willis Tower in 1974 (formerly known as the Sears Tower, located in Chicago). One World Trade Center, a replacement for the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, is currently the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
In 1961, the Pennsylvania Railroad unveiled plans to tear down the old Penn Station and replace it with a new Madison Square Garden and office building complex. Organized protests were aimed at preserving the McKim, Mead & White-designed structure completed in 1910, widely considered a masterpiece of the Beaux-Arts style and one of the architectural jewels of New York City. Despite these efforts, demolition of the structure began in October 1963. The loss of Penn Station—called "an act of irresponsible public vandalism" by historian Lewis Mumford—led directly to the enactment in 1965 of a local law establishing the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is responsible for preserving the "city's historic, aesthetic, and cultural heritage". The historic preservation movement triggered by Penn Station's demise has been credited with the retention of some one million structures nationwide, including nearly 1,000 in New York City. In 2017, a multibillion-dollar rebuilding plan was unveiled to restore the historic grandeur of Penn Station, in the process of upgrading the landmark's status as a critical transportation hub.
Parkland composes 17.8% of the borough, covering a total of 2,686 acres (10.87 km2). Central Park is bordered on the north by West 110th Street, on the west by Eighth Avenue, on the south by West 59th Street, and on the east by Fifth Avenue. Along the park's borders, these streets are usually referred to as Central Park North, Central Park West, and Central Park South, respectively (Fifth Avenue retains its name along the eastern border). The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The 843-acre (3.41 km2) park offers extensive walking tracks, two ice-skating rinks, a wildlife sanctuary, and grassy areas used for various sporting pursuits, as well as playgrounds for children. The park is a popular oasis for migrating birds, and thus is popular with bird watchers. The 6-mile (9.7 km) road circling the park is popular with joggers, bicyclists and inline skaters, especially on weekends and in the evenings after 7:00 pm, when automobile traffic is banned. While much of the park looks natural, it is almost entirely landscaped and contains several artificial lakes. The construction of Central Park in the 1850s was one of the era's most massive public works projects. Some 20,000 workers crafted the topography to create the English-style pastoral landscape Olmsted and Vaux sought to create. Workers moved nearly 3,000,000 cubic yards (2,300,000 m3) of soil and planted more than 270,000 trees and shrubs.
Almost 70% of Manhattan's space devoted to parks is located outside of Central Park, including 204 playgrounds, 251 Greenstreets, 371 basketball courts, and many other amenities. The African Burial Ground National Monument at Duane Street preserves a site containing the remains of over 400 Africans buried during the 17th and 18th centuries. The remains were found in 1991 during the construction of the Foley Square Federal Office Building.
Manhattan is the economic engine of New York City, with its 2.3 million workers in 2007 drawn from the entire New York metropolitan area accounting for almost two-thirds of all jobs in New York City. In the first quarter of 2014, the average weekly wage in Manhattan (New York County) was $2,749, representing the highest total among large counties in the United States. Manhattan's workforce is overwhelmingly focused on white collar professions, with manufacturing nearly extinct. Manhattan also has the highest per capita income of any county in the United States.
In 2010, Manhattan's daytime population was swelling to 3.94 million, with commuters adding a net 1.48 million people to the population, along with visitors, tourists, and commuting students. The commuter influx of 1.61 million workers coming into Manhattan was the largest of any county or city in the country, and was more than triple the 480,000 commuters who headed into second-ranked Washington, D.C.
Manhattan's most important economic sector lies in its role as the headquarters for the U.S. financial industry, metonymously known as Wall Street. The borough's securities industry, enumerating 163,400 jobs in August 2013, continues to form the largest segment of the city's financial sector and an important economic engine for Manhattan, accounting in 2012 for 5 percent of private sector jobs in New York City, 8.5 percent (US$3.8 billion) of the city's tax revenue, and 22 percent of the city's total wages, including an average salary of US$360,700. Wall Street investment banking fees in 2012 totaled approximately US$40 billion, while in 2013, senior New York City bank officers who manage risk and compliance functions earned as much as US$324,000 annually.
Lower Manhattan is home to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), on Wall Street, and the NASDAQ, at 165 Broadway, representing the world's largest and second largest stock exchanges, respectively, when measured both by overall share trading value and by total market capitalization of their listed companies in 2013. The NYSE MKT (formerly the American Stock Exchange, AMEX), New York Board of Trade, and the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) are also located downtown. In July 2013, NYSE Euronext, the operator of the New York Stock Exchange, took over the administration of the London interbank offered rate from the British Bankers Association.
New York City is home to the most corporate headquarters of any city in the United States, the overwhelming majority based in Manhattan. Manhattan contained over 500 million square feet (46.5 million m2) of office space in 2015, making it the largest office market in the United States, while Midtown Manhattan, with nearly 400 million square feet (37.2 million m2) in 2015, is the largest central business district in the world.
As of 2013, the global advertising agencies of Omnicom Group and Interpublic Group, both based in Manhattan, had combined annual revenues of approximately US$21 billion, reflecting New York City's role as the top global center for the advertising industry, which is metonymously referred to as "Madison Avenue".
Silicon Alley, centered in Manhattan, has evolved into a metonym for the sphere encompassing the New York City metropolitan region's high tech industries, including the Internet, new media, telecommunications, digital media, software development, biotechnology, game design, financial technology (fintech), and other fields within information technology that are supported by the area's entrepreneurship ecosystem and venture capital investments. As of 2014, New York City hosted 300,000 employees in the tech sector. In 2015, Silicon Alley generated over US$7.3 billion in venture capital investment, most based in Manhattan, as well as in Brooklyn, Queens, and elsewhere in the region. High technology startup companies and employment are growing in Manhattan and across New York City, bolstered by the city's emergence as a global node of creativity and entrepreneurship, social tolerance, and environmental sustainability, as well as New York's position as the leading Internet hub and telecommunications center in North America, including its vicinity to several transatlantic fiber optic trunk lines, the city's intellectual capital, and its extensive outdoor wireless connectivity. Verizon Communications, headquartered at 140 West Street in Lower Manhattan, was at the final stages in 2014 of completing a US$3 billion fiberoptic telecommunications upgrade throughout New York City. As of October 2014, New York City hosted 300,000 employees in the tech sector, with a significant proportion in Manhattan.
The biotechnology sector is also growing in Manhattan based upon the city's strength in academic scientific research and public and commercial financial support. By mid-2014, Accelerator, a biotech investment firm, had raised more than US$30 million from investors, including Eli Lilly and Company, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, for initial funding to create biotechnology startups at the Alexandria Center for Life Science, which encompasses more than 700,000 square feet (65,000 m2) on East 29th Street and promotes collaboration among scientists and entrepreneurs at the center and with nearby academic, medical, and research institutions. The New York City Economic Development Corporation's Early Stage Life Sciences Funding Initiative and venture capital partners, including Celgene, General Electric Ventures, and Eli Lilly, committed a minimum of US$100 million to help launch 15 to 20 ventures in life sciences and biotechnology. In 2011, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had announced his choice of Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to build a US$2 billion graduate school of applied sciences on Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, with the goal of transforming New York City into the world's premier technology capital.
Tourism is vital to Manhattan's economy, and the landmarks of Manhattan are the focus of New York City's tourists, enumerating approximately 61 million visitors in 2016. According to The Broadway League, shows on Broadway sold approximately US$1.27 billion worth of tickets in the 2013–2014 season, an increase of 11.4% from US$1.139 billion in the 2012–2013 season; attendance in 2013–2014 stood at 12.21 million, representing a 5.5% increase from the 2012–2013 season's 11.57 million. As of June 2016, Manhattan had nearly 91,500 hotel rooms, a 26% increase from 2010.
Real estate is a major force in Manhattan's economy, and indeed the city's, as the total value of all New York City property was assessed at US$914.8 billion for the 2015 fiscal year. Manhattan has perennially been home to some of the nation's, as well as the world's, most valuable real estate, including the Time Warner Center, which had the highest-listed market value in the city in 2006 at US$1.1 billion, to be subsequently surpassed in October 2014 by the Waldorf Astoria New York, which became the most expensive hotel ever sold after being purchased by the Anbang Insurance Group, based in China, for US$1.95 billion. When 450 Park Avenue was sold on July 2, 2007, for US$510 million, about US$1,589 per square foot (US$17,104/m²), it broke the barely month-old record for an American office building of US$1,476 per square foot (US$15,887/m²) based on the sale of 660 Madison Avenue. In 2014, Manhattan was home to six of the top ten zip codes in the United States by median housing price.
Manhattan had approximately 520 million square feet (48.1 million m²) of office space in 2013, making it the largest office market in the United States. Midtown Manhattan is the largest central business district in the nation based on office space, while Lower Manhattan is the third-largest (after Chicago's Loop).
Manhattan is served by the major New York City daily news publications, including The New York Times, New York Daily News, and New York Post, which are all headquartered in the borough. The nation's largest newspaper by circulation, The Wall Street Journal, is also based there. Other daily newspapers include AM New York and The Villager. The New York Amsterdam News, based in Harlem, is one of the leading African American weekly newspapers in the United States. The Village Voice, historically the largest alternative newspaper in the United States, announced in 2017 that it would cease publication of its print edition and convert to a fully digital venture.
The television industry developed in Manhattan and is a significant employer in the borough's economy. The four major American broadcast networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, as well as Univision, are all headquartered in Manhattan, as are many cable channels, including MSNBC, MTV, Fox News, HBO and Comedy Central. In 1971, WLIB became New York's first black-owned radio station and began broadcasts geared toward the African-American community in 1949. WQHT, also known as Hot 97, claims to be the premier hip-hop station in the United States. WNYC, comprising an AM and FM signal, has the largest public radio audience in the nation and is the most-listened to commercial or non-commercial radio station in Manhattan. WBAI, with news and information programming, is one of the few socialist radio stations operating in the United States.
The oldest public-access television cable TV channel in the United States is the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, founded in 1971, offers eclectic local programming that ranges from a jazz hour to discussion of labor issues to foreign language and religious programming. NY1, Time Warner Cable's local news channel, is known for its beat coverage of City Hall and state politics.
Education in Manhattan is provided by a vast number of public and private institutions. Public schools in the borough are operated by the New York City Department of Education, the largest public school system in the United States. Charter schools include Success Academy Harlem 1 through 5, Success Academy Upper West, and Public Prep.
Some of the best known New York City public high schools are located in Manhattan, including Beacon High School, Stuyvesant High School, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, High School of Fashion Industries, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, NYC Lab School, Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, Hunter College High School, and High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College. Bard High School Early College, a hybrid school created by Bard College, serves students from around the city.
Many private preparatory schools are also situated in Manhattan, including the Upper East Side's Brearley School, Dalton School, Browning School, Spence School, Chapin School, Nightingale-Bamford School, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Hewitt School, Saint David's School, and Loyola School, along with the Upper West Side's Collegiate School and Trinity School. Regis High School, on the Upper East Side, is the only all-scholarship Catholic high school for boys in the country. The borough is also home to two private schools that are known as the most diverse in the nation, Manhattan Country School and United Nations International School. Manhattan has the only official Italian American school in the U.S., La Scuola d'Italia.
Based on data from the 2011–2015 American Community Survey, 59.9% of Manhattan residents over age 25 have a bachelor's degree. As of 2005, about 60% of residents were college graduates and some 25% had earned advanced degrees, giving Manhattan one of the nation's densest concentrations of highly educated people.
Manhattan has various colleges and universities, including Columbia University (and its affiliate Barnard College), Cooper Union, Marymount Manhattan College, New York Institute of Technology, New York University (NYU), The Juilliard School, Pace University, Berkeley College, The New School, Yeshiva University, and a campus of Fordham University. Other schools include Bank Street College of Education, Boricua College, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Manhattan School of Music, Metropolitan College of New York, Parsons School of Design, School of Visual Arts, Touro College, and Union Theological Seminary. Several other private institutions maintain a Manhattan presence, among them Mercy College, St. John's University, The College of New Rochelle, The King's College, and Pratt Institute.
The City University of New York (CUNY), the municipal college system of New York City, is the largest urban university system in the United States, serving more than 226,000 degree students and a roughly equal number of adult, continuing and professional education students. A third of college graduates in New York City graduate from CUNY, with the institution enrolling about half of all college students in New York City. CUNY senior colleges located in Manhattan include: Baruch College, City College of New York, Hunter College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the CUNY Graduate Center (graduate studies and doctorate granting institution). The only CUNY community college located in Manhattan is the Borough of Manhattan Community College. The State University of New York is represented by the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York State College of Optometry, and Stony Brook University – Manhattan.
Manhattan is a world center for training and education in medicine and the life sciences. The city as a whole receives the second-highest amount of annual funding from the National Institutes of Health among all U.S. cities, the bulk of which goes to Manhattan's research institutions, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Rockefeller University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Weill Cornell Medical College, and New York University School of Medicine.
Manhattan is served by the New York Public Library, which has the largest collection of any public library system in the country. The five units of the Central Library—Mid-Manhattan Library, Donnell Library Center, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, and the Science, Industry and Business Library—are all located in Manhattan. More than 35 other branch libraries are located in the borough.
Manhattan is the borough most closely associated with New York City by non-residents; regionally, residents within the New York City metropolitan area, including natives of New York City's boroughs outside Manhattan, will often describe a trip to Manhattan as "going to the City".
Manhattan has been the scene of many important American cultural movements. In 1912, about 20,000 workers, a quarter of them women, marched upon Washington Square Park to commemorate the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed 146 workers on March 25, 1911. Many of the women wore fitted tucked-front blouses like those manufactured by the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, a clothing style that became the working woman's uniform and a symbol of women's liberation, reflecting the alliance of labor and suffrage movements.
The Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s established the African-American literary canon in the United States and introduced writers Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Manhattan's vibrant visual art scene in the 1950s and 1960s was a center of the American pop art movement, which gave birth to such giants as Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. The downtown pop art movement of the late 1970s included artist Andy Warhol and clubs like Serendipity 3 and Studio 54, where he socialized.
Broadway theatre 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. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, anchoring Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is home to 12 influential arts organizations, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, New York Philharmonic, and New York City Ballet, as well as the Vivian Beaumont Theater, the Juilliard School, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Alice Tully Hall. Performance artists displaying diverse skills are ubiquitous on the streets of Manhattan.
Manhattan is also home to some of the most extensive art collections in the world, both contemporary and historical, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Frick Collection, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum. The Upper East Side has many art galleries, and the downtown neighborhood of Chelsea is known for its more than 200 art galleries that are home to modern art from both upcoming and established artists. Many of the world's most lucrative art auctions are held in Manhattan.
Manhattan is the center of LGBT culture in New York City. The borough is widely acclaimed as the cradle of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, with its inception at the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, Lower Manhattan – widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States. Multiple gay villages have developed, spanning the length of the borough from the Lower East Side, East Village, and Greenwich Village, through Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, uptown to Morningside Heights. The annual New York City Pride March (or gay pride parade) traverses southward down Fifth Avenue and ends at Greenwich Village; the Manhattan parade rivals the Sao Paulo Gay Pride Parade as the largest pride parade in the world, attracting tens of thousands of participants and millions of sidewalk spectators each June.
The borough has a place in several American idioms. The phrase New York minute is meant to convey an extremely short time such as an instant, sometimes in hyperbolic form, as in "perhaps faster than you would believe is possible," referring to the rapid pace of life in Manhattan. The expression "melting pot" was first popularly coined to describe the densely populated immigrant neighborhoods on the Lower East Side in Israel Zangwill's play The Melting Pot, which was an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet set by Zangwill in New York City in 1908. The iconic Flatiron Building is said to have been the source of the phrase "23 skidoo" or scram, from what cops would shout at men who tried to get glimpses of women's dresses being blown up by the winds created by the triangular building. The "Big Apple" dates back to the 1920s, when a reporter heard the term used by New Orleans stablehands to refer to New York City's horse racetracks and named his racing column "Around The Big Apple." Jazz musicians adopted the term to refer to the city as the world's jazz capital, and a 1970s ad campaign by the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau helped popularize the term.
Manhattan is well known for its street parades, which celebrate a broad array of themes, including holidays, nationalities, human rights, and major league sports team championship victories. The majority of higher profile parades in New York City are held in Manhattan. The primary orientation of the annual street parades is typically from north to south, marching along major avenues. The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is the world's largest parade, beginning alongside Central Park and processing southward to the flagship Macy's Herald Square store; the parade is viewed on telecasts worldwide and draws millions of spectators in person. Other notable parades including the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in March, the New York City Pride Parade in June, the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade in October, and numerous parades commemorating the independence days of many nations. Ticker-tape parades celebrating championships won by sports teams as well as other heroic accomplishments march northward along the Canyon of Heroes on Broadway from Bowling Green to City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan.
Manhattan is home to the NBA's New York Knicks, the NHL's New York Rangers, and the WNBA's New York Liberty, who all play their home games at Madison Square Garden, the only major professional sports arena in the borough. The New York Jets proposed a West Side Stadium for their home field, but the proposal was eventually defeated in June 2005, leaving them at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Manhattan is the only borough in New York City that does not have a professional baseball franchise. The Bronx has the Yankees (American League) and Queens has the Mets (National League) of Major League Baseball. The Minor League Baseball Brooklyn Cyclones play in Brooklyn, while the Staten Island Yankees play in Staten Island. However, three of the four major league baseball teams to play in New York City played in Manhattan. The original New York Giants baseball team played in the various incarnations of the Polo Grounds at 155th Street and Eighth Avenue from their inception in 1883—except for 1889, when they split their time between Jersey City and Staten Island, and when they played in Hilltop Park in 1911—until they headed west with the Brooklyn Dodgers after the 1957 season. The New York Yankees began their franchise as the Highlanders, named for Hilltop Park, where they played from their creation in 1903 until 1912. The team moved to the Polo Grounds with the 1913 season, where they were officially christened the New York Yankees, remaining there until they moved across the Harlem River in 1923 to Yankee Stadium. The New York Mets played in the Polo Grounds in 1962 and 1963, their first two seasons, before Shea Stadium was completed in 1964. After the Mets departed, the Polo Grounds was demolished in April 1964, replaced by public housing.
The first national college-level basketball championship, the National Invitation Tournament, was held in New York in 1938 and remains in the city. The New York Knicks started play in 1946 as one of the National Basketball Association's original teams, playing their first home games at the 69th Regiment Armory, before making Madison Square Garden their permanent home. The New York Liberty of the WNBA have shared the Garden with the Knicks since their creation in 1997 as one of the league's original eight teams. Rucker Park in Harlem is a playground court, famed for its streetball style of play, where many NBA athletes have played in the summer league.
Though both of New York City's football teams play today across the Hudson River in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, both teams started out playing in the Polo Grounds. The New York Giants played side-by-side with their baseball namesakes from the time they entered the National Football League in 1925, until crossing over to Yankee Stadium in 1956. The New York Jets, originally known as the Titans, started out in 1960 at the Polo Grounds, staying there for four seasons before joining the Mets in Queens in 1964.
The New York Rangers of the National Hockey League have played in the various locations of Madison Square Garden since the team's founding in the 1926–1927 season. The Rangers were predated by the New York Americans, who started play in the Garden the previous season, lasting until the team folded after the 1941–1942 NHL season, a season it played in the Garden as the Brooklyn Americans.
The New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League played their home games at Downing Stadium for two seasons, starting in 1974. In 1975, the team signed Pelé, officially recorded by FIFA as the world's greatest soccer player, to a $4.5 million contract, drawing a capacity crowd of 22,500 to watch him lead the team to a 2–0 victory. The playing pitch and facilities at Downing Stadium were in dreadful condition though and as the team's popularity grew they too left for Yankee Stadium, and then Giants Stadium. The stadium was demolished in 2002 to make way for the $45 million, 4,754-seat Icahn Stadium, which includes an Olympic-standard 400-meter running track and, as part of Pele's and the Cosmos' legacy, includes a FIFA-approved floodlit soccer stadium that hosts matches between the 48 youth teams of a Manhattan soccer club.
Since New York City's consolidation in 1898, Manhattan has been governed by the New York City Charter, which has provided for a strong mayor–council system since its revision in 1989. The centralized New York City government is responsible for public education, correctional institutions, libraries, public safety, recreational facilities, sanitation, water supply, and welfare services in Manhattan.
The office of Borough President was created in the consolidation of 1898 to balance centralization with local authority. Each borough president had a powerful administrative role derived from having a vote on the New York City Board of Estimate, which was responsible for creating and approving the city's budget and proposals for land use. In 1989, the Supreme Court of the United States declared the Board of Estimate unconstitutional because Brooklyn, the most populous borough, had no greater effective representation on the Board than Staten Island, the least populous borough, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause pursuant to the high court's 1964 "one man, one vote" decision.
Since 1990, the largely powerless Borough President has acted as an advocate for the borough at the mayoral agencies, the City Council, the New York state government, and corporations. Manhattan's current Borough President is Gale Brewer, elected as a Democrat in November 2013 with 82.9% of the vote. Brewer replaced Scott Stringer, who went on to become New York City Comptroller.
Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat, has been the District Attorney of New York County since 2010. Manhattan has ten City Council members, the third largest contingent among the five boroughs. It also has twelve administrative districts, each served by a local Community Board. Community Boards are representative bodies that field complaints and serve as advocates for local residents.
As the host of the United Nations, the borough is home to the world's largest international consular corps, comprising 105 consulates, consulates general and honorary consulates. It is also the home of New York City Hall, the seat of New York City government housing the Mayor of New York City and the New York City Council. The mayor's staff and thirteen municipal agencies are located in the nearby Manhattan Municipal Building, completed in 1914, one of the largest governmental buildings in the world.
The Democratic Party holds most public offices. Registered Republicans are a minority in the borough, constituting 9.88% of the electorate as of April 2016. Registered Republicans are more than 20% of the electorate only in the neighborhoods of the Upper East Side and the Financial District as of 2016. Democrats accounted for 68.41% of those registered to vote, while 17.94% of voters were unaffiliated.
Manhattan is divided between four U.S. congressional districts, all of which are represented by Democrats. The 7th district is based in Brooklyn and Queens, but includes a few heavily Puerto Rican sections of the Lower East Side, including Avenues C and D of Alphabet City; it is represented by Nydia Velázquez. The 10th district, based on the West Side, covers most of the Upper West Side, Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, Tribeca, the Financial District, and Battery Park City, as well as some sections of Southwest Brooklyn; it is represented by Jerrold Nadler. The 12th district, the so-called "Silk Stocking" district that was the political base for Teddy Roosevelt and John Lindsay, covers most of the Upper East Side, Yorkville, Gramercy Park, Roosevelt Island, and most of the Lower East Side and the East Village, as well as portions of western Queens; it is represented by Carolyn Maloney. Finally, the 13th district comprises Upper Manhattan and a small portion of the western Bronx, including the neighborhoods of Harlem, Inwood, Marble Hill, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights, and portions of Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side; it is represented by Adriano Espaillat.
No Republican has won the presidential election in Manhattan since 1924, when Calvin Coolidge won a plurality of the New York County vote over Democrat John W. Davis, 41.20%–39.55%. Warren G. Harding was the most recent Republican presidential candidate to win a majority of the Manhattan vote, with 59.22% of the 1920 vote. In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 82.1% of the vote in Manhattan and Republican George W. Bush received 16.7%. The borough is the most important source of funding for presidential campaigns in the United States; in 2004, it was home to six of the top seven ZIP codes in the nation for political contributions. The top ZIP code, 10021 on the Upper East Side, generated the most money for the United States presidential election for all presidential candidates, including both Kerry and Bush during the 2004 election.
The United States Postal Service operates post offices in Manhattan. The James Farley Post Office in Midtown Manhattan is New York City's main post office. It is located at 421 Eighth Avenue, between 31st Street and 33rd Street. The post office stopped 24-hour service on May 9, 2009, due to decreasing mail traffic.
Both the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit are located in Lower Manhattan's Foley Square, and the U.S. Attorney and other federal offices and agencies maintain locations in that area.
Starting in the mid-19th century, the United States became a magnet for immigrants seeking to escape poverty in their home countries. After arriving in New York, many new arrivals ended up living in squalor in the slums of the Five Points neighborhood, an area between Broadway and the Bowery, northeast of New York City Hall. By the 1820s, the area was home to many gambling dens and brothels, and was known as a dangerous place to go. In 1842, Charles Dickens visited the area and was appalled at the horrendous living conditions he had seen. The area was so notorious that it even caught the attention of Abraham Lincoln, who visited the area before his Cooper Union speech in 1860. The predominantly Irish Five Points Gang was one of the country's first major organized crime entities.
As Italian immigration grew in the early 20th century many joined ethnic gangs, including Al Capone, who got his start in crime with the Five Points Gang. The Mafia (also known as Cosa Nostra) first developed in the mid-19th century in Sicily and spread to the East Coast of the United States during the late 19th century following waves of Sicilian and Southern Italian emigration. Lucky Luciano established Cosa Nostra in Manhattan, forming alliances with other criminal enterprises, including the Jewish mob, led by Meyer Lansky, the leading Jewish gangster of that period. From 1920–1933, Prohibition helped create a thriving black market in liquor, upon which the Mafia was quick to capitalize.
As in the whole of New York City, Manhattan experienced a sharp increase in crime during the 1960s and 1970s. Since 1990, crime in Manhattan has plummeted in all categories tracked by the CompStat profile. A borough that saw 503 murders in 1990 has seen a drop of nearly 88% to 62 in 2008 and has continued to decline since then. Robbery and burglary are down by more than 80% during the period, and auto theft has been reduced by more than 93%. In the seven major crime categories tracked by the system, overall crime has declined by more than 75% since 1990, and year-to-date statistics through May 2009 show continuing declines. Based on 2005 data, New York City has the lowest crime rate among the ten largest cities in the United States.
During Manhattan's early history, wood construction and poor access to water supplies left the city vulnerable to fires. In 1776, shortly after the Continental Army evacuated Manhattan and left it to the British, a massive fire broke out destroying one-third of the city and some 500 houses.
The rise of immigration near the turn of the 20th century left major portions of Manhattan, especially the Lower East Side, densely packed with recent arrivals, crammed into unhealthy and unsanitary housing. Tenements were usually five-stories high, constructed on the then-typical 25 by 100 feet (7.6 by 30.5 m) lots, with "cockroach landlords" exploiting the new immigrants. By 1929, stricter fire codes and the increased use of elevators in residential buildings, were the impetus behind a new housing code that effectively ended the tenement as a form of new construction, though many tenement buildings survive today on the East Side of the borough.
Manhattan offers a wide array of public and private housing options. There were 852,575 housing units in 2013 at an average density of 37,345 per square mile (14,419/km²). As of 2003, only 20.3% of Manhattan residents lived in owner-occupied housing, the second-lowest rate of all counties in the nation, behind the Bronx. Although the city of New York has the highest average cost for rent in the United States, it simultaneously hosts a higher average of income per capita. Because of this, rent is a lower percentage of annual income than in several other American cities.
Manhattan's real estate market for luxury housing continues to be among the most expensive in the world, and Manhattan residential property continues to have the highest sale price per square foot in the United States.
Manhattan is unique in the U.S. for intense use of public transportation and lack of private car ownership. While 88% of Americans nationwide drive to their jobs, with only 5% using public transport, mass transit is the dominant form of travel for residents of Manhattan, with 72% of borough residents using public transport to get to work, while only 18% drove. According to the 2000 United States Census, 77.5% of Manhattan households do not own a car.
In 2008, Mayor Bloomberg proposed a congestion pricing system to regulate entering Manhattan south of 60th Street. The state legislature rejected the proposal in June 2008.
The New York City Subway, the largest subway system in the world by number of stations, is the primary means of travel within the city, linking every borough except Staten Island. There are 151 subway stations in Manhattan, out of the 472 stations. A second subway, the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) system, connects six stations in Manhattan to northern New Jersey. Passengers pay fares with pay-per-ride MetroCards, which are valid on all city buses and subways, as well as on PATH trains. There are 7-day and 30-day MetroCards that allow unlimited trips on all subways (except PATH) and MTA bus routes (except for express buses). The PATH QuickCard is being phased out, having been replaced by the SmartLink. The MTA is testing "smart card" payment systems to replace the MetroCard. Commuter rail services operating to and from Manhattan are the Long Island Rail Road (which connects Manhattan and other New York City boroughs to Long Island), the Metro-North Railroad (which connects Manhattan to Upstate New York and Southwestern Connecticut) and NJ Transit trains to various points in New Jersey. The $10.2 billion East Side Access project is under construction. Four multi-billion-dollar projects were completed in the mid-2010s: the $1.4 billion Fulton Center in November 2014, the $2.4 billion 7 Subway Extension in September 2015, the $4 billion World Trade Center Transportation Hub in March 2016, and the $4.5 billion Second Avenue Subway in January 2017.
MTA New York City Transit offers a wide variety of local buses within Manhattan under the brand New York City Bus. An extensive network of express bus routes serves commuters and other travelers heading into Manhattan. The bus system served 784 million passengers citywide in 2011, placing the bus system's ridership as the highest in the nation, and more than double the ridership of the second-place Los Angeles system.
The Roosevelt Island Tramway, one of two commuter cable car systems in North America, whisks commuters between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan in less than five minutes, and has been serving the island since 1978. (The other system in North America is the Portland Aerial Tram.)
The Staten Island Ferry, which runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, annually carries over 21 million passengers on the 5.2-mile (8.4 km) run between Manhattan and Staten Island. Each weekday, five vessels transport about 65,000 passengers on 109 boat trips. The ferry has been fare-free since 1997, when the then-50-cent fare was eliminated. In February 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city government would begin NYC Ferry to extend ferry transportation to traditionally underserved communities in the city. The first routes of NYC Ferry opened in 2017. All of the system's routes have termini in Manhattan, with the planned Lower East Side and Soundview routes also having intermediate stops on the East River.
The metro region's commuter rail lines converge at Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, on the west and east sides of Midtown Manhattan, respectively. They are the two busiest rail stations in the United States. About one-third of users of mass transit and two-thirds of railway passengers in the country live in New York and its suburbs. Amtrak provides inter-city passenger rail service from Penn Station to Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.; Upstate New York and New England; cross-Canadian border service to Toronto and Montreal; and destinations in the Southern and Midwestern United States.
New York's iconic yellow taxicabs, which number 13,087 city-wide and must have the requisite medallion authorizing the pick up of street hails, are ubiquitous in the borough. Various private transportation network companies provide significant competition for cab drivers in Manhattan.
Manhattan also has tens of thousands of bicycle commuters.
The Commissioners' Plan of 1811 called for twelve numbered avenues running north and south roughly parallel to the shore of the Hudson River, each 100 feet (30 m) wide, with First Avenue on the east side and Twelfth Avenue on the west side. There are several intermittent avenues east of First Avenue, including four additional lettered avenues running from Avenue A eastward to Avenue D in an area now known as Alphabet City in Manhattan's East Village. The numbered streets in Manhattan run east-west, and are generally 60 feet (18 m) wide, with about 200 feet (61 m) between each pair of streets. With each combined street and block adding up to about 260 feet (79 m), there are almost exactly 20 blocks per mile. The typical block in Manhattan is 250 by 600 feet (76 by 183 m).
According to the original Commissioner's Plan, there were 155 numbered crosstown streets, but later the grid was extended up to the northernmost corner of Manhattan, where the last numbered street is 220th Street. Moreover, the numbering system continues even in The Bronx, north of Manhattan, despite the fact that the grid plan is not as regular in that borough, whose last numbered street is 263rd Street. Fifteen crosstown streets were designated as 100 feet (30 m) wide, including 34th, 42nd, 57th and 125th Streets, which became some of the borough's most significant transportation and shopping venues. Broadway is the most notable of many exceptions to the grid, starting at Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan and continuing north into the Bronx at Manhattan's northern tip. In much of Midtown Manhattan, Broadway runs at a diagonal to the grid, creating major named intersections at Union Square (Park Avenue South/Fourth Avenue and 14th Street), Madison Square (Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street), Herald Square (Sixth Avenue and 34th Street), Times Square (Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street), and Columbus Circle (Eighth Avenue/Central Park West and 59th Street).
"Crosstown traffic" refers primarily to vehicular traffic between Manhattan's East Side and West Side. The trip is notoriously frustrating for drivers because of heavy congestion on narrow local streets laid out by the Commissioners' Plan of 1811, absence of express roads other than the Trans-Manhattan Expressway at the far north end of Manhattan Island, and only 4 crosstown roads for travel through Central Park, which is between 59th Street and 110th Street. Proposals in the mid-1900s to build express roads through the city's densest neighborhoods, namely the Mid-Manhattan Expressway and Lower Manhattan Expressway, did not go forward. The congestion makes Manhattan's crosstown buses the perennial "winners" of the "Pokey Awards" for slowest service in New York City.
Another consequence of the strict grid plan of most of Manhattan, and the grid's skew of approximately 28.9 degrees, is a phenomenon sometimes referred to as Manhattanhenge (by analogy with Stonehenge). On separate occasions in late May and early July, the sunset is aligned with the street grid lines, with the result that the sun is visible at or near the western horizon from street level. A similar phenomenon occurs with the sunrise in January and December.
The FDR Drive and Harlem River Drive, both designed by controversial New York master planner Robert Moses, comprise a single, long limited-access parkway skirting the east side of Manhattan along the East River and Harlem River south of Dyckman Street. The Henry Hudson Parkway is the corresponding parkway on the West Side north of 57th Street.
Being primarily an island, Manhattan is linked to New York City's outer boroughs by numerous bridges, of various sizes. Manhattan has fixed highway connections with New Jersey to its west by way of the George Washington Bridge, the Holland Tunnel, and the Lincoln Tunnel, and to three of the four other New York City boroughs—the Bronx to the northeast, and Brooklyn and Queens (both on Long Island) to the east and south. Its only direct connection with the fifth New York City borough, Staten Island, is the Staten Island Ferry across New York Harbor, which is free of charge. The ferry terminal is located near Battery Park at Manhattan's southern tip. It is also possible to travel on land to Staten Island by way of Brooklyn, via the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
The George Washington Bridge, the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge, connects Washington Heights, in Upper Manhattan, to Bergen County, in New Jersey. There are numerous bridges to the Bronx across the Harlem River, and five (listed north to south)—the Triborough (known officially as the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge), Ed Koch Queensboro (also known as the 59th Street Bridge), Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn Bridges—that cross the East River to connect Manhattan to Long Island.
Several tunnels also link Manhattan Island to New York City's outer boroughs and New Jersey. The Lincoln Tunnel, which carries 120,000 vehicles a day under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Midtown Manhattan, is the busiest vehicular tunnel in the world. The tunnel was built instead of a bridge to allow unfettered passage of large passenger and cargo ships that sail through New York Harbor and up the Hudson River to Manhattan's piers. The Holland Tunnel, connecting Lower Manhattan to Jersey City, New Jersey, was the world's first mechanically ventilated vehicular tunnel. The Queens–Midtown Tunnel, built to relieve congestion on the bridges connecting Manhattan with Queens and Brooklyn, was the largest non-federal project in its time when it was completed in 1940; President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first person to drive through it. The Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel runs underneath Battery Park and connects the Financial District at the southern tip of Manhattan to Red Hook in Brooklyn.
Manhattan has three public heliports: the East 34th Street Heliport (also known as the Atlantic Metroport) at East 34th Street, owned by New York City and run by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC); the Port Authority Downtown Manhattan/Wall Street Heliport, owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and run by the NYCEDC; and the West 30th Street Heliport, a privately owned heliport that is owned by the Hudson River Park Trust. US Helicopter offered regularly scheduled helicopter service connecting the Downtown Manhattan Heliport with John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, before going out of business in 2009.
Gas and electric service is provided by Consolidated Edison to all of Manhattan. Con Edison's electric business traces its roots back to Thomas Edison's Edison Electric Illuminating Company, the first investor-owned electric utility. The company started service on September 4, 1882, using one generator to provide 110 volts direct current (DC) to 59 customers with 800 light bulbs, in a one-square-mile area of Lower Manhattan from his Pearl Street Station. Con Edison operates the world's largest district steam system, which consists of 105 miles (169 km) of steam pipes, providing steam for heating, hot water, and air conditioning by some 1,800 Manhattan customers. Cable service is provided by Time Warner Cable and telephone service is provided by Verizon Communications, although AT&T is available as well.
Manhattan witnessed the doubling of the natural gas supply delivered to the borough when a new gas pipeline opened on November 1, 2013.
The New York City Department of Sanitation is responsible for garbage removal. The bulk of the city's trash ultimately is disposed at mega-dumps in Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina and Ohio (via transfer stations in New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens) since the 2001 closure of the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island. A small amount of trash processed at transfer sites in New Jersey is sometimes incinerated at waste-to-energy facilities. Like New York City, New Jersey and much of Greater New York relies on exporting its trash to far-flung areas.
New York City has the largest clean-air diesel-hybrid and compressed natural gas bus fleet, which also operates in Manhattan, in the country. It also has some of the first hybrid taxis, most of which operate in Manhattan.
There are many hospitals in Manhattan, including two of the 25 largest in the United States (as of 2017):
New York City is supplied with drinking water by the protected Catskill Mountains watershed. As a result of the watershed's integrity and undisturbed natural water filtration system, New York is one of only four major cities in the United States the majority of whose drinking water is pure enough not to require purification by water treatment plants. The Croton Watershed north of the city is undergoing construction of a US$3.2 billion water purification plant to augment New York City's water supply by an estimated 290 million gallons daily, representing a greater than 20% addition to the city's current availability of water. Manhattan, surrounded by two brackish rivers, had a limited supply of fresh water. To satisfy its growing population, the City of New York acquired land in adjacent Westchester County and constructed the old Croton Aqueduct system there, which went into service in 1842 and was superseded by the new Croton Aqueduct, which opened in 1890. This, however, was interrupted in 2008 for the ongoing construction of a US$3.2 billion water purification plant that can supply an estimated 290 million gallons daily when completed, representing an almost 20% addition to the city's availability of water, with this addition going to Manhattan and the Bronx. Water comes to Manhattan through New York City Water Tunnel No. 1, Tunnel No. 2, and Tunnel No. 3, completed in 1917, 1936, and (Manhattan's supply) 2013, respectively.
The address algorithm of Manhattan refers to the formulas used to estimate the closest east–west cross street for building numbers on north–south avenues. It is commonly noted in telephone directories, New York City travel guides, and MTA Manhattan bus maps.