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The 5 Boroughs of New York City

Why does New York City have 5 boroughs? Unfortunately, the story doesn’t have much excitement. The simple answer is the need for city planning and development which resulted in one of the largest, culturally diverse, economic-hubs of the country. The five boroughs consolidated in 1898 and the 1904 opening of the subway, helped connect all boroughs bringing New York City together.


Manhattan, the first capital under the ‘Constitution of the United States’ in 1785, originally encompassed the southern portion of the island. It has been the epicenter of pivotal events for the country: Prohibition, the Stonewall Riots, architecture innovation, and economic evolution. It is the most densely populated out of the boroughs which can be a little overwhelming as you navigate the streets. Insider info: 5th Avenue splits Manhattan into east side and west side and running north to south is divided into: downtown, midtown and uptown (key for subway directions!). There are the well-known landmarks and the best are historic landmarks under the radar.


Known as the ‘Twin City’ to Manhattan across the East River and the most populated out of the boroughs. Brooklyn started out as a port city to alleviate Manhattan ports with the development of the New York Navy Yard. Adding to the area’s growth, the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 allowed residents to live outside of Manhattan and commute with ease to the city. We can’t mention Brooklyn without giving a nod to Coney Island, located at the southern tip on the beach where they host the annual Mermaid Parade. And if the weather is a bit chilly, the Botanical Gardens and Prospect Park have events year round.


Next in line, is the largest borough located to the east of Brooklyn. Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the world resulting in a cultural food experience for locals and visitors. You can create your own tour or hop on a walking food tour (note: some are on pause due to COVID-19) to learn the history of the neighborhoods. Notably, African-American culture has been fostered here being the center for Jazz and the artists that came of the era: Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and modern day artists of other genres: LL Cool J, Nicki Minja, and Run DMC.

The Bronx 

The only borough part of the mainland, northeast of Manhattan. The area started out as farmland supplying the city markets until the railways (subway, c1904) allowed for faster transportation to Manhattan. Early American history of the Bronx found itself populated with Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants which later would represent the different gangs running the bootlegging during Prohibition. A rough patch hit the Bronx during the 1970’s with a resurgence in the 1980’s in economic, social and environmental initiatives and can be associated with the birth of hip-hop. Wondering how to travel here? Aside from the subway, take one of the 13 bridges connecting the Bronx to Manhattan!

Staten Island

A little more suburban than urban located south of Manhattan, Staten Island has the highest proportion of Italian Americans out of the boroughs. As the last borough to consolidate with New York City, Staten Island tried to emancipate in the 1980s to be a new city charter but was ultimately blocked by the State Assembly. Can’t imagine New York City with Staten Island! Rich history and culture is seeded here and Historic Richmond Town is a park like setting of living history from the 17th century through today of the island can be explored in Historic Richmond Town, a living history with blacksmiths, carpenters, librarians and more. 

The five boroughs create a unique landscape encompassing three islands and intricate transportation routes and solutions to connect Staten Island all the way out to the Bronx and Queens. All have connections to the American Revolution and the start of our nation.