New York City, the largest and most important city on the American continent, the third wealthiest on the globe, and, next to London, the most populous In the world. It is situated at the mouth of the Hudson River, which enters the Atlantic Ocean through New York Bay. Previous to 1874 the city only included Manhattan Island, but in that year and in 1895 it was extended ; and in 1898 a greater extension took in Kings county, part of Queens county (Long Island), Richmond county (Staten Island), and the towns of East Chester and Pelham. For administrative purposes the whole is now divided into live boroughs - Queens, Brooklyn, Richmond, the Bronx, and Manhattan - and the total area is 309 square miles.
The bar at Sandy Hook, 18 miles south of the city, which divides the Atlantic Ocean from the outer or lower bay, is crossed by two ship-channels, from 21 to 32 feet deep at ebb-tide. The lower bay covers 88 sq. m. The Narrows, through which all large ships pass on their way to the inner harbour, is a strait between Long Island and Staten Island, about a mile in width, and like other approaches is defended by forts. New York's harbour or inner bay covers about 14 sq. m. ; it is one of the amplest, safest, and most picturesque on the globe, open all the year round. Bridges span the East River and Harlem River, and there are some thirty steam-ferries. The city is the centre of finance and commerce of the United States. Of the total trade of the States about 46 per cent. passes through New York, and the tonnage of vessels entering the port in 1904 was 9,235,524, and of the vessels cleared 8,600,590. The annual exports of merchandise amount to about $550,000,000. the imports to over $530,000,000. Much business is also done at the wharves of Brooklyn (q.v.). Liberty Island, in the harbour, about 1 3/4 mile from the city, contains the statue of Liberty (1886) by Bartholdi. The New York and Brooklyn (q.v.) Suspension Bridge and the new East River Bridge (1890-1904) span the East River.
Old New York is laid out very irregularly. Here the money interests and wholesale traffic are centred ; Wall, New, and Broad streets being the great centres of banking and speculative enterprises. The newer part of the city, from 14th Street to the end of the island, northward, is divided into twelve great avenues and several smaller ones, from 75 to 150 feet in width, running north and south. These are crossed at right angles by streets, mostly 60 feet in width, running from river to river. Fifth Avenue, the great modern central thoroughfare, divides the city into eastside and westside. Several of the city's avenues are traversed their full length by elevated steam passenger-railroads. Twenty street blocks measure a mile, and every tenth street is double the usual width, designed for business purposes. Wooden buildings have been interdicted in the lower part of the city. The modern method is to build roomy, tall, fireproof and semi-fireproof structures for apartment-houses and for business purposes, the ascent being by elevators. Most of these range from 75 to 100 feet in height; some of them run to twenty stories, constructed of steel frames filled in with non-combustible material. Many of them are costly and elegant. Among prominent public edifices are the City Hall, County Courthouse, Custom-house, Treasury Building, Tombs (prison), Barge Office, Masonic Temple, Academy of Design, Cooper Union, Post-office, Produce Exchange, Madison Square Garden Hall, University of the City of New York, Lenox Library, Temple Emanuel, Trinity Church, and the Roman Catholic cathedral, besides large, imposing hotels and palatial dwellings and business depots. Immense retail bazaars and arcades are found on Broadway, Grand Street, 14th, 23d, and 125th Streets, and 3d, 6th, and 8th Avenues.
The city government is under a mayor and board of aldermen ; these offices are mostly filled by adopted citizens from Ireland and Germany. New York has a fire-department conducted at an annual expense of $5,000,000, divided into 300 companies with 3000 men. The Croton Aqueduct conveys an ample supply of water from the Croton River and its lakes, a distance of about 40 miles, to the four reservoirs of the city. The New York General Post-office building, erected of granite, at a cost of $6,500,000, was first occupied in 1875. The Battery Green encloses twenty-one acres, and occupies the southern point of Manhattan Island. On its west side is Castle Garden (q.v.), Central Park (1857), comprising 843 acres of beautifully laid out grounds, contains the Egyptian obelisk (1880), and museums of Art and Natural History. Other parks are Riverside, Jerome, Van Cortlandt parks. Nearly 300 newspapers (daily, weekly, and monthly) are published - some in foreign languages. There are three general colleges - Columbia, the University of the City of New York, and the College of the City of New York, besides the Normal College, Union Theological Seminary (Presbyterian), the Episcopal Seminary, etc. Among libraries may be named the Astor (300,000 vols.), Mercantile (250,000), and Columbia College (110,000). The Museum of Art, Museum of Natural History, and Lenox Gallery are free. Noted clubs are the Manhattan, Union, New York, St Nicholas, Knickerbocker, Union League, University, Lotus, Harmonic, and Century.
John Verrazani, a Florentine navigator, was the first European who entered New York Bay, in 1525. In 1614 the Dutch built a fort on Manhattan Island, and in 1623 a permanent settlement was made, named Nieuw Amsterdam. In 1674 Manhattan Island came into the possession of Great Britain, who gave it the name New York, in honour of James, Duke of York. At the Revolution the population was less than that of Philadelphia and Boston. It was evacuated by the forces of Great Britain in 1783, and from 1785 to 1789 was the seat of government of the United States. Pop. (1774) 22,861; (1800) 60,489 ; (1825) 166,136 ; (1850) 550,394; (1860) 813,669; (1870) 942,292; (1880) 1,206,599; (1890) 1,515,301; and 'Greater New York ' (1900) 3,437,202. See Histories by Lossing (1885), Roosevelt (1891), and Grant Wilson (4 vols. 1891-93); and Historic New York, by Misses Goodwin, Royce, and Putnam (1898).