|New York City, arguably the world's most
vibrant and sprawling metropolis, occupies five boroughs, each with its
own distinct identity. After all, before the historic 1898 consolidation,
Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island were each
independent municipalities. Consolidation only came after decades of
wrangling. Brooklyn, to this day fiercely independent, nearly derailed the
Manhattan, home to the most recognizable sites and much of it laid out in
the innovative grid plan, dominates popular perception of New York City.
Its most famous districts are listed below.
Wall Street and the Financial District
New York's first district remains its most historic district. The stalwart
investment banks of Wall Street coexist with landmarks like the Trinity
Church. The hyper-ambitious, be-suited throngs chat on cell phones and
take lunch at hot dog stands. Visitors ponder the beauty of skyscrapers
and the quaintness of cobblestones. Battery Park draws New Yorkers from
all boroughs for its panoramic views and excellent rollerblading.
Long the national epicenter of African-American culture, Harlem remains
proud of its past accomplishments as it looks to the future. As home to
America's most influential artistic, literary and cultural movement (The
Harlem Renaissance), the district gained worldwide notoriety. A study in
contrasts, Harlem has seen some of New York's worst poverty and quietly
hidden some of its wealthiest citizens. Twenty years ago, many visitors
feared Harlem. Today, as a multi-ethnic Harlem benefits from a booming
economy, tourists clamor to visit the home of great jazz, great food and a
If the winding streets of this historic neighborhood could talk, they
would speak of poverty and prosperity, free love and socialism, gay rights
and reform. At the turn of the nineteenth century, Greenwich Village drew
free spirits from around the nation. Writer Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote
hedonistic poetry and Eugene O'Neill reinvented American Drama. As the
years went on, rents inevitably rose. Now, the Villages' townhouses and
apartments are some of the most expensive in the city. Meanwhile, New York
University students capture the neighborhood's old spirit as they romp
through Washington Square Park. A diverse array of shops, rowdy bars and
music clubs vie for business along Bleecker Street.
Once a poor, multi-ethnic neighborhood, for the last twenty years artists,
students and yuppies have gentrified the neighborhood. Gentrification did
not come quickly or easily, leading to the Tompkins Square Park rent riots
of the early nineties. Today, the turmoil has died down, the homeless live
elsewhere and long-time residents bemoan the presence of newcomers.
However, the artistic spirit that initially brought about the change
remains evident. Urban gardens and art exhibits sit besides cafes, craft
shops and vegetarian restaurants. Performance artists still emote and
musicians still sing in the parks. Rents are high, but nose rings are
Soho & Tribeca
Once home to massive factories, artists took over the spaces and
transformed desolate industrial wasteland into bustling urban commerce.
Galleries, designer shops, sophisticated restaurants and trendy bars
followed soon after the artists. Today, galleries thrive among the chaos
creating New York's world-class art scene. Alas, no more rent bargains
exist ' the once raw lofts now command rents to match anything on Fifth
Lower East Side
The latest neighborhood to receive the 'Soho' treatment, the city's worst
slums once existed on these streets. Gradually, conditions improved but
the neighborhood remained poor, often attracting new waves of (mostly
Hispanic) immigrants. Today, rents are rising and the yuppies are
arriving. The historic Orchard Street Shopping District operates among
new, hip bars and nightclubs.
A misnomer, as every conceivable Asian ethnicity lives in Chinatown.
Restaurants, grocery stores and trinket shops line the ever-crowded
streets. One need not travel to Hong Kong to obtain a $10 Rolex watch;
plenty are available here. Dim Sum and other favorites lure diners on
practically every corner. Recently, some non-Asian hotspots have opened
and created quite a stir.
Frank Sinatra, Italian Restaurants and kitsch draw tourists to this lively
neighborhood. It is all that remains of a once proud (albeit poverty
stricken) community of Italian immigrants. The San Gennaro Feast still
welcomes its throngs, but Old St. Pat's now offers its services in Spanish
and Chinese rather than Italian.
Gramercy and Flatiron
The majestic Flatiron Building lords over this beautiful, eclectic
district marked by loft spaces to the west and pre-war residences to the
east. More than a century after its construction, the apartment buildings
and townhouses around Gramercy Park remain coveted addresses. The
district's diverse shops and excellent restaurants draw New Yorkers day
and night. The historic Pete's Tavern helps New York treasure its past
while the numerous "Silicon Alley" internet companies bring the
city into the future.
Once a proud working class community, Chelsea recently became a posh
address. As rents in Greenwich Village rose, the vibrant gay community
moved upwards to occupy Chelsea's many brownstones and loft spaces. Others
naturally followed and today's Chelsea reflects New York's ethnic and
cultural diversity. Known for its many nightspots, club goers party at
Cheetah, Twilo and Rebar.
Meat Packing District
Chelsea's energy was bound to spill downward into the industrial wasteland
of the far west. Now, some of the city's hottest destinations occupy
spaces once reserved for slaughtered meat. First, Hogs & Heifers made
redneck chic. Then, alternative spots like Mother and the Cooler opened.
Now, Fressen draws the city's most sophisticated and trendy crowds.
As the name implies, midtown is smack in the middle of everything.
Nobody's sure where Midtown begins, but most agree it stops somewhere
around Central Park. It probably begins somewhere in the thirties. Despite
border confusion, most understand that EVERYTHING happens in midtown.
Publishing houses, quite a few financial firms, import/export companies
and fashion houses all do business here. The Trump Tower entices shoppers,
along with Saks and all those glorious shops along Fifth Avenue. Skaters
skate and tourists wave to the Today Show cast at Rockefeller Center. The
spectacular St. Patrick's Cathedral offers serenity and spirituality. The
city's most expensive restaurants serve fine food, and best of all, taxis
are plentiful. From Midtown, you can get anywhere and see anything. You
haven't seen New York if you haven't been here.
Times Square & Hell's Kitchen
Many New Yorkers miss the almost gone seediness of Times Square. Disney
Stores have replaced the sex shops and nude dance clubs. Development swallowed up a
few beloved newsstands and diners. However, most people begrudgingly admit
that it's better this way. Free spending visitors, after all, adore
everything from the souvenir shops to the enormous billboards of
Victoria's Secret's models to the latest mega-musical. A few blocks west
lies Hell's Kitchen, now serving as an oasis from the Times Square chaos.
Once a slum, it's now a community on an upswing with eclectic restaurants,
Upper East Side
Park, Fifth and Madison have always been posh addresses. Whether in the
gilded mansions of yesterday or the modern apartments of today, old money
and high society have made their home here. Consequently, shops to serve
them sprouted up and down Madison Avenue while the residents endowed
museums and collected art. Today, the Baby Gap coexists with art galleries
and antique shops. Further east, new money has overtaken the old Yorkville
slum and yuppies share railroad apartments.
Upper West Side
When the co-ops of the East Side were freer to restrict residents, the
Upper West Side became home to new money (and often Jewish money). Then,
as "modernist" Eastsiders tore down their pre-war palaces, Upper
West Side residents kept their old buildings. Thirty years later, renters
value Upper West Side pre-war real estate, with its solid (often neo
gothic or Victorian) architecture. Yuppies, successful artists and
apartment-sharing twenty somethings flocked here. Today, the buildings
along Central Park West house some of the city's most notoriously picky
co-op boards (Jerry Seinfeld, approved; Madonna, denied). Meanwhile, bars
and restaurants catering to Long Island and New Jersey folk (a.k.a Bridge
and Tunnels) continue to sprout like weeds along Columbus and Amsterdam
More famous in name than Manhattan, this massive borough stretches from
the festive Coney Island to the elegant Brooklyn Heights. Wherever
Brooklynites hail from, they are a proud lot. Proud of the Brooklyn
Botanical Gardens. Proud of the Bridge that bears the name Brooklyn. Proud
of their Museum of Art and Children's Museum. Proud of Williamsburg and
Park Slope, two neighborhoods seized from poverty. Proud of Peter Luger
and Planet Thailand. Some are even proud of the accent.
From Flushing to Astoria to Long Island City, Queens is experiencing a
quiet renaissance. Landlords continue to restore buildings as Manhattan
rent refugees discover what this working-class borough offers its
residents. Terrific, inexpensive ethnic restaurants pepper the entire
borough, as does a deep community spirit. Queens is also home to the
Kaufman Astoria Studio and the American Museum of the Moving Image.
Home to the Yankees, one of the nation's finest zoos, and an extraordinary
botanical garden, the Bronx offers much to visitors and citizens alike.
Alas, the poverty of some of its districts often overshadows the positive
aspects of this multi-ethnic borough. Recently, areas such as the South
Bronx have shown signs of benefiting from the current economic boom.
Once primarily farmland, Staten Island continues to be New York City's
most understated district. A thriving middle and working class suburb,
thousands of Staten Islanders ride the famous ferry to work in Manhattan.
They proudly declare that Staten Island gives them the best of New York
combined with all the conveniences of the suburbs. Staten Island offers
its own museum, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, and charming zoo.