Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on Manhattan Island at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York. The borough and county consist of Manhattan Island and several small adjacent islands: Roosevelt Island, Randall’s Island, Wards Island, Governors Island, Liberty Island, part of Ellis Island, Mill Rock, andU Thant Island; as well as Marble Hill, a very small area on the mainland bordering the Bronx. The original city of New York began at the southern end of Manhattan, expanded northwards, and then between 1874 and 1898, annexed land from surrounding counties.
The County of New York is the most densely populated county in the United States, and one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with a 2008 population of 1,634,795 living in a land area of 22.96 square miles (59.47 km²), or 71,201 residents per square mile (27,485/km²). It is also one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, with a 2005 personal income per capita above $100,000. Manhattan is the third-largest of New York’s five boroughs in population, and its smallest borough in size. Manhattan is a major commercial, financial, and cultural center of both the United States and the world. Anchored by Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City vies with the City of London as the financial capital of the world and is home of both the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. Many major radio, television, and telecommunications companies in the United States are based here, as well as many news, magazine, book, and other media publishers. Manhattan is home to many famous landmarks, tourist attractions, museums, and universities. It is also home to the headquarters of the United Nations. It is the center of New York City and the New York metropolitan region, hosting the seat of city government and a large portion of the area’s employment, business, and entertainment activities. As a result, residents of New York City’s other boroughs such as Brooklyn and Queens often refer to a trip to Manhattan as “going to the city”,despite the comparable populations between those boroughs.
The name Manhattan derives from the word Manna-hata, as written in the 1609 logbook of Robert Juet, an officer on Henry Hudson’s yacht Halve Maen (Half Moon). A 1610 map depicts the name as Manna-hata, twice, on both the west and east sides of the Mauritius River (later named theHudson River). The word “Manhattan” has been translated as “island of many hills” from the Lenape language. New York County is one of seven US counties to bear the same name as the state in which it lies (the others are Arkansas County, Hawaii County, Idaho County, Iowa County, Oklahoma County, and Utah County).
Manhattan is loosely divided into Downtown, Midtown, and Uptown, 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 Riverdivides Manhattan from The Bronx and the mainland United States. Several small islands are also part of the borough of Manhattan, including Randall’s Island, Wards Island, and Roosevelt Island in the East River, and Governors Island and Liberty Islandto the south in New York Harbor. Manhattan Island is 22.7 square miles (58.8 km²) in area, 13.4 miles (21.6 km) long and 2.3 miles (3.7 km) wide, at its widest (near 14th Street). New York County as a whole covers a total area of 33.77 square miles (87.46 km²), of which 22.96 square miles (59.47 km²) are land and 10.81 square miles (28.00 km²) are water.
One Manhattan neighborhood is contiguous with The Bronx. 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 topography has been evened out. 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, 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 (450 m), covering 92 acres (37 ha), providing a 1.2-mile (1.9-km) riverfront esplanade and over 30 acres (12 ha) of parks. Geologically, a predominate feature of the sub-strata of Manhattan is that the underlying bedrock base of the island rises considerably closer to the surface near the midtown district, dips down lower between 29th street and Canal street, then rises towards the surface again under the Financial district; this feature is the 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, as their foundations can be sunk more securely into solid bedrock.
Manhattan has fixed vehicular connections with New Jersey to the west by way of the George Washington Bridge, Holland Tunnel and Lincoln Tunnel, and to three of the four other New York City boroughs—the Bronx to the northeast and Brooklyn and Queens on Long Island to the east and south. Its only direct connection with the fifth New York City borough is the Staten Island Ferry across New York Harbor, which is free of charge. The ferry terminal is located near Battery Park at its southern tip. It is possible to travel to Staten Island by way of Brooklyn, using the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
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 in the west. 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 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 (180 m). According to the original Commissioner’s Plan there were 155 numbered crosstown streets, but later the grid has been extended up to the Northernmost corner of Manhattan, where the last numbered street is 220th Street (Manhattan). Moreover, the numbering system continues even in The Bronx, North of Manhattan, despite the fact that there the grid plan is not so regular; there the last numbered street is 263rd Street. Fifteen crosstown streets were designated as 100 feet (30 m) wide, including 34th, 42nd, 57th and 125th Streets, 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, 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).
A 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 Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the zoos and aquariums in the city, is currently undertaking The Mannahatta Project, a computer simulation to visually reconstruct the ecology and geography of Manhattan when Henry Hudson first sailed by in 1609, and compare it to what we know of the island today.
Museum Mile is the name for a section of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in the city of New York, in the United States, running from 82nd to 104th streets on the Upper East Side in a neighborhood known as Carnegie Hill. The “mile”, which contains one of the densest displays of culture in the world, is actually two blocks longer than one mile. Nine museums occupy the length of this section of Fifth Avenue. A tenth museum, the Museum for African Art, joined the ensemble in 2009, however its Museum at 110th Street, the first new museum constructed on the Mile since the Guggenheim in 1959, won’t open until late 2012. In addition to other programming, the museums collaborate for the annual Museum Mile Festival, held each year in June, to promote the museums and increase visitation.
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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 neighbourhoods, such as SoHo, are commercial and known for upscale shopping. 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 a neighbourhood with a large gay population, and recently a center of New York’s art industry and nightlife. Washington Heights is a vibrant neighborhood of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. Chinatown has a dense population of people of Chinese descent. Koreatown is roughly bounded by 5th and 6th Avenues, between 31st and 36th Streets. TheUpper West Side is often characterized as more intellectual and creative, in contrast to the old money and conservative values of the Upper East Side, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the United States.
In Manhattan, uptown means north (more precisely north-northeast, which is the direction the island and its street grid system is 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 59th 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 in most places. South of Waverly Place in Manhattan, Fifth Avenue terminates and Broadway becomes the east/west demarcation line. Though the grid does start with 1st Street, just north of Houston Street (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 a few exceptions (14th, 34th and 42nd to name a few). The rule of thumb is odd numbered streets run west while evens run east.