The topic of New York City boroughs might as well be Sanskrit to my trivia team. Hell, some of my players might have an easier time understanding Sanskrit than fathoming which borough is largest, which has the most people, in which borough would you find the Statue of Liberty, yada yada. Now which one was the one where Jerry Seinfeld lived? Manhattan! And thus exhausts my knowledge of New York and its boroughs…speaking of, let’s take a look at those, shall we?
Manhattan – We’re Fun-Sized
At 33.6 square miles with 1,644,518 people, Manhattan is the third most populous, the smallest in land area and the most densely populated of all the boroughs. It’s probably also the borough in which you’re most likely to see someone shouting, “Taxi,” or “Hey, I’m walkin’ here.” Now does anyone else want to watch “Midnight Cowboy” now? Uh, don’t. It’s SUPER depressing, though it is, to date, the only X-rated film to have won the Oscar for best picture (though that rating has since been downgraded). It is worth seeing at least once for the performances of Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, however. Manhattan was founded on November 1, 1683, as one of the original counties in New York The borough consists mostly of Manhattan Island, bounded by the East, Hudson and Harlem rivers and Marble Hill.
Central Park, Times Square, Chinatown, the Grand Central Terminal, Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building and Greenwich Village are among the most notable locations/landmarks in Manhattan. Besides that building where “Friends” was filmed, and the restaurant in which many scenes in “Seinfeld” was filmed, of course. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village is considered the birthplace of the gay rights movement, and Chinatown boasts the largest population of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. Manhattan-based colleges include Columbia University, West Cornell Medical College and Rockefeller University. One World Trade Center, the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, is located in Manhattan on the site of the old World Trade Center, which was demolished Sept. 11, 2001 in terrorist attacks.
Manhattan’s many neighborhoods include the Upper East Side, Little Italy, Tribeca (which stands for TRIangleBElow CAnal Street), SoHo (SOuth of HOuston), Harlem, Alphabet City and Hell’s Kitchen. Actor Robert DeNiro co-owns a TV and film company called Tribeca.
The Bronx – We’re The Farthest North and have the Yankees
The northernmost of the five New York City boroughs, The Bronx, named for Jonas Bronck, who founded its first settlement, has the fourth largest land area, the fourth highest population (1,455,444 in 2015) and the third-highest population density compared to the other boroughs. The Bronx is the only borough that has the majority of its 42-square-mile area on the U.S. mainland. The TV series “Becker,” which ran from 1998 to 2004, was set in the Bronx. Some of you may have actually watched that show.
The aptly named Bronx River divides the Bronx. Key locations in the Bronx include Woodlawn Cemetery, Van Cortlandt Park, Pelham Bay Park, the New York Botanical Garden and the also aptly named Bronx Zoo. A large number of immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Italy and the Caribbean flocked to the Bronx in the 19th and 20th centuries, which would make it a “melting pot.” Mmmm…who wants fondue? The down side to this diversity is poverty – The Bronx is also the one of the five poorest Congressional districts in the United States, which includes neighborhoods such as Riverdale (not to be confused with the “Archie” comics town), Fieldston, Spuyten, Duyvil, Schuylerville, Pelham Bay, Pelham Gardens, Morris Park and Country Club. If you’re a baseball nut, you’re going to want to watch the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium.
Brooklyn – We Have the Most People
Brooklyn has more people than all of the other boroughs, which makes it the most populous of all of them (take that, bitches). With a 2015 Census population estimate of 2,636,735, it borders Queens at the southwestern end of Long Island, where singer/songwriter Billy Joel hails from. Brooklyn has a land area of 71 square miles, making it the second-largest of all of the boroughs. Brooklyn’s population ranks third in the U.S. behind Los Angeles and Chicago.
Brooklyn’s main attractions include the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Coney Island (its Cyclone roller coaster is listed on the National Register of Historic Places), Floyd Bennett Field, Green-Wood Cemetery, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, New York Transit Museum and Prospect Park. If you’re a sports nut, you’re going to want to check out the Barclay’s Center for home games for the Islanders and the Nets. If you’re a sports nut, you also know that the L.A. Dodgers originated here (moved to L.A. in 1957), and if you’re extra nerdy, you also know the team was named for “trolley dodgers” and played at Ebbet’s Field.
And then there’s hipsters…with the recent gentrification of Brooklyn came an influx of hipsters descending upon the borough. Love ’em or hate ’em, they are here to stay – and if you own a shop that sells $12 doughnuts, Chuck Taylors, second-hand clothes, $20 craft cocktails made with craft ice cubes, $50 free-range artisan quinoa burgers, these bespectacled bearded folks will be your lifeline. Even though you will secretly shake your fists at them when they’re not looking…
Brooklyn neighborhoods include Albemarle, Beverley, Cortelyou, Dorchester, Ditmas, Foster, Farragut, Glenwood, Quentin). If you live in Brooklyn and want to visit the spot where “Friends” was filmed (aka Manhattan), you can take the Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Williamsburg bridges – or take the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel (formerly the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel) or any number of subway tunnels. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (the one that guy jumped from in “Saturday Night Fever”) links Brooklyn with the more snooty Staten Island. If you want to visit the spot where “All in the Family” was set, you would take the Kosciuszko Bridge, the Pulaski Bridge or the JJ Byrne (NOT named for JJ aka “Jimmie” Walker on “Good Times) Memorial Bridge. If you want to visit the Rockaway Peninsula, you would take the Marine Parkway Bridge. The best “suicide” bridge, hands down, though is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge because of “Saturday Night Fever.”
Queens – The Biggest Borough of Them All
Queens is the easternmost and largest in area of the five New York City boroughs. With an estimated 2,339,150 people, it’s the second-largest in population after Brooklyn (clearly Queens needs more hipsters…not). Queens was established in 1683 and was named for the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza, queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland. It became a borough in 1898 and includes what is now called Nassau County. Nassau is also the capital of the Bahamas, but you knew that, right?
Queens is home to both the JFK International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. Just in case this comes up as a trivia question, the Lufthansa heist took place at JFK, not LaGuardia. Detailed in the 1990 film “Goodfellas,” this heist occurred December 11, 1978. An estimated $5.875 million ($21.6 million today) was stolen, with $5 million in cash and $875,000 in jewelry, making it the largest cash robbery committed on American soil at the time. In “Goodfellas,” lots and lots of people were killed following this heist, including a character played by Samuel L. Jackson, in one of his earliest film roles.
Main Queens attractions include Flushing Meadows Park, Citi Field (home to the New York Mets, whom Jerry Seinfeld rooted for on “Seinfeld”), and is home to the U.S. Open. The 1970s sitcom “All in the Family” was also set in Queens. Main neighborhoods include Jackson Heights, Flushing, Astoria and Long Island City.
Staten Island – We’re Bigger Than Manhattan
Staten Island is home to 474,448 people and is 58 square miles, and is the whitest of all the boroughs, since it is the only borough with a non-Hispanic white majority. It is the third-largest in area of all of the boroughs behind Queens and Brooklyn. If you live on Staten Island and need to visit Brooklyn to give your hipster daughter some money, you would take the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. If you live in Staten Island but want to visit the place where “The Sopranos” was set (New Jersey), you would take the Outerbridge Crossing, Goethals Bridge, or the Bayonne Bridge. If your lousy hipster kid in Brooklyn is “borrowing” your car, you could take the Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus line or the Staten Island Railway to visit your kid and ask for your damn car back. Or just ask one of your mob contacts in New Jersey to “send a message,” since you don’t really want to get your hands dirty. Plus, you really want your car back.
Main neighborhoods include The North Shore, St. George, Tompkinsville, Clifton and Stapleton.
If you’re a tourist and you’re in Manhattan (seriously, where else would you be in NYC if you were a tourist), you could take the free Staten Island Ferry and check out the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The first recorded European contact with the island was in 1520 by Italian explorer Giovanni de Verrazano (aka the guy who shares his name with the suicide bridge) .