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New York, sometimes called New York State, is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. A Mid-Atlantic state, New York borders New England, and has an international border with Canada. With almost 19.6 million residents, it is the fourth-most populous state in the United States and seventh-most densely populated as of 2023. New York is the 27th-largest U.S. state by area, with a total area of 54,556 square miles (141,300 km2).
|State of New York
Excelsior (in Latin)
|Anthem: "I Love New York"
|Province of New York
|Admitted to the Union
|July 26, 1788 (11th)
|Largest county or equivalent
|Largest metro and urban areas
|New York metropolitan area
|Kathy Hochul (D)
|• Lieutenant Governor
|Antonio Delgado (D)
|• Upper house
|• Lower house
|New York Court of Appeals
|U.S. House delegation
|54,555 sq mi (141,297 km2)
|47,126 sq mi (122,057 km2)
|7,429 sq mi (19,240 km2) 13.6%
|330 mi (530 km)
|285 mi (455 km)
|1,000 ft (300 m)
|5,344 ft (1,629 m)
|0 ft (0 m)
|416.42/sq mi (159/km2)
|• Median household income
|• Income rank
|• Official language
|• Spoken language
|• Summer (DST)
|ISO 3166 code
|40° 30′ N to 45° 1′ N
|71° 51′ W to 79° 46′ W
|List of state symbols
|I Love New York
|Brook trout (fresh water), Striped bass (salt water)
|North American beaver
|Common snapping turtle
|Sugar maple, Lilac bush
|State route marker
Released in 2001
|Lists of United States state symbols
New York has a varied geography. The southeastern part of the state, known as Downstate, encompasses New York City, the most populous city in the United States, Long Island, the most populous island in the United States, and the lower Hudson Valley. These areas are the center of the New York metropolitan area, a sprawling urban landmass, and account for approximately two-thirds of the state's population. The much larger Upstate area spreads from the Great Lakes to Lake Champlain, while its Southern Tier region extends to the border of Pennsylvania. Upstate includes the Adirondack Mountains and the Catskill Mountains (part of the wider Appalachian Mountains). The east–west Mohawk River Valley bisects the more mountainous regions, and flows into the north–south Hudson River valley near the state capital of Albany. Western New York, home to the cities of Buffalo and Rochester, is part of the Great Lakes region and borders Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Central New York is anchored by the city of Syracuse; between the central and western parts of the state, New York is dominated by the Finger Lakes, a popular tourist destination.
New York was one of the original Thirteen Colonies that went on to form the United States. The area of present-day New York had been inhabited by tribes of the Algonquians and the Iroquois Confederacy Native Americans for several thousand years by the time the earliest Europeans arrived. Stemming from Henry Hudson's expedition in 1609, the Dutch established the multiethnic colony of New Netherland in 1621, which included the settlements of Fort Orange (present-day Albany), Wiltwijck (present-day Kingston), and New Amsterdam (present-day New York City). England seized the colony from the Dutch in 1664, renaming it the Province of New York.
During the American Revolutionary War, fought between 1775 and 1783, a group of colonists eventually succeeded in establishing independence, and joined the fledgling United States. From the early 19th century, New York's development of its interior, beginning with the construction of the Erie Canal, gave it incomparable advantages over other regions of the United States East Coast. The state built its political, cultural, and economic ascendancy over the next century, earning it the nickname of the "Empire State". Although deindustrialization eroded a significant portion of the state's economy in the second half of the 20th century, New York in the 21st century continues to be considered as a global node of creativity and entrepreneurship, social tolerance, and environmental sustainability.
The state is home to approximately 200 colleges and universities, including two Ivy League universities, Columbia University and Cornell University, and the expansive State University of New York, which is among the largest university systems in the nation. New York City is home to the headquarters of the United Nations, and it is sometimes described as the world's most important city, the cultural, financial, and media epicenter, and the capital of the world.
Native American history
The Native American tribes in what is now New York were predominantly Iroquois and Algonquian. Long Island was divided roughly in half between the Algonquian Wampanoag and Lenape peoples. The Lenape also controlled most of the region surrounding New York Harbor. North of the Lenape was a third Algonquian nation, the Mohicans. Starting north of them, from east to west, were two Iroquoian nations: the Mohawk—part of the original Iroquois Five Nations, and the Petun. South of them, divided roughly along Appalachia, were the Susquehannock and the Erie.
Many of the Wampanoag and Mohican peoples were caught up in King Philip's War, a joint effort of many New England tribes to push Europeans off their land. After the death of their leader, Chief Philip Metacomet, most of those peoples fled inland, splitting into the Abenaki and the Schaghticoke. Many of the Mohicans remained in the region until the 1800s, however, a small group known as the Ouabano migrated southwest into West Virginia at an earlier time. They may have merged with the Shawnee.
The Mohawk and Susquehannock were the most militaristic. Trying to corner trade with the Europeans, they targeted other tribes. The Mohawk were also known for refusing white settlement on their land and discriminating against any of their people who converted to Christianity. They posed a major threat to the Abenaki and Mohicans, while the Susquehannock briefly conquered the Lenape in the 1600s. The most devastating event of the century, however, was the Beaver Wars.
From approximately 1640–1680, the Iroquois peoples waged campaigns which extended from modern-day Michigan to Virginia against Algonquian and Siouan tribes, as well as each other. The aim was to control more land for animal trapping, a career most natives had turned to in hopes of trading with whites first. This completely changed the ethnography of the region, and most large game was hunted out before whites ever fully explored the land. Still, afterward, the Iroquois Confederacy offered shelter to refugees of the Mascouten, Erie, Chonnonton, Tutelo, Saponi, and Tuscarora nations. The Tuscarora became the sixth nation of the Iroquois.
In the 1700s, Iroquoian peoples would take in the remaining Susquehannock of Pennsylvania after they were decimated in the French and Indian War. Most of these other groups assimilated and eventually ceased to exist as separate tribes. Then, after the American Revolution, a large group of Seneca split off and returned to Ohio, becoming known as the Mingo Seneca. The current Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy include the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Tuscarora and Mohawk. The Iroquois fought for both sides during the Revolutionary War; afterwards many pro-British Iroquois migrated to Canada. Today, the Iroquois still live in several enclaves across New York and Ontario.
Meanwhile, the Lenape formed a close relationship with William Penn. However, upon Penn's death, his sons managed to take over much of their lands and banish them to Ohio. When the U.S. drafted the Indian Removal Act, the Lenape were further moved to Missouri, whereas their cousins, the Mohicans, were sent to Wisconsin.
Also, in 1778, the United States relocated the Nanticoke from the Delmarva Peninsula to the former Iroquois lands south of Lake Ontario, though they did not stay long. Mostly, they chose to migrate into Canada and merge with the Iroquois, although some moved west and merged with the Lenape.
In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian explorer in the service of the French crown, explored the Atlantic coast of North America between the Carolinas and Newfoundland, including New York Harbor and Narragansett Bay. On April 17, 1524, Verrazzano entered New York Bay, by way of the strait now called the Narrows into the northern bay which he named Santa Margherita, in honor of the King of France's sister. Verrazzano described it as "a vast coastline with a deep delta in which every kind of ship could pass" and he adds: "that it extends inland for a league and opens up to form a beautiful lake. This vast sheet of water swarmed with native boats." He landed on the tip of Manhattan and possibly on the furthest point of Long Island. Verrazzano's stay was interrupted by a storm which pushed him north towards Martha's Vineyard.
In 1540, French traders from New France built a chateau on Castle Island, within present-day Albany; it was abandoned the following year due to flooding. In 1614, the Dutch, under the command of Hendrick Corstiaensen, rebuilt the French chateau, which they called Fort Nassau. Fort Nassau was the first Dutch settlement in North America, and was located along the Hudson River, also within present-day Albany. The small fort served as a trading post and warehouse. Located on the Hudson River flood plain, the rudimentary fort was washed away by flooding in 1617, and abandoned for good after Fort Orange (New Netherland) was built nearby in 1623.
Henry Hudson's 1609 voyage marked the beginning of European involvement in the area. Sailing for the Dutch East India Company and looking for a passage to Asia, he entered the Upper New York Bay on September 11 of that year. Word of his findings encouraged Dutch merchants to explore the coast in search of profitable fur trading with local Native American tribes.
During the 17th century, Dutch trading posts established for the trade of pelts from the Lenape, Iroquois, and other tribes were founded in the colony of New Netherland. The first of these trading posts were Fort Nassau (1614, near present-day Albany); Fort Orange (1624, on the Hudson River just south of the current city of Albany and created to replace Fort Nassau), developing into settlement Beverwijck (1647), and into what became Albany; Fort Amsterdam (1625, to develop into the town New Amsterdam, which is present-day New York City); and Esopus (1653, now Kingston). The success of the patroonship of Rensselaerswyck (1630), which surrounded Albany and lasted until the mid-19th century, was also a key factor in the early success of the colony. The English captured the colony during the Second Anglo-Dutch War and governed it as the Province of New York. The city of New York was recaptured by the Dutch in 1673 during the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672–1674) and renamed New Orange. It was returned to the English under the terms of the Treaty of Westminster a year later.
18th century, the American Revolution, and statehood
The Sons of Liberty were organized in New York City during the 1760s, largely in response to the oppressive Stamp Act passed by the British Parliament in 1765. The Stamp Act Congress met in the city on October 19 of that year, composed of representatives from across the Thirteen Colonies who set the stage for the Continental Congress to follow. The Stamp Act Congress resulted in the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, which was the first written expression by representatives of the Americans of many of the rights and complaints later expressed in the United States Declaration of Independence. This included the right to representative government. At the same time, given strong commercial, personal and sentimental links to Britain, many New York residents were Loyalists. The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga provided the cannon and gunpowder necessary to force a British withdrawal from the siege of Boston in 1775.
New York was the only colony not to vote for independence, as the delegates were not authorized to do so. New York then endorsed the Declaration of Independence on July 9, 1776. The New York State Constitution was framed by a convention which assembled at White Plains on July 10, 1776, and after repeated adjournments and changes of location, finished its work at Kingston on Sunday evening, April 20, 1777, when the new constitution drafted by John Jay was adopted with but one dissenting vote. It was not submitted to the people for ratification. On July 30, 1777, George Clinton was inaugurated as the first Governor of New York at Kingston.
Approximately a third of the battles of the American Revolutionary War took place in New York; the first major one and largest of the entire war was the Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn, in August 1776. After their victory, the British occupied present-day New York City, making it their military and political base of operations in North America for the duration of the conflict, and consequently the focus of General George Washington's intelligence network. On the notorious British prison ships of Wallabout Bay, more American combatants died than were killed in combat in every battle of the war combined. Both sides of combatants lost more soldiers to disease than to outright wounds. The first of two major British armies were captured by the Continental Army at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, a success that influenced France to ally with the revolutionaries; the state constitution was enacted in 1777. New York became the 11th state to ratify the United States Constitution, on July 26, 1788.
In an attempt to retain their sovereignty and remain an independent nation positioned between the new United States and British North America, four of the Iroquois Nations fought on the side of the British; only the Oneida and their dependents, the Tuscarora, allied themselves with the Americans. In retaliation for attacks on the frontier led by Joseph Brant and Loyalist Mohawk forces, the Sullivan Expedition of 1779 destroyed nearly 50 Iroquois villages, adjacent croplands and winter stores, forcing many refugees to British-held Niagara.
As allies of the British, the Iroquois were forced out of New York, although they had not been part of treaty negotiations. They resettled in Canada after the war and were given land grants by the Crown. In the treaty settlement, the British ceded most Indian lands to the new United States. Because New York made a treaty with the Iroquois without getting Congressional approval, some of the land purchases have been subject to land claim suits since the late 20th century by the federally recognized tribes. New York put up more than 5 million acres (20,000 km2) of former Iroquois territory for sale in the years after the Revolutionary War, leading to rapid development in Upstate New York. As per the Treaty of Paris, the last vestige of British authority in the former Thirteen Colonies—their troops in New York City—departed in 1783, which was long afterward celebrated as Evacuation Day.
New York City was the national capital under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, the first national government. That organization was found to be inadequate, and prominent New Yorker Alexander Hamilton advocated for a new government that would include an executive, national courts, and the power to tax. Hamilton led the Annapolis Convention (1786) that called for the Philadelphia Convention, which drafted the United States Constitution, in which he also took part. The new government was to be a strong federal national government to replace the relatively weaker confederation of individual states. Following heated debate, which included the publication of the now quintessential constitutional interpretation—The Federalist Papers—as a series of installments in New York City newspapers, New York was the 11th state to ratify the United States Constitution, on July 26, 1788. New York City in New York remained the national capital under the new constitution until 1790, and was the site of the inauguration of President George Washington, the drafting of the United States Bill of Rights, and the first session of the United States Supreme Court.
Both the Dutch and the British imported African slaves as laborers to the city and colony; New York, with its high population, had the second-highest population of slaves after Charleston, South Carolina. Slavery was extensive in New York City and some agricultural areas. The state passed a law for the gradual abolition of slavery soon after the Revolutionary War, but the last slave in New York was not freed until 1827.
19th and 20th century
Transportation in Western New York was by expensive wagons on muddy roads before canals opened up the rich farmlands to long-distance traffic. Governor DeWitt Clinton promoted the Erie Canal, which connected New York City to the Great Lakes by the Hudson River, the new canal, and the rivers and lakes. Work commenced in 1817, and the Erie Canal opened in 1825. Packet boats pulled by horses on tow paths traveled slowly over the canal carrying passengers and freight. Farm products came in from the Midwest, and finished manufactured goods moved west. It was an engineering marvel which opened up vast areas of New York to commerce and settlement. It enabled Great Lakes port cities such as Buffalo and Rochester to grow and prosper. It also connected the burgeoning agricultural production of the Midwest and shipping on the Great Lakes, with the port of New York City. Improving transportation, it enabled additional population migration to territories west of New York. After 1850, railroads largely replaced the canal. The connectivity offered by the canal, and subsequently the railroads, led to an economic boom across the entire state through the 1950s. Major corporations that got their start in New York during this time include American Express, AT&T, Bristol Myers Squibb, Carrier, Chase, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Kodak, Macy's, NBC, Pfizer, Random House, RCA, Tiffany & Co., Wells Fargo, Western Union, and Xerox.
New York City was a major ocean port and had extensive traffic importing cotton from the South and exporting manufacturing goods. Nearly half of the state's exports were related to cotton. Southern cotton factors, planters and bankers visited so often that they had favorite hotels. At the same time, activism for abolitionism was strong upstate, where some communities provided stops on the Underground Railroad. Upstate, and New York City, gave strong support for the American Civil War, in terms of finances, volunteer soldiers, and supplies. The state provided more than 370,000 soldiers to the Union armies. Over 53,000 New Yorkers died in service, roughly one of every seven who served. However, Irish draft riots in 1862 were a significant embarrassment.
Since the early 19th century, New York City has been the largest port of entry for legal immigration into the United States. In the United States, the federal government did not assume direct jurisdiction for immigration until 1890. Prior to this time, the matter was delegated to the individual states, then via contract between the states and the federal government. Most immigrants to New York would disembark at the bustling docks along the Hudson and East Rivers, in the eventual Lower Manhattan. On May 4, 1847, the New York State Legislature created the Board of Commissioners of Immigration to regulate immigration.
The first permanent immigration depot in New York was established in 1855 at Castle Garden, a converted War of 1812 era fort located within what is now Battery Park, at the tip of Lower Manhattan. The first immigrants to arrive at the new depot were aboard three ships that had just been released from quarantine. Castle Garden served as New York's immigrant depot until it closed on April 18, 1890, when the federal government assumed control over immigration. During that period, more than eight million immigrants passed through its doors (two of every three U.S. immigrants).
When the federal government assumed control, it established the Bureau of Immigration, which chose the three-acre (1.2 ha) Ellis Island in Upper New York Harbor for an entry depot. Already federally controlled, the island had served as an ammunition depot. It was chosen due its relative isolation with proximity to New York City and the rail lines of Jersey City, New Jersey, via a short ferry ride. While the island was being developed and expanded via land reclamation, the federal government operated a temporary depot at the Barge Office at the Battery.
Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892, and operated as a central immigration center until the National Origins Act was passed in 1924, reducing immigration. After that date, the only immigrants to pass through were displaced persons or war refugees. The island ceased all immigration processing on November 12, 1954, when the last person detained on the island, Norwegian seaman Arne Peterssen, was released. He had overstayed his shore leave and left on the 10:15 a.m. Manhattan-bound ferry to return to his ship.
More than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. More than a hundred million Americans across the United States can trace their ancestry to these immigrants. Ellis Island was the subject of a contentious and long-running border and jurisdictional dispute between the State of New York and the State of New Jersey, as both claimed it. The issue was officially settled in 1998 by the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that the original 3.3-acre (1.3 ha) island was New York state territory and that the balance of the 27.5 acres (11 ha) added after 1834 by landfill was in New Jersey. The island was added to the National Park Service system in May 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson and is still owned by the federal government as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. Ellis Island was opened to the public as a museum of immigration in 1990.
Since the 20th century
9/11 attacks (2001)
On September 11, 2001, two of four hijacked planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the original World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, and the towers collapsed. 7 World Trade Center also collapsed due to damage from fires. The other buildings of the World Trade Center complex were damaged beyond repair and demolished soon thereafter. The collapse of the Twin Towers caused extensive damage and resulted in the deaths of 2,753 victims, including 147 aboard the two planes. Since September 11, most of Lower Manhattan has been restored. In the years since, over 7,000 rescue workers and residents of the area have developed several life-threatening illnesses, and some have died.
A memorial at the site, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, was opened to the public on September 11, 2011. A permanent museum later opened at the site on March 21, 2014. Upon its completion in 2014, the new One World Trade Center became the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, at 1,776 feet (541 m), meant to symbolize the year America gained its independence, 1776. From 2006 to 2018, 3 World Trade Center, 4 World Trade Center, 7 World Trade Center, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, Liberty Park, and Fiterman Hall were completed. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center are under construction at the World Trade Center site.
Hurricane Sandy (2012)
On October 29 and 30, 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused extensive destruction of the state's shorelines, ravaging portions of New York City, Long Island, and southern Westchester with record-high storm surge, with severe flooding and high winds causing power outages for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, and leading to gasoline shortages and disruption of mass transit systems. The storm and its profound effects have prompted the discussion of constructing seawalls and other coastal barriers around the shorelines of New York City and Long Island to minimize the risk from another such future event. Such risk is considered highly probable due to global warming and rising sea levels.
COVID-19 pandemic (2020–2023)
On March 1, 2020, New York had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 after Washington (state), two months prior. Since March 28, New York had the highest number of confirmed cases of any state in the United States, which is outpaced the state as of February 1, 2021. Nearly 50 percent of known national cases were in the state as of March 2020, with one-third of total known U.S. cases being in New York City.
From May 19–20, Western New York and the Capital Region entered Phase 1 of reopening. On May 26, the Hudson Valley began Phase 1, and New York City partially reopened on June 8.
During July 2020, a federal judge ruled Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio exceeded authority by limiting religious gatherings to 25% when others operated at 50% capacity. On Thanksgiving Eve, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked additional religious restrictions imposed by Cuomo for areas with high infection rates.
New York's government released a new seal, coat of arms, and flag in April 2020, adding "E pluribus unum" below the state's motto. A bill utilizing newly designed flag, arms and seal went into effect in September.
Revived in the early 2000s, Abolition Commemoration Day, also known as the Fifth of July, is a historic celebration commemorating the abolishment of slavery in New York. In July 2020, the New York State Assembly passed legislation officially recognizing Abolition Commemoration Day and Juneteenth in New York. Per the legislation, Abolition Commemoration Day is to be observed on the second Monday in July and Juneteenth on June 19.