New York City is one of the most unique cities in North America; a prized destination for travellers from around the world. Yusuf Alireza, former CEO of Noble Group in Hong Kong and president of Goldman Sachs’ Asia Operations, was born in Egypt and grew up in Bahrain. In his professional career Mr. Alireza has had reason to visit some of the most well-known places in the world, yet New York, with its rich layers of culture and bustling, modern vitality, remains one of his favourite spots.
The first individuals to live in NYC were the indigenous Lenape people who spoke a variant of the Algonquian language. European influence began in 1524 when the French ship, La Dauphine, under the command of Giovanni de Verrazzano, passed briefly through the Narrows; the straight separating Brooklyn and Staten Island. In 1609, French explorers were succeeded by the British under command of Henry Hudson, who gave his name to the river that empties into the sea just below Manhattan Island.
The first permanent settlement was made by the Dutch in 1624, who established a fur trading post and later a fort in what is now Lower Manhattan. The Dutch colony of New Amsterdam lasted until 1664 when it was conquered by the British who renamed the area ‘New York’. The Dutch formally ceded control of the colony in 1674, yet their influence still remains in well-known district names such as Brooklyn and Harlem. The Wyckoff House in Brooklyn, the oldest house in NYC, dates from the Dutch colonisation.
NYC became an early seat of American independence when it hosted the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. However, the city was later taken by the British and held throughout the war, making it a safe-haven for colonists still loyal to the crown. After the war, NYC became the first capital of the US for a brief year before the title was transferred to Philadelphia.
The Growth of Diversity
Throughout US history, NYC has been a major industrial and trading centre, as well as an entry point for immigrants from all over the world. Economic power and population grew almost immediately with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, which created a waterway through to the Great Lakes and the interior of the country. Waves of immigrants followed throughout the 19th century; the largest number hailed from Ireland after the Great Famine there from 1845-50, however German and English immigrants also played an important role. These were succeeded by Italian, Jewish and Asian settlers that have contributed to some of the city’s well-known neighbourhoods. NYC’s black population dates all the way back to the early days of the Dutch colonisation, but it was greatly augmented by the internal migration of African-American’s after the American Civil War, making the city a hotbed for the development of jazz music and the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s.
This diverse group of influences has created the NYC we know today, marked by massive sky-scrapers, a thriving entertainment industry, numerous historical and cultural landmarks and of course the Financial District dominated by the powerful Wall Street stock exchange.
Things to See
Visitors must plan their trip carefully, since it’s impossible to see all of NYC on a single trip. Here is a small sampling of the many activities that can be found throughout the city:
- Impressive Views
- Empire State Building – Completed in 1931, the sky-scraper was the world’s tallest building for 40 years and the building is still one of the city’s most famous landmarks.
- Rockefeller Center – The Top of the Rock Observation deck offers an alternative view of the city, while on-the-ground attractions include Rockefeller Plaza and Radio City Music Hall; home of the Rockettes.
- Famous Places
- Times Square – No trip to NYC is complete without experiencing the massive, lit up billboards of Times Square.
- Grand Central Station – This historic transportation centre is a museum in itself.
- Statue of Liberty – A ferry trip to Liberty Island will let visitors experience this famous symbol up close, however advanced reservations are needed to climb the statue or visit the crown.
- Coney Island – A combination of history and relaxation, visitors can enjoy the beach or visit one of the most famous amusement parks in the world.
- Wall Street – The dark imposing streets of New York’s Financial District hint at the layers of money that have built the city. The Charging Bull statue in Bowling Green has become one of the most photographed symbols of Wall Street.
- Central Park – The city’s largest park, as well as one of its well-known landmarks; a visit to Central Park can’t be missed, whether it’s a brief evening stroll or an in-depth bicycle tour.
- Flushing Meadows-Corona Park – Made famous by the World’s Fair, this park is still home to attractions such as Citi Field and Queens Zoo.
- Brooklyn Botanical Gardens – Home to one of the most visited Japanese gardens located outside Japan.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art – A must-see for anyone who loves the great museums of the world. The largest museum in the US is located on the edge of Central Park.
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – The building itself is a city landmark, not to mention the collection of masterpieces by artists such as Cezanne and Gauguin.
- Museum of Modern Art – MoMA epitomises NYC’s embodiment of developing culture with one of the most renowned collection of works by modern and contemporary artists.
- Tenement Museum of New York City – Learn about the experiences of immigrant life with this tour of apartments and neighbourhoods on the Lower East Side.
- National September 11 Memorial and Museum – Remember the tragic events that have shaped our current century at this stop in downtown Manhattan.
- Broadway – A Broadway show is the epitome of what NYC is all about and there is always a wide selection of productions to choose from.
- Lincoln Center – For those interested in the fine arts, the Lincoln Center is home to the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
- Theatre – The Public Theater in NYC has five different venues and sponsors all types of avant-garde and traditional productions.
All of these attractions can be complimented by elegant dining and shopping experiences that will satisfy every traveller. Anyone looking for the cultural vacation of a lifetime should consider making NYC their next destination.