On one of the world's largest natural harbors, New York City consists of five boroughs, each of which is a county of New York State.
The five boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island – were consolidated into a single city in 1898. With a census-estimated 2013 population of 8,405,837 distributed over a land area of just 305 square miles (790 km2), New York is the most densely populated major city in the United States. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.
By 2013 census estimates, the New York City metropolitan region remains by a significant margin the most populous in the United States, as defined by both the Metropolitan Statistical Area (19.9 million residents) and the Combined Statistical Area (23.5 million residents).
The first peoples of New York are estimated to have arrived around 10,000 BC. Around 800 AD, Iroquois ancestors moved into the area from the Appalachian region. The people of the Point Peninsula Complex, were the predecessors of the Algonquian peoples of New York. By around 1100, the distinct Iroquoian-speaking and Algonquian-speaking cultures that would eventually be encountered by Europeans had developed. The five nations of the Iroquois League developed a powerful confederacy about the 15th century that controlled territory throughout present-day New York, into Pennsylvania around the Great Lakes. For centuries, the Mohawk cultivated maize fields in the lowlands of the Mohawk River, which were later taken over by Dutch settlers at Schenectady, New York when they bought this territory. The Iroquois nations to the west also had well-cultivated areas and orchards.
The Iroquois established dominance over the fur trade throughout their territory, bargaining with European colonists. Other New York tribes were more subject to either European destruction or assimilation within the Iroquoian confederacy. Algonquian tribes were less united among their tribes; they typically lived along rivers, streams, or the Atlantic Coast. But, both groups of natives were well-established peoples with highly sophisticated cultural systems; these were little understood or appreciated by the European colonists who encountered them. The natives had "a complex and elaborate native economy that included hunting, gathering, manufacturing, and farming...[and were] a mosaic of Native American tribes, nations, languages, and political associations."
New York covers 54,555 square miles (141,300 km2) and ranks as the 27th largest state by size. The Great Appalachian Valley dominates eastern New York and contains the Lake Champlain Valley as its northern half and the Hudson Valley as its southern half within the state. The rugged Adirondack Mountains, with vast tracts of wilderness, lie west of the Lake Champlain Valley. The Hudson River begins near Lake Tear of the Clouds and flows south through the eastern part of the state without draining Lakes George or Champlain. Lake George empties at its north end into Lake Champlain, whose northern end extends into Canada, where it drains into the Richelieu River and then ultimately the Saint Lawrence River. Four of New York City's five boroughs are situated on three islands at the mouth of the Hudson River: Manhattan Island; Staten Island; and Long Island, which contains Brooklyn and Queens on its western end.
Most of the southern part of the state is on the Allegheny Plateau, which rises from the southeast to the Catskill Mountains. The western section of the state is drained by the Allegheny River and rivers of the Susquehanna and Delaware systems. The Delaware River Basin Compact, signed in 1961 by New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the federal government, regulates the utilization of water of the Delaware system. The highest elevation in New York is Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks.
New York's borders touch (clockwise from the west) two Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario, which are connected by the Niagara River); the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada; Lake Champlain; three New England states (Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut); the Atlantic Ocean, and two Mid-Atlantic states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In addition, Rhode Island shares a water border with New York. New York is the only state that touches both the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, and is the second-largest of the original Thirteen Colonies.
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