City Focus: New York

By Will Girling

Frank Sinatra wanted to be a part of it, and, more recently, Alicia Keys called it the ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made’ - it’s the city so nice they named it twice: New York, New York. 

Founded by Dutch settlers in 1624 under the name ‘New Amsterdam’, the city received its more well-known moniker in 1664 when it was gifted to the Duke of York as an 18th birthday present. Now known as New York, the city had the honour of being the first US capital when the constitution was ratified in 1789. However, it was soon replaced with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and then finally Washington D.C. in 1800. Now home to over 8mn citizens (one in 38 Americans call it their home), New York is comprised of five boroughs: Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Demonstrating the sheer scale of New York, either Brooklyn or Queens alone would count as the fourth-largest city in the US if they were designated separate cities. 

With over 600 languages spoken, New York City is one of the most linguistically diverse places in the world. Ellis Island and Liberty Island are symbols of the city’s history of ethnic diversity and partnership with other nations - the latter featuring the iconic Statue of Liberty. A present from France to celebrate the USA’s centennial, the statue was officially dedicated in 1886 and was constructed from 350 separate pieces.


The Greater New York City region has a GDP of US$1.21trn, making it the second-largest metropolitan economy in the world after Tokyo, Japan. In 2012, it was recorded that New York City accounted for roughly 8% of the USA’s GDP, although the city itself only uses about 1% of the country’s total landmass. Home to more than 380,000 millionaires and 78 billionaires, New York City’s Federal Reserve Bank possesses the world’s largest quantity of stored gold. Contained in a vault hidden 80ft beneath the earth is 7,000 tonnes of gold bullion, approximately 5% of all the gold that has ever been mined.

Home to the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ - the largest stock exchanges currently operating today - the city is a proverbial mecca for business, with each borough contributing to key economic areas.


The financial heart of New York City, Manhattan is a global leader in terms of the banking and communications sectors. Providing an estimated 5% of private-sector jobs and 8.5% of the city’s tax revenue, the borough which houses Wall Street is rightly regarded as an economic powerhouse. Containing iconic office-buildings such as the Empire State Building, which accommodates the corporate offices of Air China, LinkedIn, JCDecaux and more, Manhattan also facilitates New York’s role as an established media power from the advertising industry based on Madison Avenue. Real estate contributes significantly to the city’s economy; it has recently been estimated that the total market value of all New York properties is $1.8trn. Manhattan has properties frequently valued as the most expensive in the world, such as the Times Warner Center and the Waldorf Astoria.

The Bronx

Although it suffered a gradual decline following the Great Depression in 1929, the Bronx has been experiencing an economic revival since the 1980s. Most notably, the area contains some of the city’s largest shopping centres, such as The Hub, Southern Boulevard and Bay Plaza. The Bronx Terminal Market, located in Concourse, just south of Yankee Stadium, is an almost 1mn sqft retail space. Costing $500mn to construct, the market was opened in 2009 and currently houses well-known brands like Target, Home Depot and Staples.


The borough of Queens has the second-largest (after Manhattan) and most vibrantly diverse economy in New York. Although the area’s main sectors are trade, transportation and utilities, Queens also has significant input from the healthcare, manufacturing, construction and media industries. A key contributor to the borough is the presence of the two major airports: JFK International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. Ranked as some of the busiest in the world, JFK IA alone handled over 61mn passengers in 2018, placing it in the top 25 busiest overall. Long Island City, a residential and commercial district located in western Queens, is also one of New York’s most up-and-coming locations.



Traditionally the manufacturing epicentre of New York City, Brooklyn started to diversify its economy towards the end of the 20th Century. Now with thriving construction and services sectors, Brooklyn is also reported to have the second-largest growth rate amongst tech startups in the country, behind only San Francisco, California. Featuring alluring office space and lower rent costs than other boroughs like Manhattan, tech companies have found compelling operational reasons to base their businesses in Brooklyn. Notable companies in the sector include Vice Media, Makerbot and Kickstarter. 

Staten Island

The least populated (approximately 476,000 people) but one of the larger boroughs of New York City, Staten Island was originally known as the Borough of Richmond until it was changed in 1975. The economy of the area is primarily composed of the healthcare, retail and construction sectors and has a GDP of $14.5bn. More recently, Staten Island has experienced growth in real estate, finance and warehousing - the latter being a result of Amazon’s new $100mn fulfilment centre in Matrix Global Logistics Park in 2018.


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