New York City is quite a large place, although many tourists do not venture far from the island of Manhattan. We are composed of five boroughs [often abbreviated boros]. These are Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Each boro has a different flavor and all are worth visiting. Here is a brief synopsis.
Manhattan: Located on a long narrow island in New York Harbor, Manhattan is nestled between the Hudson River and the East River, which is really a tidal estuary. The Harlem river is to the north. North Manhattan is quite hilly and contains the last remaining virgin forest in NYC. Directions are given in "uptown" which means North and "downtown" which means south. Fifth Ave is the dividing line between east and west and is essential for addresses. 600 East 42nd Street and 600 West 42nd Street are quite a distance away. Here are the skyscrapers, Broadway, Greenwich Village, SOHO and the Trade Center. This is the area that you know as New York but it is not where most New Yorkers actually live.
The Bronx: This is the only boro that is connected to the mainland, and is mostly north of Manhattan. It is named after Jonas Bronk who had a farm here in pre-colonial days. The Bronx is home to my beloved Yankees. It is also the home to the Botanical Gardens, Wave Hill and the Bronx Zoo. The Bronx is undergoing a rebirth as of late. Even the South Bronx is blossoming with artist spaces and coffee shops. Did you know that the Bronx contains an actual fishing village. Yep, City Island is connected to the boro by a narrow causeway and is our own New England fishing village.
Brooklyn: Brooklyn and Queens are the two western counties of Long Island. They are separated from Manhattan by the East River. If you look at a map of New York, Long Island is the large landmass that juts out into the Atlantic. Sort of our Cape Cod - without the chowder. Standing alone, Brooklyn would be the 4th largest city in the US. You have heard of the neighborhoods here. Places like Flatbush, Brooklyn Heights, Coney Island, DUMBO, Fort Greene and Park Slope. Williamsburg is now the center of NY nightlife. The Boro is connected to Manhattan by three great bridges, The Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan bridge and the mother of them all - the Brooklyn Bridge.
Queens: Separated from Brooklyn by the polluted Newtown Creek, Queens is home to lots of diverse folks. Jackson Heights is said to be the most diverse neighborhood in the country and the #7 train is called the International Express. Flying into JFK or LGA? You are in Queens. Queens is also home to the Mets, the US Open and the Panorama. Two world's fairs were held in Flushing Meadow Park. Visitors beware of the street system. 64th Street, 64th Drive, 64th Road, 64th Place, 64th Avenue may be scattered throughout the boro. If you see an address with a hyphen it it, you are in Queens.
Staten Island. You know, where the ferry drops you off. Like most New Yorkers I do not know a lot about this island in the harbor. Geographically, it is closer to New Jersey. But, it also has some hidden gems like the Richmondtown restoration and the Tibetan Museum.
Now, while we have our home boroughs, we are also grouped into neighborhoods. While the lines may be imaginary, they are no less known to us. When a New Yorker asks us where we are from, we normally say the neighborhood. I'm in Soho. Rego Park. Sheepshead Bay. Riverdale, etc. Each neighborhood has its own special character. There is lots of neighborhood pride.
Also, many neighborhoods have smaller subdivisions. Take a place like Williamsburg where the Southside is Hasidic, the Northside was formerly Polish and is now Hipster, and the Eastside which is largely Hispanic. One more thing, when someone from an outer boro is going to Manhattan, we commonly say that we are going "to the City."
Here to help you further get a grasp on things, Mr. Gene Kelly and friends from the musical "On the Town", singing and dancing in "New York, New York - a Hell of a Town."