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New York

New York is a state in the northeastern United States. It is sometimes called New York State when there is need to distinguish it from New York City, the largest city both in the state and in the nation. Due to the preponderance of the population concentrated in the southern portion around New York City, the state is often regionalized into Upstate and Downstate.

A Brief History New York

New York is located on the American north Atlantic coast and is bordered by Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, Ontario and Quebec.  It is the 3rd most populous state in the US, and is 27th in land mass; New York City is the most populated city in the country and is known as the gateway for immigration, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are located here.  NYC is also considered to be a world capital in the cultural, fashion and financial industries.

New York was first claimed by non-indigenous people in the early 17th century- by the Dutch and the French, and later became an English colony by the middle 1600′s.  New York also played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, playing host to nearly 1/3 of all battles fought; it was the 11th state to ratify the Constitution.

Like so many states, New York′s early economy was based on trade with the neighboring peoples; agriculture and other goods.  Today, the New York State economy is still largely agricultural based, and New York ranks among the top five states for  products such as dairy, apples, cherries, cabbage, potatoes, onions, maple syrup and many others.  It is the nations biggest producer of cabbage.   Nearly 25% of the land in New York State is used for farming.  Other industries of importance include printing and publishing, scientific instruments, electric equipment, machinery, chemical products, and tourism.

Estimated Population: 19.5 Million
Capital: Albany
Largest City: New York City
Oldest City: Albany (formerly Fort Orange)
State Bird: Bluebird
State Tree: Sugar Maple
State Flower: Rose

Early Settlement

The first European settlers in the area now known as the U.S. State of New York were Dutch settlers in the colony known as New Netherland, beginning in 1613. The English took over in 1664, renaming the colony New York, after the Duke of York, the future King James II. On November 1, 1683, the government was reorganized. The state was divided into twelve counties, each of which was subdivided into towns. The territory of New York extended much farther north than present-day New York State. Two of New York′s counties, Cornwall and Dukes, later became parts of Massachusetts and Maine.



New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that became the United States. Its constitution, based on its colonial charter, and ratified in 1777, called for a weak bicameral legislature and a strong executive. It retained provisions from the colonial charter such as the substantial property qualification for voting, and the ability of the governor to disband the elected legislature. This imbalance of power between the branches of state government kept the elite firmly in control, and disenfranchised most New Yorkers who would fight the Revolutionary War. Slavery was legal in New York until 1827.


Westward Expansion

The western part of New York had been settled by the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy for at least five hundred years before Europeans came. The Iroquois had maintained the area between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes by annual burning as a grassland prairie, abounding in wild game including grazing American Bison herds. In colonial times, the Iroquois were prosperous, growing corn, vegetables and orchards, and keeping cows and hogs; fish and game were abundant.

The colonial charter of New York granted unlimited westward expansion. Massachusetts′ charter had the same provision, causing territorial disputes between the colonies and with the Iroquois. During the war, four of the Iroquois nations fought on the side of the British. In 1779, Major General John Sullivan was sent to defeat the Iroquois. The Sullivan Expedition moved northward through the Finger Lakes and Genesee Country, burning all the Iroquois communities, destroying their crops and their orchards. Refugees fled to Fort Niagara, where they spent the following winter in hunger and misery. Hundreds died of exposure, hunger and disease. After the war, many moved to Canada.

Sullivan′s men returned from the campaign to Pennsylvania and New England to tell of the enormous wealth of this new territory. Many of them were given land grants in gratitude for their service in the Revolution. From 1786 through 1797 several groups of wealthy land speculators entered into agreements with one another, with neighboring states, and with the Indians to obtain title to vast tracts of land in western New York. Some purchases of Iroquois lands are the subject of numerous modern-day land claims by the individual nations of the Six Nations.



Transportation in western New York was difficult before canals were built in the early part of the nineteenth century. The Hudson and Mohawk Rivers could be navagated only as far as Central New York. The St. Lawrence River could be navagated to Lake Ontario the way westward to the other Great Lakes was blocked by Niagara Falls, and so the only route to western New York was over land. Governor DeWitt Clinton strongly advocated building a canal to connect the Hudson River with Lake Erie, and thus all the Great Lakes. Work commenced in 1817, and the Erie Canal was finished in 1825. The canal opened up vast areas of New York to commerce and settlement, and enabled port cities such as Buffalo to grow and prosper. The Welland Canal was completed in 1833, bypassing Niagara Falls to connect Lakes Ontario and Erie.


Law and government

As in all fifty states, the head of the executive branch of government is a Governor. The legislative branch is called the Legislature and consists of a Senate and an Assembly. Unlike most States, the New York electoral law permits electoral fusion, and New York ballots tend to have, in consequence, a larger number of parties on them, some being permanent minor parties that seek to influence the major parties and others being ephemeral parties formed to give major-party candidates an additional line on the ballot.

New York′s legislature is notoriously dysfunctional. The Assembly has long been controlled by the Democrats, the Senate has long been controlled by the Republicans, and there is little change in membership election to election. From 1984 through 2004, no budget was passed on time, and for many years the legislature was unable to pass legislation for which there was supposed to be a consensus, such as reforming the so-called Rockefeller drug laws.

In presidential elections, New York tends to support Democratic candidates and has done so consistently beginning in 1988, mainly because of the weight of New York City, a Democratic and Liberal stronghold. In 2004, New York gave John Kerry a comfortable margin of 18 percentage points and 58.4% of the vote. Many counties of Upstate New York, especially in rural areas, voted for the Republican candidate. However, this is with the notable exception of those Upstate counties with large cities, such as Erie County (Buffalo), Monroe County (Rochester), Onondaga County (Syracuse), Tompkins County (Ithaca), and Albany County (Albany), as well as several others which voted Democratic in 2004.

In 2002, 16,892 bills were introduced in the New York legislature, more than twice as many as in the Illinois General Assembly, whose members are the second most prolific. Of those bills, only 4 percent (693) actually became law, the lowest passing percentage in the country. In 2004, over 17,000 bills were introduced.

New York′s legislature also has more paid staff (3,428) than any other legislature in the nation. Pennsylvania, whose staff is the second largest, only has 2,947, and California only 2,359. New York′s legislature also has more committees than any other legislature in the nation.

New York′s subordinate political units are its 62 counties. Other officially incorporated governmental units are towns, cities, and villages.

For decades it has been the established practice for Albany to pass legislation for some meritorious project, but then mandate county and municipal government to actually pay for it. New York State has its counties pay a higher percentage of welfare costs than any other state and New York State is the only state which requires counties to pay a portion of Medicaid.

The court system in New York is notable for its "backwards" naming: the state′s trial court is called the New York Supreme Court, while the highest court in the state is the New York Court of Appeals.


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