Sunday, February 18, 2007

New York

New York is the third most populous state of the United States of America. Located in the Mid-Atlantic region, it is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It also shares an international border with Canada. The state's five largest cities are New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers and Syracuse. New York is known for its history as a gateway for immigration to the United States and its status as a transportation and manufacturing center. The state has 62 counties.

New York was inhabited by Algonquian and Iroquois Native Americans at the time Dutch and French settlers arrived in the 16th century. New York was forted by the Dutch at Albany in 1614 and colonized in 1624, at both Albany and Manhattan, before falling under English rule in 1664. About one third of all the military engagements of the American Revolution took place in New York, after which it became the 11th state to ratify the United States Constitution in 1788.


New York covers 54,475 sq miles (141,089 sq kilometers). In size, New York ranks 27th compared with the other 50 states. The Great Appalachian Valley dominates eastern New York, while Lake Champlain is the chief northern feature of the valley, which also includes the Hudson River flowing southward to the Atlantic Ocean. The rugged Adirondack Mountains, with vast tracts of wilderness, lie west of the valley. 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.

New York's borders touch (clockwise from the north) two Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario, which are connected by the Niagara River); one former Great Lake (Lake Champlain); the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada; 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.

While the state is best known for New York City's urban atmosphere, especially Manhattan's skyscrapers, most of the state is dominated by farms, forests, rivers, mountains, and lakes. New York's Adirondack State Park is larger than any U.S. National Park outside of Alaska. Niagara Falls, on the Niagara River as it flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, is a popular attraction. The Hudson River begins with 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 and then the St Lawrence Rivers. Four of New York City's five boroughs are on the three islands at the mouth of the Hudson River: Manhattan Island, Staten Island, and Brooklyn and Queens on Long Island.

"Upstate" is a common term for New York State counties north of suburban Westchester, Rockland and Dutchess counties. Upstate New York typically includes the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains, the Shawangunk Ridge, the Finger Lakes and the Great Lakes in the west; and Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Oneida Lake in the northeast; and rivers such as the Delaware, Genesee, Mohawk, and Susquehanna. The highest elevation in New York is Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks.


The climate of New York State is broadly representative of the humid continental type, which prevails in the northeastern United States, but its diversity is not usually encountered within an area of comparable size. Masses of cold, dry air frequently arrive from the northern interior of the continent. Prevailing winds from the south and southwest transport warm, humid air, which has been conditioned by the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent subtropical waters. These two air masses provide the dominant continental characteristics of the climate. A third great air mass flows inland from the North Atlantic Ocean and produces cool, cloudy, and damp weather conditions.

Nearly all storm and frontal systems moving eastward across the continent pass through or in close proximity to New York State. Storm systems often move northward along the Atlantic coast and have an important influence on the weather and climate of Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley. Frequently, areas deep in the interior of the state feel the effects of such coastal storms.

The winters are long and cold in the Plateau Divisions of the state. In the majority of winter seasons, a temperature of -25° or lower can be expected in the northern highlands (Northern Plateau) and -15° or colder in the southwestern and east-central highlands (Southern Plateau). The Adirondack region records from 35 to 45 days with below zero temperatures in normal to severe winters.

The summer climate is cool in the Adirondacks, Catskills, and higher elevations of the Southern Plateau. The New York City area and lower portions of the Hudson Valley have rather warm summers by comparison, with some periods of high, uncomfortable humidity. The remainder of New York State enjoys pleasantly warm summers, marred by only occasional, brief intervals of sultry conditions. Summer daytime temperatures usually range from the upper 70s to mid 80s over much of the State, producing an atmospheric environment favorable to many athletic, recreational, and other outdoor activities.

State parks

New York has many state parks and two major forest preserves. Adirondack State Park, roughly the size of the state of Vermont and the largest state park in the United States, was established in 1892 and given state constitutional protection in 1894. The thinking that lead to the creation of the Park first appeared in George Perkins Marsh's Man and Nature, published in 1864. Marsh argued that deforestation could lead to desertification; referring to the clearing of once-lush lands surrounding the Mediterranean, he asserted "the operation of causes set in action by man has brought the face of the earth to a desolation almost as complete as that of the moon."

The Catskill State Park was protected in legislation passed in 1885, which declared that its land was to be conserved and never put up for sale or lease. Consisting of 700,000 acres (2,800 km²) of land, the park is a habitat for bobcats, minks and fishers. There are some 400 black bears living in the region. The state operates numerous campgrounds and there are over 300 miles (480 km) of multi-use trails in the Park.


The area was long inhabited by the Lenape; Lenape in canoes met Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first European explorer to enter New York Harbor, in 1524. Giovanni da Verrazzano named this place Nouvelle Angoulême (New Angouleme) in honor of the French king François I. A French explorer and mapper, Samuel de Champlain, described his explorations through New York in 1608. A year later Henry Hudson, an Englishman working for the Dutch, claimed the area in the name of the Netherlands. It was to be called New Amsterdam.

The Dutch, who began to establish trading posts on the Hudson River in 1613, claimed jurisdiction over the territory between the Connecticut and the Delaware Rivers, which they called New Netherlands. The government was vested in "The United New Netherland Company," chartered in 1614, and then in "The Dutch West India Company," chartered in 1622.

In 1649, a convention of the settlers petitioned the "Lords States-General of the United Netherlands" to grant them "suitable burgher government, such as their High Mightinesses shall consider adapted to this province, and resembling somewhat the government of our Fatherland," with certain permanent privileges and exemptions, that they might pursue "the trade of our country, as well along the coast from Terra Nova to Cape Florida as to the West Indies and Europe, whenever our Lord God shall be pleased to permit."
The Hudson River has long been an essential transportation corridor for the state.
The Hudson River has long been an essential transportation corridor for the state.

The directors of the West India Company resented this attempt to shake their rule and wrote their director and council at New Amsterdam: "We have already connived as much as possible at the many impertinences of some restless spirits, in the hope that they might be shamed by our discreetness and benevolence, but, perceiving that all kindnesses do not avail, we must, therefore, have recourse to God to Nature and the Law. We accordingly hereby charge and command your Honors whenever you shall certainly discover any Clandestine Meetings, Conventicles or machinations against our States government or that of our country that you proceed against such malignants in proportion to their crimes."

These grants embraced all the lands between the west bank of the Connecticut River and the east bank of the Delaware River.

In 1663 the Duke of York purchased the grant of Long Island and other islands on the New England coast made in 1635 to the Earl of Stirling, and, in 1664, the Duke equipped an armed expedition, which took possession of New Amsterdam, which was thenceforth called New York, after the Duke. This conquest was confirmed by the treaty of Breda, in July 1667. In July 1673, a Dutch fleet recaptured New York and held it until it was restored to the English by the treaty of Westminster in February, 1674.

New York was established by its colonial charter. This constitution was framed by a convention which assembled at White Plains, New York on July 10, 1776, and after repeated adjournments and changes of location, terminated its labors at Kingston, New York on Sunday evening, April 20, 1777, when the constitution was adopted with but one dissenting vote. It was not submitted to the people for ratification. It was drafted by John Jay.

The western part of New York had been settled by the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy for at least 500 years before Europeans came. The Iroquois had maintained the area between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes as a grassland prairie, which abounded in wild game including grazing American Bison herds. In colonial times, the Iroquois were prosperously growing corn, vegetables and orchards, and keeping cows and hogs; fish were also abundant.

The colonial charter of New York granted unlimited westward expansion, despite Native American presence in the Area. Massachusetts' charter had the same provision, causing territorial disputes between the colonies and with the Iroquois. During the revolution, four of the Iroquois nations fought on the side of the British, with one exception the Oneidas. 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 and destroying their crops and 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.

For the Oneida nation's assistance in defeating the British, primarily assisting General Washington's army at Valley Forge, then President Washington while on tour of the Mohawk Valley signed the Treaty of Canandaigua. This Treaty promised the Oneidas among other things a large swath of land from Pennsylvania to Canada, forever. The Treaty was violated in the mid-1800's by New York State. This became the basis for the present land claim dispute.

New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that became the United States. It was the 11th state to ratify the United States Constitution, on July 26, 1788.
The creation of the Erie Canal lead to rapid industrialization in New York.
The creation of the Erie Canal lead to rapid industrialization in New York.

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 navigated only as far as Central New York. While the St. Lawrence River could be navigated 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 1972.

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.