Kate Bevan   17 February 2018

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty has been welcoming visitors and migrants to New York since 1886. Photo: Celso FLORES / Flickr

We love New York at WorldRemit – we love its skyscrapers, its buzz, its history and its people, who come from all over the world, and we love the whole of New York State, too, which is home to nearly 20m people. But most of all we love the fact that you can now send money via WorldRemit from the state – and of course the city – to anywhere in the world.

To celebrate one of our favourite cities, we’ve found out some things to help you get to know New York better.

America’s gateway

New York has always been a key arrival place for people coming to make new lives in the USA: the Statue of Liberty has stood at the entrance to the harbour since 1886, welcoming “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.

Many immigrants landed in the United States via Ellis Island in New York Harbour, which was the first federal immigration station, and between 1892 and 1954, more than 12m people passed through immigration there.

The island’s name comes from its first private owner, Samuel Ellis, who acquired it during the 1770s, but before then it had been known by the local Native American people as Kioshk, or Gull Island, and by the Dutch and British colonial immigrants as Oyster Island for its oyster beds.

Migrants who make their home in New York

New York City and New York State are still great melting pots: of the state’s some 20m inhabitants, immigrants make up about 22 per cent of the population, according to the State Comptroller Thomas P DiNapoli – that’s much higher than the nationwide figure of 13 per cent.

And most people migrating to the US settle in NYC: according to DiNapoli, nearly three quarters of the 631,000 immigrants who arrived in the US between 2010 and 2015 made their homes in the city.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, 23 per cent of New York State residents were immigrants in 2016, while nearly 21 per cent of American-born US citizens have an immigrant parent.

Of the immigrants, 4.5 per cent are from Africa, with more than half (107,591) coming from western Africa, and 42,191 from northern Africa.

It’s not just the iconic city, though, that’s provided new homes and new starts to migrants: by 1900, the state’s population of 7.3m was bigger than any other state in the Union, and now migrants and their children make up nearly a quarter of the population in Utica, while in other upstate cities Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Schenectady, more than 10 per cent of the people who live there are migrants.


WATCH: More things we love about the Empire State in video

Native New Yorkers (the original kind)

Of course, there’s a population that long predates any migrant communities in New York – the Native Americans. Today there are eight federally recognised tribes in the state, according to the New York State Education Department – the Cayuga Nation of Indians, the Oneida Indian Nation, the Onondaga Nation, the St Regis Band of Mohawk Indians, the Seneca Nation, the Tonawanda Band of Senecas, the Shinnecock Nation and the Tuscarora Nation.

The earliest evidence of native people in New York State are flint quarries dating from around 9000 BC, and it wasn’t until 1609 that the Native Americans in the area had to deal with the first influxes of migrants when Europeans followed in the footsteps of explorer John Cabot, who first explored the coast in 1498.

Now, New York State has one of the bigger populations of Native Americans: in 2010, there were more than 221,000 native people, according to the US government.

Early days

The first non-native visitors to what is now New York were the Italian John Cabot in 1498, followed by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1604, who mapped the coast, but it wasn’t until 1609 that the area was first settled by Europeans when Henry Hudson established the first colony.

It was the Dutch who first made their homes in New York – the settlement was established in 1621 and called New Netherland, supplanting the name of Nouvelle Angoulême given to the area by explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524.

The city was incorporated in 1652 and called New Amsterdam, but just 12 years later, in 1664, it was ceded by the Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant, to England and was duly renamed New York.

The Dutch briefly regained the city in 1673, giving it yet another name – New Orange – before finally handing it back to the British a year later.

By 1698, there were just under 5,000 people living in New York – a far cry from the 8.5m who call it home today.

New York was the 11th state to be admitted to the union after the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, joining in 1788.

New York map

New York is a city of migrants, and always has been: now people born outside the US make up some 22% of the population. Picture: Library of Congress

Visiting New York

Of course people don’t just come to live in New York, they come to visit – in their millions. New York’s iconic skyline, eating, theatres, shops, parks, beaches, museums and other sights attract more than 60m visitors a year, with most of those tourists – 1.2m in 2016 – coming from the UK.

China sent 951,000 visitors to New York in 2016, while 951,000 popped over the border from Canada.

However, most visitors to New York come from other places in the US: in 2016, nearly 48m of the total 60.5m tourists were from elsewhere in the US, with just 12.7m coming from abroad, a trend that’s been constant over the years.

And visitors to New York aren’t afraid of putting their hands in their pockets: the amount of money tourists spend in the city has risen every year between 2010, when they spent $31.5bn, and 2016, when the figure was $43bn.

City and state

When you say New York to most people, the first things that spring to mind is probably the iconic skyline, the Statue of Liberty, the yellow cabs and the city’s buzz. But there’s more to New York than just the city – and the city isn’t even the state capital. That’s Albany, a city of just under 100,000 people that sits 240km north of NYC.

New York State Capitol

Did you know that New York isn't the capital of New York? It's Albany, where the State Capitol is located. Picture: Jim Bowen / Flickr

Albany, named for the future James II who also held the title of Duke of Albany, beat New York City to be the first European settlement in what’s now the state, having been settled by Dutch colonists in 1614.

The city’s first name was Dutch: it was called Beverwijck – or “Beaver District” – as the area’s early settlers were fur traders. It didn’t gain its current name until 1664.

New York has come a long way from its early days, sprawling across five boroughs – Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn – with the state generating a GDP of $1.488 trillion in 2016, or $59,563 a head.

And finally …

Did we mention that one of the newest things about New York is that you can now send money from the state via WorldRemit? That’s the thing we love best about it.

What do you love about New York? Do tell us in the comments below!