Brooklyn (/ˈbrʊklɨn/) is the most populous of New York City’s five boroughs, with a Census-estimated 2,621,793 people in 2014. It is geographically adjacent to the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, the most populous county in the State of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County (Manhattan). With a land area of 71 square miles (180 km2) and water area of 26 square miles (67 km2), Kings County is the fourth-smallest county in New York State by land area and third-smallest by total area, though it is the second-largest among New York City’s five boroughs. Today, if it were an independent city, Brooklyn would rank as the fourth most populous city in the U.S., behind only the other boroughs of New York City combined, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Brooklyn was an independent incorporated city (and previously an authorized village and town within the provisions of the New York State Constitution), until January 1, 1898, when, after a long political campaign and public relations battle during the 1890s, according to the new Municipal Charter of “Greater New York”, Brooklyn was consolidated with the other cities, boroughs and counties to form the modern “City of New York” surrounding the Upper New York Bay with five constituent boroughs. It continues, however, to maintain a distinct culture, as befitting the former second or third largest city in America during the later 19th century. Many Brooklyn neighborhoods are ethnic enclaves where particular ethnic and nationality groups and cultures predominate. Brooklyn’s official motto is Eendraght Maeckt Maght, which translates from early modern Dutch to “In unity, there is strength”. The motto is displayed on the Borough seal and flag, which also feature a young robed woman bearing a bundle of bound rods known as a “fasces”, a traditional emblem of Republicanism. Brooklyn’s official colors are blue and gold.
Brooklyn has a high degree of linguistic diversity. As of 2010, 54.12% (1,240,416) of Brooklyn residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a primary language, while 17.16% (393,340) spoke Spanish, 6.46% (148,012) Chinese, 5.31% (121,607) Russian, 3.47% (79,469) Yiddish, 2.75% (63,019) French Creole, 1.35% (31,004) Italian, 1.20% (27,440) Hebrew, 1.01% (23,207) Polish, 0.99% (22,763) French, 0.95% (21,773) Arabic, 0.85% (19,388) various Indic languages, 0.70% (15,936) Urdu, and African languages were spoken as a main language by 0.54% (12,305) of the population over the age of five. In total, 45.88% (1,051,456) of Brooklyn’s population age 5 and older spoke a mother language other than English.
The history of European settlement in Brooklyn spans more than 350 years. The settlement began in the 17th century as the small Dutch-founded town of “Breuckelen” on the East River shore of Long Island, grew to be a sizable city in the 19th century, and was consolidated in 1898 with New York City (then confined to Manhattan and part of the Bronx), the remaining rural areas of Kings County, and the largely rural areas of Queens and Staten Island, to form the modern City of New York.
Brooklyn elected a mayor from 1834 until consolidation in 1898 into the City of Greater New York, whose own second mayor (1902–1903), Seth Low, had been Mayor of Brooklyn from 1882 to 1885. Since 1898, Brooklyn has, in place of a separate mayor, elected a Borough President. See the List of mayors of New York City and the list of Brooklyn Borough Presidents.
The question became whether Brooklyn was prepared to engage in the still-grander process of consolidation then developing throughout the region, whether to join with the county of New York, the county of Richmond and the western portion of Queens County to form the five boroughs of a united City of New York. Andrew Haskell Green and other progressives said Yes, and eventually they prevailed against the Daily Eagle and other conservative forces. In 1894, residents of Brooklyn and the other counties voted by a slight majority to merge, effective in 1898.
Kings County retained its status as one of New York State’s counties, but the loss of Brooklyn’s separate identity as a city was met with consternation by some residents at the time. The merger was called the “Great Mistake of 1898” by many newspapers of the day, and the phrase still denotes Brooklyn pride among old-time Brooklynites.
Brooklyn has played a major role in various aspects of American culture including literature, cinema and theater. The Brooklyn accent is often portrayed as “typical New York” in American television and film.
Brooklyn hosts the world-renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the second largest public art collection in the United States, housed in the Brooklyn Museum.
The Brooklyn Museum, opened in 1897, is New York City’s second-largest public art museum. It has in its permanent collection more than 1.5 million objects, from ancient Egyptian masterpieces to contemporary art. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the world’s first museum dedicated to children, opened in December 1899. The only such New York State institution accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, it is one of the few globally to have a permanent collection – over 30,000 cultural objects and natural history specimens.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) includes a 2,109-seat opera house, an 874-seat theater, and the art house BAM Rose Cinemas. Bargemusic and St. Ann’s Warehouse are located on the other side of Downtown Brooklyn in the DUMBO arts district. Brooklyn Technical High School has the second-largest auditorium in New York City (after Radio City Music Hall), with a seating capacity of over 3,000.
Since the late 20th century, Brooklyn has benefited from a steady influx of financial back office operations from Manhattan, the rapid growth of a high-tech and entertainment economy in DUMBO, and strong growth in support services such as accounting, personal supply agencies, and computer services firms.
Jobs in the borough have traditionally been concentrated in manufacturing, but since 1975, Brooklyn has shifted from a manufacturing-based to a service-based economy. In 2004, 215,000 Brooklyn residents worked in the services sector, while 27,500 worked in manufacturing. Although manufacturing has declined, a substantial base has remained in apparel and niche manufacturing concerns such as furniture, fabricated metals, and food products. The pharmaceutical company Pfizer was founded in Brooklyn in 1869 and had a manufacturing plant in the borough for many years that once employed thousands of workers, but the plant shut down in 2008. However, new light-manufacturing concerns packaging organic and high-end food have sprung up in the old plant.
First established as a shipbuilding facility in 1801, the Brooklyn Navy Yard employed 70,000 people at its peak during World War II and was then the largest employer in the borough. The Missouri, the ship on which the Japanese formally surrendered, was built there, as was the Maine, whose sinking off Havana led to the start of the Spanish–American War. The iron-sided Civil War vessel the Monitor was built in Greenpoint. From 1968–1979 Seatrain Shipbuilding was the major employer. Later tenants include industrial design firms, food processing businesses, artisans, and the film and television production industry. About 230 private-sector firms providing 4,000 jobs are at the Yard.
Construction and services are the fastest growing sectors. Most employers in Brooklyn are small businesses. In 2000, 91% of the approximately 38,704 business establishments in Brooklyn had fewer than 20 employees. As of August 2008, the borough’s unemployment rate was 5.9%. Brooklyn is also home to many banks and credit unions. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, there were 37 banks and 26 credit unions operating in the borough in 2010.