Sitting in New York Harbor, Staten Island seems worlds apart from the glitz and bustle of Manhattan. With its suburban neighborhoods and green, hilly landscapes, the “forgotten borough” begs the question – why is Staten Island even part of New York City?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Staten Island became part of New York City in 1898 after residents voted to consolidate with Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx to form a united metropolitan area.

Early History of Staten Island

Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City, has a rich and fascinating history that dates back centuries. Understanding the early history of Staten Island is key to understanding why it is a part of New York City today.

Original Inhabitants and Colonial Settlement

Before European settlement, Staten Island was home to the Lenape Native American tribe. They called the island “Aquehonga Manacknong,” which means “Enchanted Woods.” The Lenape lived off the land, hunting, fishing, and farming, and had a deep spiritual connection to the island.

In 1609, Henry Hudson, an English explorer sailing for the Dutch East India Company, arrived at Staten Island and claimed it for the Dutch. However, it wasn’t until the mid-17th century that European settlement began.

The first European settlers were mostly Dutch and English farmers who established small communities on the island.

During the colonial period, Staten Island played a significant role in the development of New York City. The island’s fertile land and natural resources made it an important agricultural and trading hub. Farms flourished, and produce was exported to other colonies and Europe.

Its strategic location also made it a key defense point during the American Revolution.

Shifting Control Between New York and New Jersey

Staten Island’s history is unique because it experienced periods of being part of both New York and New Jersey. In the late 17th century, a boundary dispute arose between the two colonies, with each claiming ownership of Staten Island.

In 1664, the English captured New Amsterdam (present-day New York City) from the Dutch, and Staten Island became part of the newly established English colony of New York. However, the boundary dispute with New Jersey persisted for many years, leading to conflicting jurisdiction over the island.

In 1834, after decades of legal battles and negotiations, the boundary between New York and New Jersey was finally settled. Staten Island was officially declared part of New York City, and its fate as a borough was sealed.

Since then, Staten Island has grown and developed alongside the other boroughs, becoming an integral part of New York City’s cultural, economic, and political landscape.

For more in-depth information on the history of Staten Island, you can visit the Staten Island Historical Society website. They have a wealth of resources and exhibits that delve into the island’s past.

The Consolidation of the 5 Boroughs

The consolidation of the five boroughs of New York City was a significant event in the city’s history. It brought together the diverse neighborhoods and cultures of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island, creating a unified city that would become one of the most influential and iconic in the world.

1895 Vote to Consolidate NYC

In 1895, a vote was held to determine whether the various boroughs should merge into a single city. The idea of consolidation was met with both support and opposition. Proponents argued that a unified city would be more efficient, have a stronger voice in politics, and be better equipped to handle the challenges of a rapidly growing population.

Opponents, on the other hand, were concerned about losing their local autonomy and feared that their borough’s unique character would be overshadowed by the larger city.

The vote to consolidate was ultimately successful, with a majority of voters in favor of the merger. This set the stage for the next crucial step in the consolidation process.

Staten Island Opts In After Rejection

Initially, Staten Island had voted against joining the consolidated city. The residents of the island were concerned about losing their independence and feared that their needs would be neglected in favor of the more populous boroughs.

However, over time, the benefits of being a part of a larger city became apparent, and Staten Island decided to opt in.

Staten Island’s decision to join the consolidated city was a significant turning point in the consolidation process. It meant that all five boroughs would now be united under a single municipal government, paving the way for the creation of the modern New York City.

1898 Charter Uniting All 5 Boroughs

In 1898, the New York State Legislature passed the Charter of Greater New York, officially consolidating the five boroughs into one city. This charter established a unified government structure, with a mayor and city council representing the entire city.

The consolidation of the five boroughs brought about numerous changes and improvements for the newly formed city. It allowed for better coordination of services such as transportation, education, and public safety.

It also provided a platform for the city to address common issues and pursue ambitious projects that would shape its future.

Today, New York City stands as a testament to the success of its consolidation. It is a vibrant and dynamic metropolis, known for its iconic landmarks, cultural diversity, and economic power. The consolidation of the five boroughs played a crucial role in shaping the city’s identity and continues to define its character to this day.

Impact and Legacy of Consolidation

Consolidation of Staten Island with New York City in 1898 had a profound impact on the island’s growth and development, as well as its cultural identity. This merger brought numerous changes and opportunities for Staten Island residents, shaping the borough into what it is today.

Growth and Development of Staten Island

Following consolidation, Staten Island experienced significant growth and development. The construction of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in 1964, connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn, played a pivotal role in opening up the island to further expansion.

This led to the creation of new neighborhoods, an influx of residents, and the establishment of businesses and industries. Today, Staten Island is home to a diverse population and has become a vibrant part of the New York City landscape.

Access to NYC Resources and Governance

One of the key benefits of being part of New York City is the access to its vast resources and governance. Staten Island residents now have access to a wide range of amenities, including world-class healthcare, educational institutions, cultural attractions, and recreational facilities.

Additionally, being part of a larger city allows for better infrastructure, transportation networks, and public services. This integration has undoubtedly improved the quality of life for Staten Island residents.

Lasting Cultural Identity as a Borough

Despite being part of New York City, Staten Island has managed to maintain its distinct cultural identity as a borough. The island is known for its picturesque landscapes, including parks, beaches, and nature preserves, which provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Staten Island also has a rich history and a strong sense of community, with many residents taking pride in their heritage and local traditions. This unique blend of urban and suburban living makes Staten Island a truly special place within the larger New York City framework.


Despite feeling detached from the rest of New York City, Staten Island became an official borough when residents chose consolidation in 1898. While maintaining a suburban feel, joining NYC has allowed Staten Island to develop rapidly over the 20th and 21st centuries. Its status as a borough ensures Staten Island remains culturally and politically linked with the other four boroughs in New York’s great metropolitan area.

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