New York: a City Made of Immigrants

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It has been known that the migratory phenomenon is part of the human experience as well as key for the birth of new cities among the history of human settlements. Even thought, we all have seen the conflicts that this brings between the native population and the immigrants due to racism and discrimination. To start it is important to remind the history of New York and its relationship with the size of the city, and how the city was growing with the waves of immigration. 

Settlement of New Amsterdam 

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In 1624 a Dutch settlement was established in the south of the island of Manhattan and the Dutch called it New Netherlands or New Amsterdam. So, being a Dutch colony, the settlers bring to America some elements of the European cities, like the bulwarks and the wall to protect their supplies because of the commercial activity due to live in a port area that communicates America with Europe. (Jacobs 1963)

In 1664 the British claimed the settlement and called it New York, with this action the population increased and were habited by British as by Dutch. They conserved the bulwark but also added a big avenue that crossed the settlement from the dock to the rural lands. 

Waves of immigration 

At the middle of 19th century a devasting famine whipped Ireland accordingly, a massive amount of Irish had to move to other countries like United States. With the arrival of this immigrants the population in New York increased dramatically along with poverty, lack of living places, work and basic services. (Kolko 2013).At this point the hostility between the previous inhabitants and recent immigrants was evident at looking for job or a place to live. Afterwards during the holocaust, a lot of Europeans were looking for refugee, mainly Italian, along with Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut and Massachusetts, New York was the most important refuge for these Italian people that oftentimes were sick of smallpox. Because of this, they were discriminated and the problems in New York increased with the population and the extension of the city. It can be observed  these two waves the territory expanded to almost all the Manhattan Island. And the other side of the sea giving place to the territory that nowadays we know as Brooklyn.

Planning a city for immigrants

As we have read, living in New York in 19th century was a challenge due to the overcrowding and even worse for the ones that were immigrants and did not have work or place to live. That’s why the streets were full of people sleeping in it and that causes health problems as well as social problems like discrimination.Before the waves of immigration, the government used to think that New York, being an island was an open space that did not need spaces for leisure. But as population and poverty increased architects and urbanists decided that the city needed public spaces so people can develop in them and all the classes can coexist no matter where they come from. It can be observed that before the first wave (the Irish wave) did not exist parks or leisure spaces. Nevertheless, after this wave it was decided to open public spaces. The most important one was Central Park, one of the most ambitious projects in that century talking about urbanism. The complexity of this project relapse in the fact that before that this point used to have a habitational use. And government had to convince rich people to move from Manhattan to Brooklyn so they can build the park. (Misra 2016)

It can be said that perhaps the park increased the gap between social classes but after the realization of the project the relationship un Manhattan improved a lot and also with the expansion to Brooklyn and Queens the living experience of New York was easier than before. 


As an architect it is very important to recognize that architecture and urbanism is directly tied to society, economics and politics. 

In New York was a huge problem that affected the dynamic of the city and the living quality of its inhabitants. In that moment, plant spaces por leisure and expand the city was a good solution and provided a better experience for the citizens.However, in this moment the situation in New York is really alike to the middle of 19th century situation. The overcrowding is evident as well as discrimination and racism. 


Now, what can the architecture and urbanism can do in a city like New York? 


1.Jacobs, Jaap. The Colony of New Netherland. New York: Cornell University , 1963.

2.Kolko, Jed. Forbes. 15 de March de 2013. (latest access: 28 de May de 2020).

3.Miranda, Lui Maniel. Hamilton: An American Musical. New York: Broadway , 2015.

4.Misra, Tanvi. City Lab. 7 de July de 2016. (latest access: 28 de May de 2020).

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