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New York City, in the U.S. state of New York, is composed of five boroughs. Each borough has the same boundaries as a county of the state. The county governments were dissolved when the city consolidated in 1898, along with all city, town, and village governments within each county.
The term borough was adopted to describe a unique form of governmental administration for each of the five fundamental constituent parts of the newly consolidated city. Technically, under New York State Law, a "borough" is a municipal corporation that is created when a county is merged with populated areas within it. This differs significantly from typical borough forms of government used in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Alaska, other states, Greater London, and elsewhere.
New York's five boroughs overview
|Borough||County||1 July 2012|
|Source: United States Census Bureau|
New York City is often referred to collectively as the five boroughs; the term is used to refer to New York City as a whole unambiguously, avoiding confusion with any particular borough or with the greater metropolitan area. The term is often used by politicians to counter a frequent focus on Manhattan and, thereby, to place all five boroughs on equal footing. In the same vein, the term outer boroughs (or outer boros) refers to all the boroughs excluding Manhattan, even though the geographic center of the city is along the Brooklyn and Queens border.
Unlike most U.S. cities, which lie within a single county, extend partially into another county, constitute a county in themselves, or are completely separate and independent of any county, since 1914 each of New York City's five boroughs is coextensive with a county of New York state.
All of the boroughs were created in 1898 during consolidation, when the city's current boundaries were established. The borough of the Bronx was originally the parts of New York County that had previously been ceded by Westchester County, until Bronx County was created in 1914.
The borough of Queens originally consisted of only the western part of a larger Queens County, until Nassau County was created by the secession from Queens County of the three eastern towns in 1899. The borough of Staten Island was officially the borough of Richmond until the name was changed in 1975 to reflect its common appellation.
Each borough is represented by a borough president and, with the exception of Manhattan, has a borough hall (the same functions, and others, reside in the Manhattan Municipal Building). Since the abolition of the board of estimate in 1990 (due to a 1989 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court), the borough president now has minimal executive powers, and there is no legislative function within a borough. Executive functions in New York City are the responsibility of the Mayor of New York City, while legislative functions reside with the New York City Council.
Because they are counties, each borough also elects a district attorney, as does every other county of the state. Some civil court judges also are elected on a borough-wide basis, although they generally are eligible to serve throughout the city.
The term sixth borough is used to describe any of a number of places that have been referred to as a part of New York City because of its geographic location, population, demographics, special affiliation, or cosmopolitan character. They have included adjacent cities and counties in the New York Metropolitan Area as well as in other states, U.S. territories, and foreign countries. In 2011, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg referred to the city's waterfront and waterways as a sixth borough during presentations of a planned rehabilitation projects along the city's shoreline, including Governor's Island in the Upper New York Bay.
New Jersey's Hudson Waterfront lies opposite Manhattan on the Hudson River, and during the Dutch colonial era, was under the jurisdiction of New Amsterdam and known as Bergen. Given their proximity and connections by rapid transit PATH trains Jersey City and Hoboken in Hudson County are sometimes referred to as the sixth borough. Fort Lee, in Bergen County, opposite Upper Manhattan and connected by the George Washington Bridge has also been called the sixth borough. In the 1920s, soon after the creation of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey there were calls to integrate the rail and subway system in New York and Northern New Jersey. After Mayor Bloomberg called for the 7 Subway Extension to continue to Secaucus Junction, a feasibility study was conducted and released in April 2013.
The cities of Yonkers and Mount Vernon, New York, directly border the northern Bronx and share much of that borough's heavily urbanized character. In 1894, the voters of Yonkers and Mount Vernon were able to take part, along with the voters of Kings, Queens and Richmond Counties (today's Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island respectively), in a referendum to determine if they wanted to become part of New York City, which at that time consisted only of Manhattan and a portion of the Bronx. While the results were positive elsewhere, the returns were so negative in Yonkers and Mount Vernon that those two areas were not included in the consolidated city and remained independent municipalities. A subway connection was planned between Getty Square in Yonkers' city center and the New York City Subway, but the project was abandoned after the failed merger vote. Local residents frequently refer to the area as "the sixth borough," referring to the two cities' location bordering the Bronx, the high number of local residents employed in Manhattan, and the area's similarly urban character. In 1934 a bill was submitted by a New York City alderman that again proposed merging Yonkers into New York City as a sixth borough.
Places outside of the New York metropolitan area that are home to large populations of former residents of New York have also been referred to as a sixth borough, including Philadelphia and Miami.