Why are Brooklyn and Queens a part of New York City even though they are physically on Long Island?
The short answer: The city of New York was looking to expand — but only so far.
The long answer: Until the 1890s, Manhattan and New York City were just two names for one place. There were no other boroughs. Instead, New York City was surrounded by separate municipalities: Staten Island, the City of Brooklyn, Queens County, and East Bronx.
In the 1890s, the city decided to expand.
Chicago had been annexing territory since 1851, and the benefits were obvious: A larger municipality could provide more services, like the construction of schools. Current and former city officials, namely former comptroller Andrew H. Green, decided it was time to stop playing second fiddle to the Windy City.
The Greater New York Commission was formed, with Green as its president. In 1894, the commission announced that a referendum would be held in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Brooklyn and the western portion of Queens County to decide the city’s future. It was up to the people.
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