Islands of the New York City: The 5 Boroughs and Their Major Islands

New York City before a century or two ago was predominantly a piece of densely forested islands spread over the North-Eastern Coastal region of America. Then slowly, as the city and the metropolis began to grow and take shape, these densely forested islands turned into the concrete jungle as we see it today. However, even to this date, each island of the city carries its distinct tastes which are seen in its neighbourhoods, immigrant groups, languages spoken apart from English, culture, lifestyle and the vibrant people. 

Let us now have a look at the various islands which make up the bustling metropolis of New York City, the megacity we know today. The city has been divided into many small boroughs, based on administration as well as geography. The primary ones among those are:
  • The Bronx Borough
  • Brooklyn Borough
  • Staten Island Borough
  • Manhattan Borough
  • Queen’s Borough.
The major islands of the Bronx Borough are:

1. The Bronx Borough Islands

A. The Blauzes


These are a pair of small islands located in the City Island Harbor region in the Bronx Borough of New York City. This region has a lot of Dutch influence, primarily because they were the first and the largest immigrant groups of this region. Rather the name itself means “Little Blue Ones in Dutch”. These are a part of Pelham Islands. 

B. The Chimney Sweeps Islands


The Chimney Sweeps islands are located to the north of New York City in the City Island Harbor in The Bronx borough. There is not much of urban life or concrete towers in this island. A lot of it is still forested, and is home to many unique species of wildlife. The islands are owned by the city department of parks and now form a part of Pelham Bay Park that is mostly used for recreation purposes.

C. Hart Island


This island is located in the northeastern part of the Bronx borough. A major chunk of the island is used for military training from the late 19th century. Since then, there have been a lot of jails, drug rehabilitation centres, training grounds and parades held on this island. In today’s date, there is nothing more than military training and burial happening on the island. The only source of transportation is an infrequent ferry service operated by the state department.

D. High Island

High Island is a small privately-owned island. Previously it was a stone quarrying site. And today it just houses radio towers and signal transmitters an antennas.

E. Pelham Islands

This stretch is the only major habitable and bustling island in the Bronx Borough in today’s date. It houses the present-day Town and Village of Pelham, cities of New Rochelle and Mount Vernon. All the islands mentioned above, and some other relatively less known and smaller islands come under the category of archipelagoes of the Pelham Island or more commonly known as Pelham bay.

The major islands of the Brooklyn Borough are:

2. Brooklyn Borough Islands

A. Barren Island


Barren Island is technically a peninsula in the southeastern end of Brooklyn Borough. The culture of this island is primarily drawn from the Dutch settlers and Native Americans. The meaning of its name is Bear in the Dutch language. From the early 1900s, this locality has been developed with a lot of agriculture and mineral-based industries. Other facilities on the island are National Park and a small Recreational Area.

B. Bergen Beach


Bergen Beach is a predominantly a suburban residential neighbourhood. Apart from residential spaces, it has a small amusement park but was closed in the early 20th century due to some local conflicts. This area is home to a lot of crimes, although in recent years it has been brought under strict control.

 C. Coney Island


Coney Island is the ultimate highlight among these islands. It is the major commercial and residential hub of the region. It is famous for its beaches, amusement parks like the MCU and all the commercial glitter attached to it. The island has a lot of Dutch influence, since they were the earliest settlers.

Apart from these the little known and smaller islands of Mau-Mau, Mill Basin and Mussel Island are predominantly uninhabited and forested.  

3. Islands of Staten Island

A. Hoffman island


Hoffman Island is around 10 acres in area and is artificially built. Its location is towards the southern side of New York City. Before the city began to take shape, this island was mainly used as an immigration entry centre. Most of the Europeans who wanted to enter the United States were often kept here under quarantine to examine for some flu they might have carried from Europe. This was in the 19th century. Currently, it has a lot of flora and fauna and no urban settlements.

B. Staten Island


Staten Island is one of the most thriving neighbourhoods and island in this region. The northern part of the island is urbanized and has huge cities like Clifton, Tompkinsville and Stapleton. There are many offices, parks, wildlife parks and residential settlements spread throughout.

These were the major islands of Staten Island. Other smaller isles include Isle of Meadows, Prall’s Island, Shooter’s Island and Swinburne Island. These are uninhabited and have mostly protected natural parks.

The major islands of Manhattan are:  

4. Islands of Manhattan 

A. Ellis Island


It is a federally owned island. During the peak immigration season of the 19th century, this island served as the primary immigration inspection station. In today’s date, it has become a part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument area. This island can only be accessed using the ferry service. Apart from the Statue of Liberty, it has many old architectural buildings and towers. 

B. Governor’s Island


Governor's Island is to the south of Manhattan Island. The island mainly has military stations, forts, historical buildings and towers, all clubbed in one park. The military installations and museums depict American Revolutionary War, World War and Civil War time articles. Even this island has a lot of Dutch influence since they were this area’s initial settlers.

C. Liberty Island

The most notable feature of this island is the Statue of Liberty. It comes under the greater area of Ellis Island.

D. Manhattan Island


The major chunk of land is the island of Manhattan City. This is the most densely populated part of New York City. From offices to parks to residential areas and sports zones, financial hubs and partying spots, this is the most bustling part of the entire New York City.

Other islands like Mill rock and U Thant are very small and uninhabited ones. Another island called Roosevelt Island is mostly for transportation purposes.  

5. Islands of Queen’s

A. Broad Channel

Broad Channel Island is the only habited island in the Jamaica Bay. Apart from houses and a handful of offices, the rest of the island is mostly rich in flora and fauna. 

B. Riker’s Island

 The Rikers Island is between Bronx and Manhattan boroughs of New York City. This island has a jail complex and nothing else.

Other island groups of Berrien’s Island and Ruffle Bar are forested and uninhabited. 

So, these were the islands that make up the New York City. If you have some information or interesting snippets to share about this wonderful metropolis, do share in the comments box below!  


This post was published by Mukta Manshi

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