Manhattan was originally home to the Lenape Native Americans. In 1524 the Florentine Giovanni da Verrazano became the first European to sail as far as Upper New York Bay, and named it after his patron – the King of France’s – Sister. But it was almost a hundred years later that Manhattan’s destiny began to take shape, when corporate raiders of The Dutch West India Company arrived far afar to map the area, with more tangible goals in mind. In 1624 the New Netherlands was established, based on fur trading, and the island of Manhattan was purchased from the natives for approximately $1000 in 2014 USD. The Manhattan enterprise was founded by the Dutch West India Company in order to serve shareholder interests (“tend to the benefit of subscribers”). This focused people’s efforts in productive directions. For instance, when the colony political leader Peter Stuyvesant tried to ban Jewish financiers in the 1650’s, he was corrected by the corporate leadership. Shareholders, including some important Jewish shareholders, demanded the earnings that increased economic activity would bring. The right thing was what would secure long term growth in earning power. Growing the financial industry in Manhattan would grow its competitive advantage.
Manhattan’s competitive advantage was its geographic location with excellent harbor, which attracted the most dynamic elements of the growing Colonies, United States, and a continuous stream of immigrants. This quality strengthened as trade volume and diversity vastly increased with the development of Canal transport to the growing Midwest, later rail and increased shipping. From the beginning, its status as a trade center translated into bleeding edge financial innovation. While becoming a financial center, a large diversity of occupations were attracted to the island.
In 1975 accelerated overspending led NYC to the literally violently teetering brink of bankruptcy. But it was saved, by temporarily chastened unions, bond holding banking interests, and pressure by a nervous US government and foreign financial and government interests, who feared a wider banking crisis. Simply put, New York had to be saved in order to preserve its financial advantages: it was indispensable.
With a renewed devotion to the pursuit of the free market, New York City boomed in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, as Wall Street ascended to new heights of paramountcy, financial wizardry and notoriety, with the customary subsequent tumbles from sun drenched elevations, and temporary regrets.
Today, Manhattan continues as a financial center, as well as a center in many other areas. The reason it endures goes beyond tangible volumes of transactions. The quality that emerges from the interaction humans in a wide range of socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, national, aesthetic, and many other types of diversity, is propinquity. Propinquity, closeness to each other of distinct entities, or people. If you want to access the potential and the fruits of the entire planet’s resilient, resourceful, dynamic individuals, you can come to New York.