There are over 300 million people living in the United States today, and over 60% live in cities. These urban locales range from major metropolises to smaller, still-blossoming centers. Like most people, I feel an affiliation to my city – its food, its sports teams, its unique traditions. People take pride in even the worst traits of their hometown, boasting about bad weather or high real estate prices. Here in Chicago you’ll hear bragging about pizza, bad traffic, high crime and baseball (at least some years). Love it or hate it, this is my city. And yet, despite this insular self-importance, New York City has a unique place. It represents so many people, even those that do not live there and some who have never even visited. So much of this started with Brooklyn, a richly cultured center of diversity and history.

After settlers first came to the colony, Brooklyn was involved in a key battle of the Revolutionary War. Once the war ended, an urban lifestyle took hold due to the accessible water and nearness to both urban center Manhattan and farmland. While the area was less advanced than its nearby counterparts, it became a haven for immigrants. After arriving in the country without possessions or language, they were able to find a home in a place with other people new to the country. In the 1800s, the population was increasing exponentially due to a huge wave of European immigration. By 1860, Brooklyn was the third-largest city in the country, with half its residents new to the US.

Even today, the population of Brooklyn alone would place it as the fourth largest city in the country. Adding in its New York City borough counterparts, the city’s population far outranks any competitors. But aside from sheer numbers, I think there’s an emotional connection that many Americans feel towards Brooklyn. It’s a city of our forefathers, of immigrants scraping by to make their way in a new home and in the process creating an entirely new culture. Like many Americans, my family arrived in this country via New York and made it their first home. Even today, with many Brooklyn neighborhoods possessing some of the hottest real estate, restaurants and brands in the country, there is still a palpable grit to the city that hasn’t been cleaned off since its early days.

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