Is Brooklyn a City?


People talk about Brooklyn as if it’s its own city. If you’re not from the New York City metropolitan area, you might be confused as to whether or not Brooklyn is its own city, part of NYC, a city within a city- who knows?

This helpful guide will walk you through all there is to know about Brooklyn, cities, boroughs, and counties.

Is Brooklyn a city?

is brooklyn a city

Brooklyn is not a city. It’s a Borough of New York City, coinciding with Kings County.

What is a Borough?

New York City is made up of five Boroughs. Every Borough is coinciding with a county in New York State. 

A Borough has a different meaning depending on the state. No matter what, it’s a government below the state level.

  • Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania: A borough is a kind of municipality.

  • New York, Virginia: A subdivision of a city that corresponds with another political subdivision, whether present or previous.

  • Alaska: County-equivalent.

What’s the difference between Borough, city, and county?

Boroughs

A Borough is either a kind of municipality, a subdivious of a city, or the equivalent of a county (depending on the state- see above).

Cities

A city is a densely populated area with a local government. Throughout history, cities only made up a small portion of the population. But now over half of the world’s population lives in cities. Cities often create a metropolitan area from which people commute to the city for work and pleasure.

Counties

A county is a political or administrative segment of a state. The term “county” is only present in 48 states. In Louisiana and Alaska the equivalent terms are parishes and boroughs. The power that counties hold varies from state to state.

The number of counties in each state varies vastly. For example, Texas has 254 counties and Delaware has 3. 

England was the first country to have counties. Counties were some of the earliest versions of local government in the Thirteen Colonies.

Why is Brooklyn a Borough and not a city?

Brooklyn actually used to be a city up until 1898. After an extensive political campaign and PR battle in the 1890s, Brooklyn was consolidated along with other counties, towns, and cities to create modern-day New York City.

Despite this, each borough maintained its own culture. Many neighborhoods in Brooklyn are ethnic enclaves, so Brooklyn’s official motto is “Unity makes strength”.

History of Boroughs in New York City

The five Boroughs were born when modern New York City emerged in 1898. This is when multiple counties decided to consolidate into one municipal government. 

New York City was first just Manhattan Island, and the islands that are now Boroughs were part of New York County. The city started to grow north and began to annex areas from the mainland- specifically areas of Westchester County (making up West Bronx and East Bronx). 

The Bronx Borough was part of New York County, until it was separated from the county in 1914 to make each borough its own county.

In 1898 the west area of Queens County was absorbed by New York City and was turned into the Borough of Queens. A year later the rest of Queens County formed Nassau County so that the county and Borough of Queens were the same.

Do other states have Boroughs?

Every state has boroughs or the equivalent of boroughs. But the meaning differs in some states.

Alaska

“Borough” is actually the term for “county” in Alaska.

Each borough has a borough seat. Almost half of the state is a part of the huge Unorganized Borough, which has no government at all on the Borough level.

Connecticut

Just like cities, Boroughs are another kind of dependent municipality. Boroughs tend to be the most populated part of a town that chose to incorporate so that it would have a more responsive local government. 

When Boroughs are formed, they’re still dependent on, and part of, its town. 

Connecticut has nine boroughs.

Minnesota

The term Borough was only used for one municipality between 1868 and 1974.

New Jersey

There are five kinds of municipal governments in New Jersey. Each of them operate separately from each other, and are equivalent in level. These terms include:

  • Borough

  • Town

  • Township

  • City

  • Village

Many of the boroughs in New Jersey were formed from larger towns, but even so the borough is no longer connected to the town. 

There was a Boroughitis phenomenon in the mid-19th century, and that’s when many of New Jersey’s boroughs were formed.

Pennsylvania

The word Borough is sometimes used the same way that other states use the words “village” or “town”. That is, it’s a self-governed entity that isn’t as big as a city. There are 961 Boroughs in Pennsylvania.

Virginia

Boroughs aren’t separate local governments. Boroughs form when a bunch of local governments consolidate to make a city.

Mariska Lee

Mariska is a recovering attorney who gave up her professional job to discover new perspectives of life while traveling in a 2009 Ford Transit. She has been living the van life for 3 years and has not looked back since.

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