New York City and the Republican National Convention

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.

And I’m Gwen Outen. We take you this week to New York City, where the Republican National Convention opens Monday.

Republican Party delegates are in New York for their presidential nominating convention. All together, about fifty thousand delegates, reporters and guests are attending. Police also expect large numbers of protesters in the city.

The convention is inside Madison Square Garden. Plans for the first night include a welcoming speech by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Speakers the following night include Laura Bush, the wife of the president, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California.

On Wednesday the delegates will nominate Vice President Dick Cheney for a second term. And on Thursday night, President Bush is to accept his nomination to serve four more years in the White House.

Nominating conventions take place in a different city every four years. In the past, the two major parties decided on their candidates at these events. But these days, candidates are chosen earlier through state nominating elections.

This is the first time the Republican Party has held its national convention in New York City. Democrats have met there five times.

The Democratic National Convention took place last month in Boston. Delegates nominated John Kerry for president and John Edwards for vice president. The two senators will face President Bush and Vice President Cheney in the general election on November second.

As in Boston, New York has made intensive security preparations. But New Yorkers were already used to increased security. After all, the worst attack in American history took place in their city on September eleventh, two thousand one. Al Qaida terrorists flew hijacked planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The two tallest buildings in the city fell to ruins. Office workers and visitors died along with hundreds of firefighters and police officers.

To observe the anniversary next month, parents and grandparents of the victims will read the names of those killed. Two thousand seven hundred forty nine names will be read. A major new building and a memorial park are being planned on what is now known as ground zero.

People call New York "The Big Apple.” But why? In the nineteen nineties, two language researchers, Gerald Cohen and Barry Popik, followed the popularity back to a local sports writer. John J. Fitz Gerald wrote about horse racing in the nineteen twenties and used the term "big apple."

Horses love apples. The "big apple" meant the place with a lot of money to be won in racing. Fitz Gerald had heard New York described that way by African American workers at a racetrack in New Orleans.

And big it is. More than eight million people make New York the biggest city in the United States.

New York City is in the southeastern corner of New York State. The city covers about one thousand two hundred square kilometers. But thirty-five percent of that is water.

People who talk about "New York" often mean just Manhattan. But the city is divided into five areas called boroughs. These are Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Only the Bronx is connected to the United States mainland. The others are surrounded by three rivers and New York Bay.

Manhattan is the oldest borough. Dutch settlers bought the island from the American Indians in sixteen twenty-six. Historians in the eighteen hundreds estimated that the Indians received goods worth twenty-four American dollars.

The Dutch established the first major European settlement in the area. They called it New Amsterdam. Later, they gave New Amsterdam to Britain as part of a peace treaty. The British renamed the colony “New York.” In the middle and late seventeen hundreds, New York played an important part in the struggle for American independence.

In the eighteen hundreds, millions of European immigrants arrived in New York through Ellis Island, in New York Harbor. Today New Yorkers represent almost every race and ethnic group on the planet. They speak more than one hundred languages.

The last population count, in two thousand, found that forty-five percent of New Yorkers were white. Blacks and Hispanics each represented twenty-seven percent of the population. Ten percent of New Yorkers were Asian. This adds up to more than one hundred percent, because Hispanics can be of any race. Many of the Spanish speakers in New York come from Puerto Rico.

Manhattan is known for its tall buildings. But there are also places to enjoy nature, like Central Park. Central Park covers three hundred forty hectares. There are walking paths, play areas for children, a lake and a zoo.

The southern part of Manhattan, called Lower Manhattan, is the financial center of the city. The Financial District includes Wall Street, home to the New York Stock Exchange.

Manhattan also represents the cultural heart of the city. The famous theaters of Broadway and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts are there. New York City has about eighty museums; most are in Manhattan. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has the largest collection in America.

From Manhattan, many visitors take a boat to see the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The statue reopened to the public recently. It was closed for security improvements after the September eleventh attacks.

Visitors to New York also like to go up to the observation area at the top of the Empire State Building. The Empire State Building was completed in nineteen thirty-one. It has more than one hundred floors. Until the early nineteen seventies, it was the tallest building in the world.

There are lots of places to shop in New York. Some of the finest are along Fifth Avenue. Rockefeller Center is also on Fifth Avenue; it is home to the Radio City Music Hall.

Other areas of Manhattan include Greenwich Village and Harlem. Greenwich Village is popular with artists. Harlem is the traditional center of African American life in New York.

And along the East River in Manhattan is a glass-covered building with a lot of flags outside. This is the headquarters of the United Nations.

Like Manhattan, Brooklyn is densely populated. Brooklyn has the largest population of the five boroughs. Its two and one-half million people live mainly in apartment buildings and houses lined close together.

During the summer, many people visit Coney Island in Brooklyn. There are swimming beaches along the Atlantic Ocean as well as rides and other activities for families. Brooklyn also has a major museum, the Brooklyn Art Museum.

In different parts of New York, there are areas of wealth, but also poverty. Some of the poorest areas are in the South Bronx, known for its public housing projects. Yet the Bronx also has Fieldston, an area with large homes. The Bronx is also home to cultural and educational centers.

Queens has major industry along the East River. It also has the two major airports in New York City: John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia.

The borough with the fewest people is Staten Island. In nineteen sixty-four, the Verrazano Narrows bridge linked the island with Brooklyn. But there is no bridge between Staten Island and Manhattan. So people sail across on the Staten Island Ferry.

New York is also known for its underground trains. The first part of the subway system opened one hundred years ago this October.

New York has many of the same problems as other big cities. These include problems with the public schools and the health care system for the poor. Many new immigrants arrive in the city needing help.

Some people have the idea that New Yorkers are not very friendly or helpful to others. Yet, after the September eleventh attacks, people saw just the opposite. America’s Big Apple won many new friends. And now New York even hopes to win the Summer Olympics in two thousand twelve.

Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Steve Ember.

And I’m Gwen Outen. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.