The Battle of the Boroughs

In the legendary, long-awaited Battle of the Boroughs, the question of the best borough will be answered once and for all.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Five boroughs enter the ring, but only one can leave. Introducing the competitors: Queens, Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Each makes up a section of New York City, but which will best the others? In the legendary, long-awaited Battle of the Boroughs, the answer will be delivered by proud Stuyvesant representatives. Students will bring to the table examples of their favorite hometown spots, paint an image of their neighborhood, and spit game at rival boroughs.

In this corner is our first contestant, Queens. “Well, I think there’s no argument there, Queens is simply the best by definition,” freshman William Tang said. He emphasized Queens’s warm and tight-knit community. “It’s more ‘homes and small businesses’ in Queens, as opposed to capitalism in Manhattan and all the ‘money-people’ over there,” Tang said.

Freshman Rebecca Bao agreed with this sentiment in an e-mail interview. “Queens is a great borough because you can find a place that suits your mood anywhere,” she stated.

Sophomore Rafatune Myma highlighted Queens’s racial and cultural diversity. “In Jackson Heights, there [are] tons of Asian people. There’re many ethnic enclaves in Queens––we have so many.” These numerous enclaves all contribute to Queens’s diverse cuisine and culture as a whole. “We have so many types of stores from different countries, so there’re many desserts from Italy and India and Bangladesh and China,” Myma elaborated.

Tang mentioned he also likes Queens because the people there don’t live in the glimmer of expensive Manhattan. “At the end of the day, most people don’t live in Manhattan; they can’t afford to live there,” he said.

Brooklyn resident and sophomore Bella Stenhouse also took aim at the borough. “Brooklyn is nicer than Manhattan because it [has] a lot less tourists, and [is] much prettier, more peaceful, and quiet.” She illustrated an image of Brooklyn. “It's [...] a very diverse borough. It has people from all different countries and religions,” Stenhouse said.

In the face of Tang’s blow to its grandiose, sophomore Anjini Katari of Manhattan rises to the challenge. She pointed to the iconic landmarks that often represent New York City to the rest of the world. “We have the Met, Carnegie Hall, the Empire State Building. We have the Freedom Tower,” Katari said. Though known best for these upscale wonders, Manhattan is balanced out by a surprising amount of charm. “We have the bustling city with the giant buildings, but we also have the quieter parts,” she described. “If you go downtown to SoHo or Washington Square, it’s a lot quieter, and the areas are less city and more character.”

Sophomore Melanie Lin focused instead on Brooklyn’s familiarity. “There are a lot of spots that everyone knows. There are a lot of parks that people typically go to or places people go to get food,” she said.

But Brooklyn representatives aren’t all bark; they brought the bite to the fight. “I don't want to hate on Staten Island because I like some aspects of it. And it’s actually very quiet and peaceful. But it’s not really the rest of New York at all,” Stenhouse elaborated. “It’s very suburban, not very diverse, doesn’t have many attractions, is cut off from the rest of New York, and it’s also kind of hard to get there.”

In opposition to Stenhouse’s claims, sophomore Emily Lu came passionately to her borough’s defense. “Staten Island is simply glorious, Manhattan is... well, Manhattan,” Lu wrote in an e-mail interview. Lu is especially fond of Staten Island’s slow-moving and residential environment. “There’s no tons of boring monochrome buildings and instead, lots of healthy greenery to let your eyes rejoice,” she said.

However, not everyone is so keen to defend their own borough. Such is the case with sophomore Katherine Zhao, who also lives in Staten Island. “It’s boring, it’s full of white people, there are more minorities now, but it’s still 100% white people. I’ve seen Confederate flags flying; I’ve seen a bunch of neo-Nazi paraphernalia,” Zhao said. “Everything here is outdated––it feels like we’re stuck in purgatory.”

Sophomore Lara Ongan feels the same way. “I don’t meet many people who share opinions or values with me there, and we generally don’t click,” they said in an e-mail interview.

This is why both Zhao and Ongan’s borough of choice is Manhattan. Zhao fondly described many activities, ranging from leisure in Madison Square to parts of Chinatown and K-town. “There’s just stuff to do––there’s dope food there, which is the opposite of what there is here,” Zhao said.

Ongan has a similar image of Manhattan. “There are a lot of things to do there,” they said. “But all my closest friends live there, so I’m very biased.”

One of Staten Island's most well-known attributes is its ferry system and long commute. Though it is seemingly a time drain, Lu commented on its upsides. “Do city kids get the choice to ride a boat to school each day? We Staten Islanders sure do, and I’d say that’s a plus for us.” Lu also offered some heat toward the Bronx though with her remarks. “I searched it up, and the first thing I got was that the Bronx is known for being the only borough with ‘the’ in its name. Bronx has always equated ‘basic’ in my mind.”

With all this heat, sophomore and Bronx native Arlette Duran proudly defended her borough. Duran emphasized the Bronx’s importance to the rise of signature New York hip-hop. “Well, hip-hop did originate here in the Bronx, I guess that’s superior to every other borough. That’s a really good thing,” she said. She also talked fondly about the community in the Bronx. “We do have a lot of culture[s] here, and it is very diverse. You can find basically any type of food, any type of clothing, and we each have unique spots.”

Bronx native sophomore Mirian Hernandez followed up on the strength of community in their borough. “I like it mostly because of the people. It seems very scary, but I think the people here are very nice,” they said. Though Manhattan does come at a close second in their mind, Hernandez argues that it cannot beat the Bronx. “I like Manhattan because of all the cool shops and all the really cool sights. I don’t appreciate the people that much, though.”

Throughout the battle, all five boroughs have been put to the test and made to prove their worth over the others. However, not all residents liked their borough for its typical attributes, but for their personal attachment to it. The nostalgia of simply living in Brooklyn offsets some of its shortcomings in the eyes of sophomore Alice Lin Zheng. “All of my friends are from there. Also, I have a bunch of memories that I attach to places there. Also the beach—I really like the beach. Coney Island isn’t a very clean beach but I remember it very fondly,” they said.

For Lin, Brooklyn is superior mostly because of her understanding of and familiarity with it. “The best thing about my borough is that there are a lot of little places with—maybe I’m biased because I live here and feel like I know this place—but there are a lot of spots that everyone knows,” they said.

The familiarity of the Bronx is also important to Duran. “It’s sort of like a family here,” she said. “Everyone knows each other. And we’re just comfortable around each other.”

While the competition was fierce and the flames were fanned, no borough emerged truly victorious over the others. We were educated about Staten Island’s greenery, Manhattan’s serenity, Queens’s bustling culture, the Bronx’s community ties, and Brooklyn’s millennial culture. Each has its unique strengths and weaknesses that define it. We are left with no true winner of this age-long debate amongst New Yorkers. Tang puts it best when he addressed the role of the boroughs to diversity in the city. “They have contributed to the melting pot that is New York City,” Tang said. “Each borough has a different significance in its contribution to that history of New York City.”