When you live in NYC, you don't so much live in a big city as in a small city -- one of the 300 or so small cities that make up NYC. With the exception of Greenwich Village and Long Island City, we call these small cities "neighborhoods."
Many of our neighborhoods have distinct identities, the very name of which conjure up different ideas of what NYC is: think Soho, Astoria, Park Slope, Riverdale, the South Bronx, the Upper East or Wide Sides, Bay Ridge. Lots of New Yorkers identify as much with their neighborhoods as with the city as a whole. The neighborhood makes the New Yorker, or so you might say.
So what do you do if your neighborhood has an identity crises?
For once, I'm not talking about gentrification or the gutting of middle-class edgy New York for the blandness of rich New York. I'm talking about a specific neighborhood that, depending on who you talk to and depending on what map your looking at, doesn't know which borough it belongs to! It is betwixt and between, an orphaned neighborhood.
Welcome to Marble Hill. This neighborhood is tiny and, physically, is part of the Bronx. It's right across the river from the northern tip of Manhattan. It has a Bronx area code, a Bronx zip code, it is serviced by the Bronx. As what borough they live in, most Marble Hillers will say that they live in the Bronx. But it's not part of the Bronx! Legally, it's part of Manhattan. If you look at a map of NYC, you'll see a little slice of the Bronx cut-out. People who live in the Bronx are forced to go all the way downtown to serve on jury duty. They vote for the Manhattan DA and Borough President and Manhattan City Council members.
But here's where it gets really weird: there are literally buildings and schools that fall into both the Bronx and Manhattan. There are businesses that also straddle both boroughs. It's truly bizarre -- and gets legally and politically complicated.
So how did it end up this way? Because more than a century ago a small river ran around this area and it was claimed by Manhattan. But then the river was filled in and it became landlocked. And yet, legally, it was stayed in Manhattan.
There are some people who want to change this and it probably should just be absorbed into the Bronx. But in the meantime, let's celebrate this neighborhood that belongs to two boroughs -- just another example of keeping NYC interesting.