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New York City, New York (U.S.)

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[Flag of New York City] image(s) by permission of David B. Martucci
image(s) from American City Flags, Raven 9-10 (2002-2003), courtesy of the North American Vexillological Association, which retains copyright.


BoroughCounty
Borough of ManhattanNew York County
Borough of BrooklynKings County
Borough of QueensQueens County
Borough of the BronxBronx County
Borough of Staten IslandRichmond County
Courtesy of Joe McMillan, 4 June 2000

See also:


Boroughs/Counties of New York City

Boroughs and counties refer to the same geographical entities. New York (City) contains five subdivisions, called boroughs. The boroughs are also counties, making New York (City) one of the only (perhaps *the* only) cities in the U.S. which has counties contained *within*. As counties, they are entitled to have county governments, including sheriffs, etc.

The borough of Brooklyn, where I grew up, was an independent city till the end of the 19th century. In fact, Brooklyn had been itself originally composed of villages. One of them, Flatbush, had its own Town Hall.

Lewis A. Nowitz, 1 July 2000


The Official City Flag

Text and image(s) from American City Flags, Raven 9-10 (2002-2003), courtesy of the North American Vexillological Association, which retains copyright. Image(s) from American City Flags by permission of David B. Martucci.

Design

The Administrative Code of the City of New York describes the city's flag:

A flag combining the colors, orange, white and blue, arranged in perpendicular bars of equal dimensions (the blue being nearest to the flag-staff ) with the standard design of the seal of the city in blue upon the middle, or white bar, omitting the legend ‘Sigillum Civitatis Novi Eboraci', which colors shall be the same as those of the flag of the United Netherlands in use in the year sixteen hundred twenty-six.

The seal in the center of the flag (the same as the official city seal without the inscription, which means "Seal of the City of New York", encircling the lower half of the seal) is surrounded by a laurel wreath, open very slightly at the top. Across the center of the seal is a uniquely 236 American City Flags shaped shield with supporters. The shield's shape somewhat resembles a police badge. It bears a windmill's arms in an "X" shape, each sail showing two horizontal rows of five squares each. Where the arms meet is a four-pointed star with a small circle in the center, suggesting a flower. Between the sails on the hoist and fly sides is a flour barrel, and at the top and bottom, a beaver, facing the hoist. The supporters stand on a laurel bar. The dexter supporter is a Dutch sailor, his left arm holding the shield; his right arm slightly upraised holding a sounding line, or plummet. Angled beside him toward the hoist is a "cross-staff ", a navigating instrument suggesting Henry Hudson, who reputedly determined the latitude of New York harbor with it. The sinister supporter is a Native American of the Manhattan tribe, holding a bow in his left hand, and supporting the shield with his right. Both supporters wear their native dress. Centered above the shield in the crest position is an eagle with outspread wings, perched on a hemisphere, and facing the hoist. Centered below the laurel bar is • 1625 •.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Symbolism

The colors of the flag derive from the early flag of the Netherlands, the country that first settled the area in 1625 and named it New Amsterdam in 1626. The windmill sails and the Dutch sailor are further references to the first settlers. The Manhattan supporter symbolizes the tribe of Native Americans, a branch of the Algonquins, which was indigenous to the area and gave its name to the city's central island. The flour barrels and beavers suggest the flour and fur industries so important to the original settlers. The beaver also commemorates the Dutch East India Company, the first such enterprise in the area. The eagle, representing New York State, closely resembles the eagle on the state's flag and seal. John B. Pine, chairman of a special committee appointed by the arts commission associates to recommend a flag design, added a significant comment to his report to the Aldermen:
This flag is no mere decoration. It is a page of history and its colors perpetuate a great tradition. It stands for liberty and law. It represents the basic idea of civil government which the founders brought to us and which is our priceless heritage. (Seal and Flag of the City of New York, 1665-1915, John B. Pine, ed. [G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1915]: 85-86.)
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Selection

In 1915, the mayor appointed a committee to design a civic coat of arms, and flag with those arms, that would be historically significant as part of the city's celebration of the 250th anniversary of municipal government in the city. The flag was officially adopted 27 April 1915 by the board of aldermen, and signed into law by the mayor 1 May 1915.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

Designer

The flag committee of the arts commission associates.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003

More about the Flag

The seal and flag first used the date 1664 to recall the year that the English first captured the city and changed its name to New York. The earlier date of 1625 was substituted by the city council in Local Law 3 of 1975, signed by the mayor on 8 January 1975. However, the seal itself was altered only by the adoption of Local Law 98 on 13 December 1977, and approved by the mayor on 30 December 1977. Since the seal change, it has not been uncommon to see the entire seal, including the inscription SIGILLUM CIVITATIS NOVI EBORACI, on the city flag, in spite of the statement included in the 1977 legislation which reads: However, the legend ‘Sigillum Civitatis Novi Eboraci' may be omitted when the design is used on the city flag or for architectural or ornamental purposes. The change from the original legislation of "omitting the legend" to "may be omitted" appears to allow both designs to be used.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003


Unofficial Flag Used Until 1915

[Unofficial Flag of New York City until 1915] image by Mark Sensen, 21 July 2001
(before 1915 an unofficial flag was in use: a white field with the seal of that time)

In September 1609 Henry Hudson, commander of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship Halve Maen (Half Moon) discovered Manhattan. The VOC however was not interested, although in the next years still some voyages were made by Dutch skippers. In 1614 exclusive privileges were given to the United New Netherland Company. In 1915 Fort Nassau was build near modern Albany, but the company was dissolved in 1618. In 1621 the newly-organized Dutch West India Company (GWC) was given an octroi by the Dutch Estates General for the monopoly of America and the west coast of Africa. Most attractive was the trade in beaver skins, and a beaver was the main feature on the New Netherland provincial seal. In 1625 Director-General Pieter Minuit bought the island of Manhattan from the Indians and built there Fort Amsterdam and laid the foundations of New Amsterdam which became the capital of New Netherland and the other Dutch Colonies in the Americas.

King Charles II of Great Britain disregarded the rights of the Dutch over New Netherland and granted it in 1664 to his brother James, Duke of York and Albany. The latter as Lord High Admiral of England set up an expedition. Because the defense of the colony was very weak, Director-General Peter Stuyvesant had to surrender on 29 August/8 September **. The very same day both the province and the city were renamed New York in honor of their new ruler. However Dutch form of government by Schout, Burgomasters and Schepens was continued, until English style mayor and aldermen were installed on 14/24 June ** 1665. With the Peace of Breda in 1667 the Dutch recognized their lost definitive, but in return got Suriname.

** the Julian calendar used by the English was 10 days behind on the (modern) Georgian calendar already used by the Dutch.
Mark Sensen, 17 July 2001

The New York City Flag from c.1825 to 1915 is unofficially described as being the New York City Seal in blue on white. However there is an American habit to be less than accurate when describing such things. In this case when they say "Seal" they really mean the Coat of Arms. The proof of this is in three places. In an 1825 print of the opening of the Erie Canal, the flag is shown on a ship in a wood cut illustration as being the arms on a plain field. In a lithograph regarding Abraham Lincoln's death in 1865, the flag is shown as white with the arms in the center and a black mourning border. The best proof is the Annin & Co. Catalog (I have seen several from 1905 to 1912) which shows the arms (as illustrated here) on white and states the flag can have the "seal" in blue or in its proper colors. NAVA published this information in American City Flags.
Dave Martucci, 4 July 2010

John B. Pine's 1915 book on the flag and seal (op. cit., page 82), says: "Up to the present time the City of New York has never possessed an official flag in any true sense of the term. The flag which has been displayed on the City Hall, consisting of a white field bearing the seal of the City, was never formally adopted by the City authorities…"

Two points in this statement are worthy of comment. First, Pine notes that no flag before 1915 was official, although one was apparently in use for a number of years, since the aldermen from time to time provided funds for the flag's replacement. There is no definite information as to what its proportions may have been or who may have designed it. Second, Pine speaks of "a white field bearing the seal of the City," but no illustration of a flag with the seal rather than the arms is available. Dr. Whitney Smith of the Flag Research Center believes that "seal" is used here to mean "arms," an understandable allusion since the seal's primary element is the city's arms, and those illustrations that do survive of previous city flags lend support to Dr. Smith's opinion.

The pre-1915 arms, including those of the seal, are an adaptation of those adopted in 1784 after the evacuation of the city by the British. They differ from the 1915 version chiefly in artistic interpretation of the various elements. (It was, in fact, the many varied artistic interpretations of the city seal which prompted the adoption of a standardized seal in 1915, which reverts more closely to the artistic rendition of the first seal of 1686.) There is no cross-staff behind the dexter supporter, for example, and the sinister supporter holds a double bow that was not historically accurate for the Manhattan tribe, which used a single, larger bow. The eagle in the crest faces the fly rather than the hoist, and the arms rest on a wooden platform rather than a laurel bed.
John M. Purcell, American City Flags, Raven 9-10, 2002-2003


Official Flag 1915-1975

[Flag of New York City 1915-1975] image(s) by permission of David B. Martucci
image(s) from American City Flags, Raven 9-10 (2002-2003), courtesy of the North American Vexillological Association, which retains copyright.

On 24 June 1915 (exactly 250 years after transition from Dutch to English government) a new standard design of the city seal (first adopted in 1686) was adopted, described as follows:
Arms: Upon a shield, saltire-wise, the sails of a windmill. Between the sails, in chief a beaver, in base a beaver, and on each flank a flour barrel;
Supporters: Dexter, a sailor, his right arm bent, and holding in his right hand a plummet; his left arm bent, his left hand resting on the top of the shield; above his right shoulder a cross-staff. Sinister, an Indian of Manhattan, his right arm bent, his right hand resting on the top of the shield, his left hand holding the upper end of a bow, the lower end rests on the ground. Shield and supporters resting upon a horizontal laurel branch;
Date: Beneath the horizontal laurel branch the date 1664, being the year of the capture of New Amsterdam by the English and the first use of the name of the City of New York;
Crest: Upon a hemisphere, an American eagle with wings displayed;
Legend: Upon a ribbon encircling the lower half of the design the words "Sigillum Civitatis Novi Eboraci"
The whole encircled by a laurel wreath.

The windmill and flour barrels stand for early industry; the beaver was taken from the seal of New Netherland; the sailor represent the first European settlers; the Indian the original people; the eagle is taken from the state arms.

The same day a city flag and mayor's were adopted, described as follows:
A flag combining the colors orange, white and blue, arranged in perpendicular bars of equal dimensions (the blue being nearest to the staff) with the standard design of the seal of the city in blue upon the middle, or white bar, omitting the legend "Sigillum Civitatis Novi Eboraci," which said colors shall be the same as those of the flag of the United Netherlands in use in the year 1626. The official flag of the mayor shall be the same in design as the official flag of the city, except that upon the middle or white bar there shall be above the design of the seal in a semi-circle, five blue five-pointed stars; the dimensions of such flag shall be thirty-three inches by forty-four inches.

The colors are chosen to commemorate the Dutch who brought the love of civil liberty and the ideals of democratic government with them. The shade of blue back than was indigo blue. The stripes are not arranged horizontal but vertical to not make it an imitation of the early Dutch flags but a new flag, and for better displaying the seal. The flag follows the practice that the darkest bar is placed next to the staff, like the French and Belgian. The legend of the seal is omitted because it is superfluous in the flag.

Mark Sensen, 17 July 2001

Sources:
[1] John B. Pine, L.H.D., "Seal and Flag of the City of New York", New York/London, 1915.
[2] Copy of the council resolution no. 284, 20 June 1974.
[3] "Nijhoffs Geschiedenis-lexicon Nederland en België", 's-Gravenhage/Antwerpen, 1981.

The first official flag was adopted with the blue-white-orange tricolor and the year 1664 written on it. The 250th anniversary is clearly not a coincidence, I would say that the anniversary probably prompted the flag and seal redesign. The 1664/65 discrepancy is not terribly important, both mark the events of the transition from Dutch to English rule: on September 24, 1664 Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam and on June 12, 1665 England installed the municipal government of New York City. Which is only preface to the Great New York City Mystery of 1975. This is only a mystery to me because I was not quite alive at that time. But note the following: in 1975, NYC changed the date on its seal from 1664 to the year 1625, marking the founding of New Amsterdam. That same year, Richmond Borough changed its name to Staten Island Borough, moving from an English to a Dutch name, and incidentally acquired a new flag (more on this below). I believe all of this must have been in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Dutch settlement in 1975, prompting the new seal and flag of NYC, as well as the new name and (indirectly) flag of Richmond/Staten Island Borough.
Richard Knipel, 2 August 2004


City Seal

[Seal of New York City] image by Mark Sensen, 18 July 2001

Interpretation of the Symbols of the City Seal:

Eagle - - Symbol of New York State
Indian - - Represents Native Americans that were already here
Sailor with navigational tools - - Represents settlement
Beaver - - Symbol of the Dutch East India Company (This was the first company to come to New York City)
Windmill, Barrel and Flower - - Represents early industry

Dov Gutterman, 15 April 1999


The Mayor's Flag

[Flag of the Mayor of New York City] image(s) by permission of David B. Martucci
image(s) from American City Flags, Raven 9-10 (2002-2003), courtesy of the North American Vexillological Association, which retains copyright.

From Official Directory of New York City -

Description: The same in design as the official flag of the city, except that upon the middle or white bar, and above the design of the seal in a semicircle, there shall be five blue five-pointed stars, typifying the five boroughs of the city. The dimensions of such flag are 33 inches by 44 inches.
Kurt Stutt, 1 July 1996

From the on-line city administrative code City Flag:
§ 3-101 Flag of the mayor.
The official flag of the mayor shall be the same in design as the official flag of the city. Upon the middle or white bar, however, and above the design of the seal in a semi-circle, there shall be five blue five-pointed stars, typifying the five boroughs of the city. The dimensions of such flag shall be thirty-three inches by forty-four inches.
Joe McMillan, 15 August 2003


The Councilman Flag

[Councilmanic Flag of New York City]
image by Mark Sensen, 21 July 2001
[Councilmanic Flag of New York City]
image by Dave Martucci, 30 November 2002

From Official Directory of New York City -
Description: The same in design as the official flag of the city, except that upon the middle or white bar there shall be below the design of the seal, in a straight line, the word "Council"; the dimensions of such flag is the same as the standard size of flags used for state and parade occasions.
Kurt Stutt, 1 July 1996

It was pointed out to me that maybe the Council Members flag image I sent is wrong so I went to the ordinance creating it and read that the word "COUNCIL" is to be located "above the seal below the crest" which is crazy language. So I looked up the Mayoral flag language and, sure enough, it reads the same. I'm guessing the Council flag is like the Mayoral flag with the word above the seal (and the crest).
Dave Martucci, 1 December 2002

From the on-line city administrative code City Flag:
§ 3-201 Councilmanic flag.
The official flag of the council shall be the same in design as the official flag of the city, except that upon the middle or white bar there shall be below (sic) the design of the seal, in a straight line, the word "Council"; the dimensions of such flag shall be the same as the standard size of flags used for state and parade occasions.
Joe McMillan, 15 August 2003


Department of Parks

[Flag of New York City Dept of Parks] image by Eugene Ipavec, 16 August 2007

Recalling my train ride to Montreal, I saw an unusual "maple leaf" flag -- made doubly unusual by the fact that I saw it well before I'd reached Quebec. In fact, it was in New York City, as the train passed a sports stadium of some kind -- it looked like it may have been laid out for football or soccer. Flying next to the U.S. flag above the scoreboard was a white flag with a green "maple leaf" inside a green circle in the center.
Steve Kramer, 9 May 1998

This is the Department of Parks, flown at any of its installations.
Will Linden, 10 May 1998

The City of New York Parks Department flag displays the leaf of a London Plane Tree, Platanus x acerifolia, one of the most commonly-planted trees in the city.
E. Robbins, 24 March 2003

[Flag of New York City Dept of Parks] image by Eugene Ipavec, 17 September 2012

In a TV news story I saw showed Mayor Bloomberg walking through the corridors of an unidentified municipal building. Hanging on the wall in the background, a negative version of this flag (white logo on green) could be seen.
Eugene Ipavec, 17 September 2012


Department of Corrections

[Flag of New York City Dept of Corrections] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 22 June 2001

From: http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/doc/html/flag.html

During 1998, in observance of the centennial of New York City's emergence as a municipality of five boroughs, the Department of Correction formally adopted as its official flag the design displayed here.

The colors that predominate are those found in the Department emblematic shoulder patch: orange, blue, white and gold. Blue, white and orange also predominate in the official flag of the City in remembrance of colors in the United Netherlands flag that flew over the New Amsterdam settlement in 1625. The five stars surrounding the City Seal on the orange field represent the five boroughs in which the Department operates its facilities. The numerals to the left and right of the stars-surrounded seal spell out the year that the Department was created as a separate agency. The sixteen blue and white stripes represent the number of major facilities operated by the Department at the time of the design adoption.
submitted by Pascal Gross, 19 April 2001


New York's 2012 Olympic bid

[New York's 2012 Olympic bid]   [New York's 2012 Olympic bid] images by Eugene Ipavec, 16 February 2005

These are the flags of the New York 2012 Olympics bid. I saw examples of the second one in photos of the announcement ceremony; the first one appeared on images on the official bid website: www.nyc2012.com/en/hires_images.html (site no longer available). Thy called it a logo, but it appeared in flag form on the main page.
[Flags made with minimal modification of graphics taken from the official site]
Eugene Ipavec, 16 February 2005