Largest County, Largest Borough
You may not know much about Kings County, New York, but you're surely familiar with New York City's Brooklyn. It turns out that Kings County and the borough of Brooklyn are one and the same!
This is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs and also the largest county in the state of New York. More than 2.5 million people live in Kings County.
New York City is, by far, the largest city in the United States, and Brooklyn plays a significant role in that. The borough could stand on its own as the fourth-largest city in the U.S.
From Breuckelen to Brooklyn
Dutch colonists established the town of Breuckelen in the first half of the 17th century. There was a town in the Netherlands by the same name. Its colonial namesake remained under Dutch control for only a few decades before the British took possession of the area in 1664.
In 1684, the new leaders divided the region into several counties, one of which was Kings County. It's believed that the name was granted in honor of England's King Charles II.
Breuckelen's name was eventually anglicized to Brooklyn. By whichever name it was called, though, there's no doubt that it was expanding. Because of its growth, Brooklyn officially shifted from a town to a city in 1834. One by one, other towns in Kings County became assimilated into Brooklyn. By 1896, all of Kings County was included within Brooklyn's city limits.
A major shift took place in 1898. That's when the city of New York was consolidated into one booming metropolis. The leaders of the consolidation efforts had several goals in mind. Ensuring dominance over the rapidly expanding city of Chicago in the midwest was one of the most pressing issues in some people's minds. When the consolidation went through, Brooklyn became one of the five boroughs of NYC — now firmly established as the nation's largest city.
Kings and New York City's other counties are unique. They don't have county governments. Instead, most operations are centralized under the city's leadership. The borough, rather than the county, has jurisdiction over more local issues, and there's even a borough president.
On the Water
Kings County officially measures 96.9 square miles. Just over a quarter of its territory is water. The land area is about 71 square miles.
Kings County is located at the far western tip of Long Island. Along the north side, the county is bordered by the East River. The Upper New York Bay, the Lower New York Bay and Jamaica Bay surround it on the west and south. During the New York City consolidation process, Brooklyn's harbor access made it an attractive addition.
Only the eastern edge of Kings County is bounded by land. There, Kings County is adjacent to the borough of Queens (Queens County). While both Brooklyn and Queens are technically on Long Island, they're not typically thought of as Long Island territory. Rather, the two boroughs belong to the city, and Long Islanders are the people who live in Nassau and Suffolk Counties to the east.
To the north of Kings County is Manhattan. It lies just across the East River. The two boroughs are connected by the famous Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1883, back before Brooklyn was officially a part of New York City. With its approaches, the Brooklyn Bridge is 6,016 feet long. It can accommodate six lanes of traffic as well as walkers and cyclists.
Brooklyn is comprised of many different neighborhoods. Some of them, such as Flatbush and Bushwick, reflect the history of the borough. Those are the names of towns that were gradually incorporated into Brooklyn's expansion efforts. The neighborhoods of Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights correspond with the original location of the town of Breuckelen.
Home of Diversity
Approximately 30% of New York City's residents live in Kings County. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated a 2019 population of 2,559,903 people.
Immigration from around the world has made Kings County a multicultural hotspot. Approximately 36% of the people who now call Kings County home were born in another country. In other words, there are around 1 million immigrants contributing to the cultural diversity of this county. Around 200 different languages are used in Brooklyn, and a language other than English is spoken in about 45% of homes.
Just under half of Kings County's residents are white. The population is about one-third Black and one-eighth Asian. Around 19% of residents have Latino or Hispanic heritage.
From Tech to Tourism
From 2009 to 2018, Kings County experienced noteworthy economic growth. By the end of that period, sales had jumped by 48%, and the number of businesses had grown by 32%.
Jobs in the tech sector more than doubled during that same period. Over 1,300 companies have a presence within the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. They include Etsy, Biolite, Amplify and Gilt Group.
While people often think of Manhattan as NYC's business hub, Downtown Brooklyn is another of the city's strong business centers. The neighborhood's quick access to Manhattan by way of the Brooklyn Bridge makes this a smart place to conduct business. Subway transportation links these two business districts as well.
Education is an important piece of the Kings County economy. Higher learning institutions include Brooklyn Law School and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. There are four City University of New York (CUNY) campuses in this borough as well.
Visitors from around the world flock to New York City, so tourism is a big deal in Kings County. By 2017, there were twice as many jobs in the hospitality sector as there had been in 2009. Some years, the borough welcomes more than 15 million visitors, and they contribute over $2 billion to the local economy.
Home of Landmark Attractions
The Brooklyn Bridge is a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Approximately 30,000 people walk across it daily. Bicycles are allowed, too, and about 3,000 cyclists go the distance each day. Of course, driving across the bridge is an option as well.
One of Kings County's best-known attractions is Coney Island. In this touristy district, you can stroll along the boardwalk, experience the thrill of a wooden roller coaster and eat a New York-style hot dog. Coney Island is also where you'll find the New York Aquarium. Baseball fans should be sure to catch a game of the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league team.
If basketball is more your style, Brooklyn has you covered there too. The NBA's Brooklyn Nets play at the Barclays Center. This downtown arena also hosts concerts and other entertainment.
For those who are into history, the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area is within Kings County. It's where you'll find Floyd Bennett Field. Once a municipal airport, it was used as a naval air station during the 1940s. Fittingly, Gateway now offers opportunities to learn about the history of aviation and aircraft.
The National Recreation Area is also home to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, which spans more than 12,000 acres, contains many marshes and ponds. Birds flock to this area, so it's a great destination for birdwatchers. Even if you're not a bird expert, you may enjoy hiking the refuge's scenic trails.
Although Kings County is urban, it offers plenty of opportunities to connect with nature. In addition to the wildlife refuge, there's also the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This lush 52-acre garden is teeming with plant life, including lilacs, roses and tree peonies. The Cherry Esplanade and the Fragrance Garden are just a few of this park's must-see collections.
You might come to Kings County for the thrill of city life, but you'll find that it has so much more than just hustle and bustle to offer. From big-name concerts to quiet strolls in nature, New York's Kings County has an activity to match every mood.