New York City , official population eight million, is made up of five boroughs — Manhattan , Brooklyn , Queens , the Bronx , and Staten Island  — covering a total of 301 square miles. Only the northernmost borough, the Bronx, sits on the mainland; the rest of the city is spread out over a group of islands in New York Bay, where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Manhattan and Staten Island are islands in their own right. Brooklyn and Queens are on the western tip of Long Island .
Queens is the largest borough in area (118 square miles), followed by Brooklyn (78.5 square miles), Staten Island (61 square miles), the Bronx (43 square miles,) and Manhattan (23 square miles). By population, Brooklyn takes top spot with 2.5 million residents, followed by Queens (2.2 million), Manhattan (1.5 million), the Bronx (1.3 million), and Staten Island (just 443,000).
Between Staten Island and Brooklyn runs the Verrazano Narrows, a strait separating the upper and lower parts of New York Bay. Manhattan lies in upper New York Bay and is separated from the mainland by the East River to the east, the Hudson River to the west, and the Harlem River and Spuyten Duyvil to the northeast. Technically, the East River isn’t a river at all, but a strait running between Long Island Sound and New York Bay.
Manhattan is the epicenter of New York City . Its preeminent status is evidenced by the fact that when people speak of “the city,” they’re usually referring to Manhattan.
The island is 12 miles long and 3 miles wide, and scored by a grid of streets (running east-west) and avenues (running north-south). “Downtown” generally refers to anything south of 14th Street, “Midtown” to addresses between 34th and 59th Streets, and “Uptown” to areas above 59th Street. “Downtown” also translates as hip, bohemian, and avant-garde; “Midtown” as high-rise offices and the corporate world; and “Uptown” as sophisticated, well-heeled, and Harlem . These shorthand definitions hardly do justice to the island’s complexities, but they’re true enough to be part of every New Yorker’s lexicon.
The East Side encompasses everything east of 5th Avenue; the West Side, everything to the west. The East Side has the reputation of being stuffier, wealthier, and less interesting than the West, but again, this is a generalization of limited utility.
A separate city until 1898, Brooklyn boasts its own civic center, cultural institutions, downtown shopping district, and residential neighborhoods. Among its many visitor attractions are the Brooklyn Museum of Art , Brooklyn Botanic Garden , Brooklyn Academy of Music , Prospect Park , and Coney Island  boardwalk.
A largely residential borough that many Manhattanites once dismissed as a snore, Queens is now one of the most ethnically diverse sections of the city. Flushing Meadows Corona Park  and Shea Stadium are among the borough’s biggest attractions.
Largely residential, Staten Island is the most rural and isolated of the boroughs, and the only one whose residents speak longingly of seceding from New York City . Its major visitor attractions include the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences  and the Staten Island ferry .