At the time, New York City had a population of 5.7 million - the population had doubled in just 30 years due to mass immigration. The city was developing rapidly, and more than a quarter of the 300 largest companies in the US were headquartered in NYC.
The city was a destination for internal migrants as well as immigrants. Through 1940, New York was a major destination for African Americans during the Great Migration from the rural American South. The Harlem Renaissance flourished during the 1920s and the era of Prohibition. New York's ever accelerating changes and rising crime and poverty rates were reduced after World War I disrupted trade routes, the Immigration Restriction Acts limited additional immigration after the war, and the Great Depression reduced the need for new labor. The combination ended the rule of the Gilded Age barons. As the city's demographics temporarily stabilized, labor unionization helped the working class gain new protections and middle-class affluence, the city's government and infrastructure underwent a dramatic overhaul under Fiorello La Guardia, and his controversial parks commissioner, Robert Moses, ended the blight of many tenement areas, expanded new parks, remade streets, and restricted and reorganized zoning controls.
For a while, New York ranked as the most populous city in the world, overtaking London in 1925, which had reigned for a century. The 'Roaring 20s' also saw a construction boom, and many of New York's icons including Chrysler Center, Rockefeller Center, and the Empire State Building would be constructed in the ensuing decade.
Originally published on May 4th, 2021
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