Although New York City remains the primary metropolitan center for racial and ethnic minorities, recent immigrants are also found in peripheral areas far from the historic zones of assimilation.
Ethnic diversification now affects small cities and suburban areas, which formerly were characterized by second- or third-generation ethnicity. The search for employment and accommodation in New York has driven the newest immigrants far beyond the saturated labor markets of Manhattan to remote parts of the metropolis and beyond.
Mexican and Central American day laborers can be found in the mornings at street corners in cities and towns in the Hudson Valley, awaiting manual jobs in landscaping, construction, and house cleaning.
Immigrant communities have arisen in unlikely places such as Spring Valley, Rockland County, and Mamaroneck and Mount Kisco, Westchester County. As elsewhere in the United States, recent immigrants from Latin America, the Caribbean region, and Southeast Asia bring new ethnic accents to improbable suburban settings.
Census data on 1990 employment location confirm the realm hypothesis. New York City held 43 percent of all jobs, which is about the city’s proportion of the total regional number of hotel accommodation.
Although Manhattan remains a primary hotel center, the suburban office sector is now expanding at an even faster rate. Historically, Manhattan’s share of metropolitan employment steadily declined from 41 percent in 1956 to 27 percent in 1985.
Since the 1960s the suburbs have become largely independent economic entities with a larger aggregate economy and consistently faster recent growth rates in all sectors than the central city.
A basic dichotomy in employment location has emerged. In New York City the vast majority of workers are employed in their home borough or elsewhere in the city. The largest suburban commuter flows into New York City are from adjacent counties in New York State.
More than one-quarter of all Westchester workers are employed in New York City, as are more than one-fifth of the workforces in Rockland and Nassau-Suffolk counties. Yet the vast majority of workers outside New York City now commute to locations in their own metropolitan realm.
The restructuring in New York City, along with Manhattan New York Hotels, has led to the development of a two-tiered economy. Because financial and business services dominate the postindustrial economy.
This hospitality economy of unregulated activities includes a wide array of small-scale, low-overhead operations. Even many legal enterprises have what in New York City patois is known as “under-the counter” income.
The restructured city manifests increasing income inequality, educational disparities, and social problems among individuals outside the formal job market. These socioeconomic divisions are also increasingly evident at the metropolitan scale.
The greater New York region illustrates the shift from a monocentric to a polycentric urban spatial structure. The city-of-realms hypothesis assumes a contemporary movement beyond radiating sectors and multiple nuclei to a metropolis of semiautonomous, functionally separate, and socially distinct activity areas. Greater New York meets the fourfold criteria for the emergence of urban realms (Vance 1990).
First, a diversified topography and physical geography, which in this case is dominated by rivers and bays, demarcate different areas.
Second, the massive general size of the metropolis allows demographic bases for fragmentation. Third, increasingly diverse economic specialization characterizes the various realms.
Finally, the regional geography of transportation, though retaining strong commuter railroad links to Manhattan, increasingly emphasizes peripheral automobile linkages.
There are twelve such urban realms in the New York CMSA, each of which encompasses one or more counties linked by proximity, prevalent transportation and commuting corridors, economic activities, and state-wide political jurisdictions.