The meaning behind every New York City borough flag

Posted On Mon, June 14, 2021 By

Posted On Mon, June 14, 2021 By In History

The New York City flag, photo via Wikimedia Commons

The United States celebrates Flag Day as a way to remember the adoption of the country’s first official flag on June 14, 1777. Later in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that established June 14 as Flag Day. While all of us honor the American flag today, each borough in New York City has its own flag that can be celebrated. The city of New York also has its own flag, which features the colors of blue, white, and orange and has the city’s seal on the front. The colors are derived from the flag of the Dutch Republic as used in New Amsterdam in 1625.


Image by Simtropolitan via Wikimedia Commons

Bronx Flag ↑

The Bronx flag looks similar to the city’s, with its tricolor, orange, white, and blue appearance. The Bronx was the first borough to have an official flag, created in 1912. The central image is the Bronck family arms; Jonas Bronck, from Sweden, was the first European immigrant to settle in the borough, which is named after him. Bronx historian Llyod Ultan told the New York Times that the flag’s eagle represents the “hope of the New World, while not forgetting the heritage of the old.” Additionally, the shield’s sea represents commerce and the rising sun represents the coming of liberty, and the ribbon, which reads “Ne Cede Malis,” translates to “Yield not to evil.”

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Brooklyn Flag ↑

The flag of Brooklyn has a white background with a seal in the middle featuring a young woman who represents the goddess of justice. She holds a Roman fasces–which has six rods to represent the original six towns of Brooklyn–to symbolize unity. Above her, a slogan translates to, “In unity, there is strength.” This is the only other borough flag that has been officially adopted into law. It’s been around since 1860 when Brooklyn was its own city, and the design has never changed.

Image by Simtropolitan via Wikimedia Commons

Queens Flag ↑

The flag of Queens focuses on nature and contains three sky blue and white horizontal stripes. These colors represent the arms of the first Dutch Governor Willem Kieft. In the center is a ring of wampum, a traditional shell bead used by Native American Lenapes who originally lived on the land and collected clamshells to turn into beads. Inside the ring are a tulip and a rose, representing the Dutch and the English monarchy respectively. The crown further represents the monarchy, as the borough was named for Catherine of Braganza, Queen Consort of England in 1683, which is when the original 12 counties of New York, including present-day Queens, were created. The year 1898 is when Queens first became a borough of New York City. Its’ flag was created in 1913.

Manhattan Flag, Borough Flags, Flag DayImage via Wikimedia Commons

Manhattan Flag ↑

The blue, white, and orange-colored flag of Manhattan is quite similar to the New York City flag, but its seal differs slightly. In the middle, a Native American pays homage to the city’s first inhabitants, and a sailor represents its maritime history. The four-blade of a windmill can also be seen, a reference to the Dutch.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Staten Island Flag ↑

The newest of the five boroughs, Staten Island’s flag was first created in 2002 and later redesigned by Borough President James Oddo in 2016. The center features the borough’s seal, a female figure who represents Staten Island. She holds a sword that points downward, a signal of peace. A small canoe with three oystermen is shown, an ode to the borough’s rich oyster bed history. In the distance, you can see Henry Hudson’s ship “The Half Moon.” Previously, the Borough of Richmond, as it was called until 1975, had two earlier flag versions.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on June 14, 2017. 

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