NYC Borough Civil War
June 14, 2018 5:00 AM   Subscribe

What would happen if the five boroughs fought each other? A discussion of the martial strengths of NYC’s five boroughs if they were locked in a war with each other with no outside help.
posted by SpaceWarp13 (45 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Warriors - come out and play-ee-ayyyyy ...
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:13 AM on June 14 [21 favorites]


Escape from New York: Civil War.

I think there's a videogame somewhere around this story.
posted by lmfsilva at 5:16 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


I'm glad the Bronx won. Usually people hate on it for stupid reasons.
posted by starlybri at 5:27 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


...with no outside help.

Except for all the potable water coming in through the aqueducts, which evidently has special dispensation to teleport through the "impenetrable wall." And everyone outside the wall keeps sending it, for some reason.

Really the rest of us need to just back bucket elevators up to the impenetrable wall and use it as a landfill. It's karma.
posted by XMLicious at 5:57 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


Obviously Staten Island would just blow up their bridges and wait it out, maybe driving go-karts or enjoying a Staten Island Yankees match, finally invading the winner on a fleet of Guy V. Molinari -class ferries. "YOU SHAN'T FORGET US AGAIN!" they will chant, marching forward in their Our Kills Are The Freshest t-shirts.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:05 AM on June 14 [14 favorites]


The first shot fired in this war is pointing out to the Queens/Brooklyn people that they’re technically on Long Island.
posted by dr_dank at 6:18 AM on June 14 [14 favorites]



The first shot fired in this war is pointing out to the Queens/Brooklyn people that they’re technically on Long Island.


That may be considered a war crime.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:26 AM on June 14 [6 favorites]


"I'm glad the Bronx won. Usually people hate on it for stupid reasons."

A lot of those reasons are exactly why I would not want to fight against the Bronx.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:26 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Plus the Bronx has secret weaponry in the Zoo. 100,000 cockroaches, just waiting to be deployed. The Reptile House could be weaponized in very short order. A ready supply of lions, tigers, and bears.

But really, though, the Bronx would win because it's full of nice, friendly people who do not have time for your shit.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:43 AM on June 14 [6 favorites]


This is doesn't account for the often forgotten sixth borough of NYC - the CHUD people and underground. Which rises up a bit over halfway through the battle, eats most of the remaining survivors and then enslaves the rest, forcing advertisers, marketers, day traders and twee hipster beard-yeast beer artisans to work as sandwich artists and baristas.
posted by loquacious at 6:49 AM on June 14 [6 favorites]


Not long after I read the Bonfire of the Vanities I had cause to roll down from New England for some event arriving in the late evening, heading towards the convenient cutoff to the West Side over the bridge on the Henry Hudson Parkway from 95 I for some unknown reason got off on some exit into the middle of the Bronx, and I was in that pivotal scene line in a movie, barrels randomly burning stuff with a bunch of folks standing around and no obvious entrance back to a highway. Now days I aim that direction to avoid tolls and it's just more interesting but wow did I have a moment.

And from my minor wanderings, from the post title my first thought was Bronx, hands down, would take a week or less to whomp the artsy wimps.
posted by sammyo at 6:50 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


So The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G. K. Chesterton, but set in NY instead of London?
posted by Dr. Curare at 6:54 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Except for all the potable water coming in through the aqueducts, which evidently has special dispensation to teleport through the "impenetrable wall." And everyone outside the wall keeps sending it, for some reason.

Yeah, the "impenetrable wall" thing is stupid, this would be all about supply lines (and that's why the Bronx would win). The loyalties of the NYC DEP folks running the reservoir and aquaduct systems would also be a big factor here.

Although Queens has an elongated strip of defense with the Rockaways and Broad Channel, and a handful of small islands in Jamaica Bay, they’re located way in the south, which isn’t strategically helpful.

I'd think it would be very strategically helpful. The Rockaways are the only NYC waterfront not susceptible to blockade (and the ideal launching spot for Queens to set up blockades of or naval attacks on Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan).

The article mentions Rikers as an asset for the Bronx, but since its only bridge connects to Queens, it would end up as Queens territory pretty quickly. The same is true of Roosevelt Island (nominally part of Manhattan).
posted by enn at 6:55 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Something the article doesn't mention, but which might be important, are alliances and neighborhood loyalties. I'm assuming everyone might band together against Manhattan at first, or maybe Manhattan trades off resources and promises of post-war cash to squash competitors given its weak strategic position. Also Brooklyn seems like it might have divided loyalties. Bay Ridge is almost more an extension of Staten Island than it is a part of Brooklyn.
posted by codacorolla at 7:00 AM on June 14


Nowhere in this article does it mention medicine, so I'm assuming half the population would die from dysentery or something once our on-hand stores ran out.

And then most of the rest would starve to death, because no way can NYC's green space just be casually whipped up into farms capable of feeding MILLIONS of people before that happens.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:11 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


Plus, the Bronx has the Botanical Garden with its lovely greenhouses, which we'll need to grow our own coffee. New York isn't going to go to war with itself without coffee.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:12 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


Oh, whoops, "no alliances" is part of the rules. I'd still maintain that conflicting loyalties could be a problem (call it 'morale') and that Brooklyn would likely suffer the most.
posted by codacorolla at 7:20 AM on June 14


And then most of the rest would starve to death

I think you're overlooking a source of food. The wall would come down and the world would be introduced to haute cuisine cannibalism and trendy food truck cannibalism.
posted by XMLicious at 7:28 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


And then most of the rest would starve to death, because no way can NYC's green space just be casually whipped up into farms capable of feeding MILLIONS of people before that happens.

Well, all the rats can act as a stop gap food measure until the farm land is cultivated.

When and how does this war start anyway? If it suddenly breaks out in the middle of the workday, a lot of people would find themselves trapped in enemy territory. (I'd also worry less about the guns themselves, with good machine tooling available, and more about potential for fire bombs, explosives, and chemical attacks. Densely packed housing can be a liability.)
posted by gusottertrout at 7:28 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


The other boroughs will have to dispatch, like, 1,000 John McClanes in order to clear out Manhattan's skyscrapers.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:41 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the "impenetrable wall" thing is stupid, this would be all about supply lines (and that's why the Bronx would win). The loyalties of the NYC DEP folks running the reservoir and aquaduct systems would also be a big factor here.

In this brutish war of all against all, my money's on Upstate just shutting down the aqueducts.
posted by zamboni at 7:54 AM on June 14 [4 favorites]


There's nothing in Manhattan that anyone would need or want. Blockading Manhattan and focusing on 2-front wars would be the smartest and easiest step for all of the other boroughs, surely? I also can't imagine that the tiny handful of operating farms left in NYC would be able to make any meaningful difference to the boroughs' food supply, although whoever controlled the Rockaways (I don't think they'd stay in Queens hands for very long) would be able to operate a fishing fleet.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:02 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


I agree with this article's conclusion. The Bronx wins, Manhattan is first to go.

1. The Bronx
2. Staten Island
3. Brooklyn
4. Queens
5. Manhattan

Staten Island is #2 because, as grumpybear69 said, they blow up the bridges, use the ferries to patrol the coasts, and wait it out. There's also a lot of parkland and woods on Staten Island (and no, I don't mean the dump) so they probably could grow their own food for awhile, especially considering the smaller population.

Brooklyn and Queens are both done in by the large land border. Ultimately, Brooklyn wins because: 1) as the article said, more ammunition, and 2) Queens has to worry about its' northern and western coasts, especially northern. Brooklyn's coasts face lower Manhattan, which is probably the most vulnerable spot in the city and gets done in early, and Staten Island, which is holing up for the long haul and unlikely to mount a serious attack. So Brooklyn can pour most of its' resources into the war of attrition with Queens. It wins, but it is severely diminished.

What winds up happening is, Manhattan collapses quickly, facing attacks on all sides. Queens is really busy defending itself, though; most of Manhattan ultimately goes to The Bronx but Brooklyn gets the southern end of the island. Brooklyn and Queens fight a long war of attrition while The Bronx hangs back, preparing for the big assault, maybe poking at Queens strategically from time to time. When the time is right, The Bronx sweeps down through the rest of Manhattan and Queens, overwhelming decimated Brooklyn and what, if anything, is left of Queens. For the final battle, The Bronx uses a bunch of Coast Guard boats to lay siege to Staten Island. It might take some time, but Staten Island eventually surrenders; they just don't have the resources to hold out forever.

That was fun to write.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:25 AM on June 14 [10 favorites]


The real winner is whichever borough can get it's expats to return from Miami, Miami Beach and So. Fla. in general with the many, many, many more guns, boats and drugs that they'd bring.
posted by oddman at 9:03 AM on June 14


Nowhere in this article does it mention medicine, so I'm assuming half the population would die from dysentery or something once our on-hand stores ran out.

The other half would die from trying to ford the East River
posted by delfin at 9:06 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Where are the guns?
posted by pracowity at 9:11 AM on June 14


I don't want to say that geography is irrelevant here, but it's hardly the only factor. (Also, if you let SI blow up or control its bridge, then surely Manhattan can do the same for all of its, leaving itself with no meaningful land border with the other boroughs.)

Illegal gun ownership is probably most heavily concentrated in Manhattan north of 110th St., the Bronx, and the far reaches of Brooklyn. Legal gun ownership, all those jerk cops on Staten Island. Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn supports the National Guard--not quite as useful as having the actual Army, but probably a source of weaponry and trained personnel. (However, those troops operate in at least Manhattan and Queens; who gets those?) I think it could get super-ugly along the Bronx-Manhattan border.

Manhattan would have some copters. I think there are also some at Bennett Field in Brooklyn. No other military air force available. There would be passenger naval craft in all the boroughs, but I have no idea where the naval militia operates from.

ConEd corporate headquarters are in Manhattan. Power is generated all over the city, but I don't know if control of the system is centralized there or elsewhere. If any borough could gain control of the power system for another borough, that would not bode well for the powerless borough.

Brooklyn and Queens have a significant population edge, but I don't know how that translates into people actually capable of bearing arms.
posted by praemunire at 9:41 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


(Also, if you let SI blow up or control its bridge, then surely Manhattan can do the same for all of its, leaving itself with no meaningful land border with the other boroughs.)

According to this link, there are 21 bridges that cross into Manhattan. If you remove GW, that's 20. Per wikipedia, there are also 16 tunnels crossing the East and Hudson Rivers that are accessible to people (so not counting structures for water and power transmission).

So, Manhattan needs to defend or obliterate 36 crossings. Staten Island needs to defend or obliterate one. Manhattan has more resources than Staten Island, but not 36 times as many resources.

Plus, even if Manhattan could defend/destroy all 36 crossings, it would be relatively easy for The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn to cross the East and Harlem Rivers. The only borough that could easily cross the Narrows is Brooklyn. And I don't think they'd want to try because a) the big land border with Queens would be an overriding concern, and b) Staten Island is strategically unimportant and would be hard to hold.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:59 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


So, Manhattan needs to defend or obliterate 36 crossings. Staten Island needs to defend or obliterate one. Manhattan has more resources than Staten Island, but not 36 times as many resources.

It doesn't matter how much Manhattan has relative to SI; it only matters if Manhattan has enough. Bridges and especially subway-related tunnels (the major underwater tunnels) are relatively easy to defend and/or disable. (Many of the bridges on the Harlem River are movable, so...good luck with that.)

Assuming relative parity in non-military naval forces for support, I also think you are radically overestimating the ability of the average citizen to swim across a river while armed with fire coming down on them from above. Without alliances, Brooklyn and Queens are not going to be able to pull the massive manpower they would need from the vast B-Q border. If artillery were available on either side, that would of course make a difference, but I don't think it would be.
posted by praemunire at 10:31 AM on June 14




where are the guns?

let me fix that link for you
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 10:49 AM on June 14


Then Philly, Baltimore, and Newark, look at each other and say, haha, they think they're hard.
posted by nikoniko at 10:52 AM on June 14


Hart Island in the Bronx used to have nuclear weapons.

In an actual war, Trump would intervene negotiating a peace treaty for Manhattan which would obliterate from the map.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:26 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


I agree with this article's conclusion. The Bronx wins, Manhattan is first to go.

Yeah, even though I've been here less than a year, I can see that the Bronx would win. Manhattan would get it from every side, and once it was crushed, Brooklyn and Queens would attack each other. Whichever borough wins that would be too weak to fight the Bronx. Staten Island would retreat into an isolation reminiscent of Edo period Japan, leaving the Bronx as the winner.

I asked my Brooklyn-born colleagues for their opinions and they all said BROOKLYN, let's be real, the Bronx. Apparently the border with Queens is a weak point. And, apparently, some of them have thought through this before. I guess planning a borough war is just one of those New York things like bagels and freakishly large rats with magical powers.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:32 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Brooklyn is the only acceptable answer.
posted by dame at 12:37 PM on June 14


Plus the Bronx has secret weaponry in the Zoo. 100,000 cockroaches, just waiting to be deployed.

Have you been to NYC? I've visited apartments in Brooklyn where 100K roaches would have been called "the night shift."
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:42 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Upon further thought, Queens has the unique advantage of having not one but two major airports from which it could launch fighter planes. Manhattan also has fleets of helicopters.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:13 PM on June 14


Air combat was ruled out in one of the starting conditions, specifically because Queens has both major airports.

Bronx is quite defensible, but the argument for its offensive might wasn't there. I think what happens is that Manhattan gets pillaged by Queens, Brooklyn and Bronx quickly. Bronx then retreats with its ill-gotten gains and uses part of Manhattan as a security perimeter. No force really wants to hold Manhattan yet, so lower Manhattan becomes a no-man's-land.

Brooklyn and Queens then engage in total war, with Staten Island forces finally scrounging what they can from the picked corpse of Manhattan. An active assault on Brooklyn too early into this matter is suicide.

Ultimately, after Brooklyn conquers Queens, there remains an uneasy truce between three boro-states. Brooklyn has little to gain by attacking Staten Island and the Bronx (what is there worth taking?!), and neither Staten Island nor the Bronx can defeat Brooklyn on an open battlefield, even after the losses Brooklyn sustains in its fight against Queens.

Having an impenetrable fortress has always been great for avoiding being conquered, but it does so very little in helping conquer other lands.
posted by explosion at 1:31 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


...two major airports from which it could launch fighter planes.

Airports are against the rules. Presumably, the Intrepid counts as an airport. No word if someone could pull a Sully.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:33 PM on June 14


Assuming relative parity in non-military naval forces for support, I also think you are radically overestimating the ability of the average citizen to swim across a river while armed with fire coming down on them from above. Without alliances, Brooklyn and Queens are not going to be able to pull the massive manpower they would need from the vast B-Q border. If artillery were available on either side, that would of course make a difference, but I don't think it would be.

Yeah I was thinking they'd cross in boats, not swim. Although: which borough has the most boats? That seems like it would be a big consideration.

Also even though Brooklyn and Queens would be busy fighting each other, that still leaves Manhattan vulnerable to attack from The Bronx. I also think Brooklyn and Queens would be able to inflict *some* damage, Brooklyn especially, even though they'd be distracted.

I just don't think Manhattan withstand the assault form all sides, which would happen, albeit to varying degrees. The Bronx's big advantage is that it's the only borough that could probably hold its' own position while also playing offense.

It doesn't matter how much Manhattan has relative to SI; it only matters if Manhattan has enough. Bridges and especially subway-related tunnels (the major underwater tunnels) are relatively easy to defend and/or disable. (Many of the bridges on the Harlem River are movable, so...good luck with that.)

Yeah, I had forgotten about the swinging bridges, that's a good point. Still, one crossing is a lot easier to defend/disable than however many Manhattan has subtracting the swinging bridges.

Someone should totally make this into a computer strategy game.
posted by breakin' the law at 1:33 PM on June 14


the Bronx (what is there worth taking?!)

John & Joe's Pizza.

THAT IS RIGHT I SAID IT
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:36 PM on June 14


Really the issue with Manhattan and Queens is that they'd both have to defend themselves on multiple fronts. The Bronx doesn't have to worry about its' northern flank, it can focus on invading to the south and holding its territory. The hilly geography would help with the latter. Brooklyn technically has three fronts, but only the one with Queens really matters - though it's a doozy.

The Bronx also has the advantage of being able to take relatively defensible swaths of Upper Manhattan early on, so it can get an early expansion out of the way and then hold its gains while Brooklyn and Queens fight to the death.
posted by breakin' the law at 1:51 PM on June 14


See also Bushwick: When a Texas military force invades their Brooklyn neighborhood, 20-year-old Lucy and war veteran Stupe must depend on each other to survive.
posted by porpoise at 3:21 PM on June 14


Taking the airports off the table, but not incoming water, gives Queens a huge disadvantage and the Bronx an equally unfair advantage. But, even stipulating that, the article passes over lightly the fact that Brooklyn has Fort Hamilton, the last active-duty military post in New York City, plus most of the cops. And--dig it!--the NYPD Aviation Unit and the NYPD Harbor Unit are both headquartered in Kings County. They sneak an invasion force up the Hudson to the Bronx, seize the water supply, and then it all comes down to how long the rest of the city can get along on rainwater and their own piss. (And Brooklyn's supposed weak point, its border with Queens, would be patrolled by guerrilla bands composed of gangs from East New York, who are already quite skilled at urban warfare.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:30 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


The more I think about it, the more dire the food situation is likely to be. (The article's Settlers-of-Catan-Gotham-edition suggestion of parkland being converted to farms is ridiculous--converting land to arability takes specialized equipment, food takes months to grow, and it would still be wholly inadequate for eight million people; the only possible solution would be a drastic reduction of population, probably by cannibalism.) The war would have to be fast and decisive; if you couldn't make formal alliances (another dumb precondition), you'd have to get around it by negotiating quick surrenders, with the "conquered" territory technically being a vassal state. I imagine Brooklyn rolling up the outer boroughs*, aided by their NYPD contingent being able to convince their brethren and sistren in blue to join the winning team (since, technically, the top brass at 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan would be cut off from the outer borough precincts). Last, we take Manhattan, which not only has all sorts of physical vulnerabilities (armies could start at the upper and lower ends and march toward the center), but also has a huge fifth column of all the people who keep the island running, fed, and cleaned, who live in the outer boroughs and know all the secret places and entrances and have copies of the keys. Even 1 Police Plaza, which is kind of a fortress, would have a serious quis custodiet ipsos custodes problem. Then, with Brooklyn's glorious banner flying from Fresh Kills to Throggs Neck, perhaps whichever fucked-up aliens that set up this battle royale will drop the barriers and everyone can have a nosh.

*Staten Island might be a tough nut to crack, even if you get the local NYPD contingent to agree to Brooklyn Uber Alles, with all the gun nuts there. Short of going house-to-house, the best solution might be some sort of nominal autonomous state status, and/or drawing off some of the don't-tread-on-me types into a "citizens' militia" with groovy uniforms and badges and medals and various types of mall ninja shit.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:30 AM on June 15


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