In 1998, New York and New Jersey fought a lawsuit over a point so bizarre that I doubt you’ll find anything like it even in a story from Hindu mythology.
New York city is located at a somewhat strange place, practically surrounded by other states. I dug into history and learnt that this came about because James, the then Duke of York (after whom the city and state were named) gave the west bank of the Hudson to a couple of his friends to colonise, while keeping the east bank for himself to set up a city. Naturally, this meant that when the city became too big, the most logical place to spill over was New Jersey. In a more intelligently designed world, Jersey city would be part of New York city. But they are in different states in this crazy world.
The state border between New York and New Jersey runs through the mouth of the Hudson, where two of this country’s most famous monuments are located – the Statue of Liberty and Ellis islands. And it so happens that both are to the west of the state line. This means that if it weren’t for the tactics of New York state in the last century, the two monuments NYC is most famous for would have been located in New Jersey. But the more influential state did some armtwisting to ensure that the islands, though they were on NJ’s side of the border, actually belonged to NY.
In 1998, the federal government reclaimed some land around Ellis island. If the water belonged to NJ while the land belonged to NY. So to whom would the land just reclaimed from the sea belong? That was the subject of the lawsuit filed by the state government of New Jersey in the US Supreme court, which ruled in NJ’s favour.
Of course, all this is a moot point because both islands are administered by the federal government. Neither state gets any taxes from it. The lawsuit was for no practical object. It was just a matter of self-respect for New Jersey, which was tired of being known as a suburb of two cities – NY and Philadelphia.
On a somewhat unrelated note, any idea why the capitals of most states in the US are not located in the largest city of that state? The capital of New York state is not NY city. It is a place you probably haven’t heard of – Albany. The capital of NJ is not Jersey city or Newark. It is Trenton. No one knows where it is . The capital of California is not San Francisco or Los Angeles. It is Sacramento. The capital of Washington state is not Seattle. It is Olympia. Check out this list for more. Any guesses why?