A Global Community Befitting a Global City

BY PENNY ABEYWARDENA AND GALE BREWER | We’re uniquely blessed as New Yorkers. With more than 8.5 million residents and more than half a million commuters a week, New York City is a gathering place for talent in every sector and industry from every corner of our country and around the globe. This city is the product of waves of immigration spanning centuries, and more than 200 languages are spoken on our city’s streets. A wealth of different cultures are woven together in our neighborhoods, and that’s borne out in the unique cross-cultural experiences you can only find here, like the Lower East Side’s Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas Festival celebrating the neighborhood’s Chinese, Jewish, and Puerto Rican heritage.

But we have another unique asset, adding yet more to our cultural and economic strengths, that we may not think about as much: the 114 consulates general that help make New York’s the largest diplomatic community in the world. That’s why earlier this spring, we gathered at the iconic New York Public Library with representatives from many of these consulates to thank them for contributing to our city’s success.

As the commissioner for International Affairs for the City of New York and the borough president of Manhattan, we could not be prouder that our city boasts such a large consular corps, and we believe it plays an important role in making New York City a global, political, social, and economic hub.


New York’s consulates provide a direct economic, cultural, and civic connection to more than half the world’s nations. Their staffs add to the diversity of our city, and the diplomatic and governmental services they provide all New Yorkers, including our vibrant immigrant and diaspora communities, include easier access to passports, visas, and birth certificates. This is no small thing in a city where immigrants comprise more than 40 percent of our workforce and own more than 80,000 businesses, and where more than one in three residents are foreign-born.

Our offices work in partnership with consulates general to share information about the government programs, services, and initiatives available to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. Many consuls general have applied for and have received their own IDNYC cards, reflecting their pride in being welcomed to the city as New Yorkers and encouraging others to do the same.

The consular community in New York also makes important contributions to our economy. Consulates are often a first point of contact for foreign businesses considering expansion in the United States, and the consulates can help bring those businesses (and associated job creation) to New York City. The reverse is also true: the Office for International Affairs connects NYC-headquartered companies to consulates when businesses are looking to expand internationally, helping New York-based businesses thrive and grow abroad.

The consular corps also promotes intercultural exchange, from celebrating national independence days to festivals exposing New Yorkers to native cuisines, art, and culture. They also work with city representatives to celebrate our immigrant communities’ ancestral heritage.

City government and consulates work hand-in-hand to share best practices and innovative new policy ideas. One program run by the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, “Connecting Local to Global,” convenes experts from city agencies and the consular community to exchange solutions to urban challenges, from climate change and disability rights to immigration and food insecurity. That office hosts briefings and trainings, as well as site visits to neighborhoods across the city, to better connect the diplomatic and consular community to the city in which they live and serve. The consulates also give back to New York City in a variety of ways, including participating in back-to-school and holiday gift drives facilitated by the Office for International Affairs.

Reaching out and embracing our ties to the world is more important now than ever before. We’re a global city, and our diversity is our strength. The consular corps plays a critical part in serving a city this diverse, and that’s worth taking a moment to recognize and celebrate.


Penny Abeywardena is the commissioner for International Affairs for the City of New York and Gale Brewer is the Manhattan borough president.