During a press conference in Brooklyn about the new skating rinks planned for Prospect Park, Mayor Bloomberg proved that even mayors consider legends and stories as fact. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz joked about challenging the Mayor to a paddle boat race "for the right to call Brooklyn a city again." The Mayor declined but did say, "Staten Island is part of New York rather than New Jersey because of just such a race. New York won, and so we've got the great borough of Staten Island as part of New York."

And that's when phone lines at the Staten Island Historical Society burned up. The SIHS's librarian Carlotta DeFillo said the race story is "absolutely a myth. It is a lovely, persistent myth, but it is a myth." The NY Times calls the myth "apocryphal," citing different articles from its own papers:

One version of the legend, cited by the writer John Steele Gordon in a 1985 op-ed piece in The New York Times, had representatives of the two states competing against each other in a race around the island, with “the winner to take title.”

According to another version, cited by The Times in 2002, the Duke of York, who took control of the Dutch colony after the British conquest in 1664, granted land west of the Hudson River to New Jersey but left New York in control of some small islands.

To resolve a dispute over whether Staten Island was “small” and therefore part of New York, this version goes, the duke decreed that islands that could be circumnavigated in less than 24 hours were to be considered small. Christopher Billopp, a British naval captain living on Staten Island, took up the challenge, circling the island in just under 24 hours.

However, an essay from 1948 says there's no evidence to believe the circumnavigation story. We'll settle for the Mayor being right and wrong - and we would pay to see Mike vs. Marty in paddle boats.

The Mayor also joked about trying to make a play for Westchester or Nassau County as a sixth borough. Newsday says that in 1894, Nassau did have that opportunity but turned it down.

Photograph by brainware3000 on Flickr