Geography of New York City

Satellite image showing most of the five boroughs, portions of eastern New Jersey, and the main waterways around New York Harbor

The geography of New York City is characterized by its coastal position at the meeting of the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean in a naturally sheltered harbor. The city's geography, with its scarce availability of land, is a contributing factor in making it one of the most densely populated cities in the United States. Environmental issues are chiefly concerned with managing this density, which also explains why New York is among the most energy efficient and least automobile-dependent cities in the United States. The city's climate is temperate.


The five boroughs of New York City

New York City is located on the coast of the Northeastern United States at the mouth of the Hudson River in southeastern New York state. It is located in the New York–New Jersey Harbor Estuary, the centerpiece of which is the New York Harbor, whose deep waters and sheltered bays helped the city grow in significance as a trading city. Much of New York is built on the three islands of Manhattan, Staten Island, and western Long Island, making land scarce and encouraging a high population density.

The Hudson River flows from the Hudson Valley into New York Bay, becoming a tidal estuary that separates the Bronx and Manhattan from Northern New Jersey. The Harlem River, another tidal strait between the East and Hudson Rivers, separates Manhattan from the Bronx.

The boroughs of New York City straddle the border between two geologic provinces of eastern North America. Brooklyn and Queens, located on Long Island, are part of the eastern coastal plain. Long Island is a massive moraine which formed at the southern fringe of the Laurentide Ice Sheet during the last Ice Age. The Bronx and Manhattan lie on the eastern edge of the Newark Basin, a block of the Earth's crust which sank downward during the disintegration of the supercontinent Pangaea during the Triassic period. The Palisades Sill on the New Jersey shore of the Hudson River exposes ancient, once-molten rock that filled the basin. Tough metamorphic rocks underlie much of Manhattan, providing solid support for its many skyscrapers.

The city's land has been altered considerably by human intervention, with substantial land reclamation along the waterfronts since Dutch colonial times. Reclamation is most notable in Lower Manhattan with modern developments like Battery Park City. Much of the natural variations in topography have been evened out, particularly in Manhattan.[1] The West Side of Manhattan retains some hilliness, especially in Upper Manhattan, while the East Side has been considerably flattened. Duffy's Hill in East Harlem is one notable exception to the East Side's relatively level grade.

The city's land area is estimated to be 321 square miles (830 km2).[2] However, a more recent estimate calculates a total land area of 304.8 square miles (789.4 square kilometres).[3] The highest natural point in the city is Todt Hill on Staten Island, which at 409.8 ft (124.9 m) above sea level is the highest hill on the Eastern Seaboard south of Maine. The summit of the ridge is largely covered in woodlands as part of the Staten Island Greenbelt.


New York City comprises five boroughs, an unusual form of government used to administer the five constituent counties that make up the city. Throughout the boroughs there are hundreds of distinct neighborhoods, many with a definable history and character all their own. If the boroughs were each independent cities, four of the boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx) would be among the ten most populous cities in the United States.


New York
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: NOAA
Deep snow in Brooklyn during the Blizzard of 2006 Nor'easter
Union Square in autumn

Although it is not in the subtropics and its winters are cold, New York has a humid subtropical climate according to the Köppen climate classification because the coldest months' average temperatures are not low enough for persistent snow cover, between 32.5 and 33.0 °F (0.3 and 0.6 °C) at all three major reporting stations within the city. The region's climate is vastly affected by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. New York City's climate patterns are affected by the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, a 70-year-long warming and cooling cycle in the Atlantic that influences the frequency and severity of hurricanes and coastal storms.[9] Unless otherwise stated, all figures below are cited from the Central Park station.

Monthly and annual statistics for the three main climatology stations in the city

Environmental issues

Central Park is nearly twice as big as the world's second-smallest country, Monaco. Historically its reservoirs were important components of the city's water supply.

New York City plays an important role in the green policy agenda because of its size. Environmental groups make large efforts to help shape legislation in New York because they see the strategy as an efficient way to influence national programs. New York City's economy is larger than Switzerland's, a size that means the city has potential to set new de facto standards. Manufacturers are also attuned to the latest trends and needs in the city because the market is simply too big to ignore.

Although cities like San Francisco or Portland, Oregon are most commonly associated with urban environmentalism in the United States, New York City's unique urban footprint and extensive transportation systems make it more sustainable than most American cities.

Maps and satellite images

See also



  1. Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.
  2. Official weather observations for Central Park were conducted at the Arsenal at Fifth Avenue and 64th Street from 1869 to 1919, and at Belvedere Castle since 1919.[17]
  3. Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.
  4. Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.


  1. Lopate, Phillip (2004). Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan. Anchor Press. ISBN 0-385-49714-8.
  2. "Land Use Facts". New York City Department of City Planning. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
  3. Roberts, Sam (2008-05-22). "It's Still a Big City, Just Not Quite So Big". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-22.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "New York State Department of Labor - Population Estimates". Retrieved 2006-11-02.
  5. Toop, David (1992). Rap Attack 2: African Rap to Global Hip-Hop. Serpents Tail. ISBN 1-85242-243-2.
  6. Frazier, Ian (2006-06-26). "Utopia, the Bronx". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
  7. O'Donnell, Michelle (2006-07-04). "In Queens, It's the Glorious 4th, and 6th, and 16th, and 25th...". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-07-19.
  8. Roberts, Sam (2006-01-10). "Black Incomes Surpass Whites in Queens". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-28.
  9. Riley, Mary Elizabeth (2006). "Assessing the Impact of Interannual Climate Variability on New York City's Reservoir System". Cornell University Graduate School for Atmospheric Science. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  11. 1 2 "Station Name: NY NEW YORK CNTRL PK TWR". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2014-03-13.
  12. "Hardiness Zones". Arbor Day Foundation. 2006. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  13. CNN Wire Staff (2010-09-17). "2 tornadoes and microburst touch down in New York City". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
  14. "Record Wet and Dry Years and Months at CPK". NWS Upton, New York. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
  15. "Biggest Snowstorms (One Foot or More) at Central Park (1869 to Present)" (PDF). NWS Upton, New York. Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  16. "Monthly & Seasonal Snowfall at Central Park". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
  17. Belvedere Castle at NYC Parks
  18. "New York Central Park, NY Climate Normals 1961−1990". NOAA.
  19. "Station Name: NY NEW YORK LAGUARDIA AP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  20. "NEW YORK/LAGUARDIA ARPT NY Climate Normals 1961−1990". NOAA. Retrieved 2014-03-23.
  21. "Station Name: NY NEW YORK JFK INTL AP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  22. "NEW YORK/JFK, NY Climate Normals 1961−1990". NOAA. Retrieved 2014-03-23.

Further reading

  • The Vegan Guide to New York City, by Rynn Berry and Chris A. Suzuki
  • The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City, by Mathieu Fontaine
  • John H. Betts The Minerals of New York City originally published in Rocks & Minerals magazine, Volume 84, No . 3 pages 204-252 (2009).
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