New York’s Population Density

Brian Shreckengast
January 23, 2017
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Population density may sound like the most mundane of metrics, a column heading in a city planner’s spreadsheet, but in cities across the U.S. it’s been a source of cultural controversy, guiding where people move and why.

To those seeking a more urban lifestyle, “density” implies walkability, car-free transit, and cosmopolitan culture. To others, “density” equates to crowds, cramped quarters, and the inability to find parking. The debate arises around nearly every planning decision under consideration in cities like New York, often devolving into vicious debate.

Where these debates often breakdown is when it comes to the relative nature of population density: How dense is ‘dense’? We can all agree that New York is dense, right? Well, not compared to Paris, let alone Manila.

In order to put NYC’s density in perspective, we put together a series of visualizations showing how large NYC would be if it were as dense as other cities.

If New York’s population lived as close together as Paris’ does, how much space would they take up? Compared to cities like Mumbai, New York is a sprawl, while compared with Phoenix, Houston, and even other ‘dense’ American cities like Boston and San Francisco, New York lives up to its perception.


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