All New York City Streets Are Not Created Equal

The Distances Between Streets & Avenues – Things You Probably Didn’t Know

If you are traveling at the same pace, regardless of the avenue, it is faster to walk between 6th and 7th Streets than walking from 13th to 14th Streets. Why? Because the block between 6th and 7th is only 181 feet, 9 inches while the block between 13th and 14th is 206 feet, 6 inches.

Anyone walking around Manhattan is sure to notice that street distances between blocks and avenues vary widely. But few know that the block lengths can vary by several feet.

When the grid plan for Manhattan’s streets were laid out, you’d think that the streets would be equidistant. They are not.

Maybe this is the sort of thing that almost no one would care about, but living up to this web site’s name, I found this chart very interesting. It is from the New York Bureau of Buildings in the 1892 edition of The World Almanac.

1892 World Almanac (click to enlarge)

As you see, the chart lists the distances between the avenues, the width of the avenues and streets and the length of blocks north of Houston Street.

There are a few interesting things to note. One is how far Avenues A, B, C and D extended northward in 1892. Avenue A was later renamed Sutton Place north from 53rd Street and York Avenue north from 59th Street. Avenue B was renamed East End Avenue from 79th to 90th Street. Many portions of Avenue A, B, C and D were never completed (the landfill required to extend them was never done), or wiped out with map changes and construction in the 20th century (e.g. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive). Regardless, the almanac still lists the proposed dimensions for the phantom avenues via the Bureau of Buildings.

The other thing to note is that the main cross streets of 14th, 23rd, 34th etc. are all the same: 100 feet wide as compared to the other streets which are all 60 feet wide.

I have used the modern names of avenues in parentheses. Below are some highlights of the chart.

Avenues in Manhattan are 100 feet wide with some notable exceptions:

Lexington Avenue – 75 feet

Boulevard (Broadway) above 59th Street – 150 feet

Madison Avenue South of 42nd Street – 75 feet

Madison Avenue North of 42nd Street – 80 feet

Madison Avenue From 120th to 124th Streets – 100 feet

Sixth Avenue (Lenox/Malcolm X Boulevard) North of 110th Street – 150 feet

Seventh Avenue (Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard) North of 110th Street – 150 feet

Eleventh Avenue (West End Avenue) North of 110th Street – 150 feet

The length of blocks North of Houston Street vary depending upon the street. Examples:

The distances between 3rd and 5th Streets are 192 feet and 1 inch

The distances between 6th and 7th Streets are 181 feet and 9 inches

The distances between 11th and 16th Streets are 206 feet and 6 inches

The distances between 16th and 21st Streets are 184 feet and 0 inches

The distances between 21st and 42nd Streets are 197 feet and 6 inches

The distances between 42nd and 71st Streets are 200 feet and 10 inches

The distances between 71st and 86th Streets are 204 feet and 4 inches

The distances between 86th and 96th Streets are 201 feet and 5 inches

The distances between 97th and 125th Streets are 201 feet and 10 inches

The distances between streets north of 125th Street are 199 feet and 10 inches

The distances between the avenues vary quite a bit and also depend upon the section of Manhattan they are located in.

Distances Between the Avenues from 34th to 42nd Streets

Avenues D and C – 646 feet

Avenues C and B – 646 feet

Avenues B and A – 646 feet

Avenues A and First – 613 feet

Avenues First and Second – 650 feet

Avenues Second and Third – 610 feet

Avenues Third and Lexington – 420 feet

Avenues Lexington and Fourth (Park Avenue) – 405 feet

Avenues Fourth and Madison – 405 feet

Avenues Madison and Fifth – 420 feet

Avenues Fifth and Sixth – 920 feet

All the avenues between Sixth and Twelfth  – 800 feet

Distances Between the Avenues from 42nd to 110th Streets – All the streets are the same with the exception of:

Avenues Fourth and Madison – 405 feet

Distances Between the Avenues north of 110th Street – the distances for the east side avenues remain the same but some of the west side avenues change. The changes include:

Avenues Fifth and Sixth – 895 feet

Avenues Sixth and Seventh – 750 feet

Avenues Seventh and Eighth – 775 feet

Avenues Tenth and Eleventh- 775 feet

Avenues Eleventh and Twelfth – 775 feet

25 thoughts on “All New York City Streets Are Not Created Equal

  1. John B

    Were there residential buildings between 1st Street and Houston Street at some time? When and why were they torn down? Any photos of them?

  2. Abraham Y. Chen

    I have a somewhat related curiosity question. That is, when was the current elevation of the New York City sidewalks established? Walking around, it appears that many buildings were erected prior to the sidewalks were established because the need of several or more steps, either up or down, to enter the lobby of them. Had the sidewalks already been in place, it would unthinkable for an architect to design the entrance in such an awkward manner. On the other hand, most building records seem to show that they were constructed post 1900, after a lot the general modernization of the City were pre- 1900.

    1. B.P. Post author

      Broadway intersects several avenues because it follows parts of an old path, portions of which were laid out before the grid plan. Some of the other portions were part of different older roads such as the Boston Post Road.

  3. Elena M.

    I learned from a NYC Fire Department historian that the reason Canal St., Houston, 14th, 23rd, 34, and every 8-9 blocks up are wider is because city planners implemented the additional width as a natural fire stop. The city below Canal St. suffered several devastating fires that engulfed block after block when fires jumped across the street, particularly in the downtown area where the streets were and still are quite narrow. The additional width prevented the fires from becoming total city-wide conflagrations.

  4. Felice

    I’ve been researching “never built” NYC skyscrapers, and the Broadway-Church building is one of the most impressive. Canned by the Depression, it was to occupy two full blocks bounded by Broadway, Church Street, Duane Street and Worth Street, with a through-building archway over Thomas Street in the centre, so roughly where the AT&T Longlines Building now stands (oh what could have been instead!).

    However, Thomas Street is narrow, whereas in the only impression of the Broadway-Church Building ever released, it’s clearly wiiiiiiide. Like, at least three lanes in each direction (plus generous sidewalks). The archway is twelve storeys high; if we assume 12 feet per floor, that’s 144 feet high and from the artwork, the arch is well over half as wide as it is high, so at least 80 feet wide, maybe more.

    How can this discrepancy be explained? Would it have been practical/served any purpose to widen Thomas Street so drastically just for one block width? Also, how wide are the average NYC street lanes for automobiles? I always assumed around 10 feet?

    1. B.P. Post author

      Good question. I’m not sure.

      If I had to guess probably the original topography of Manhattan is a major reason. The other is possibly the flow of commerce and the projected population density of certain areas. The original grid plan laid out over 200 years ago may provide further answers.

  5. Shea1012

    I walk from 45 and Vanderbilt to Penn Station to commute. Anyone know the shortest way to do this walk? The biggest question is where do I head west from 6th Ave? It’s obvious that not every block between 6, Broadway and 7th is the same distance but I’m not clear which is the shortest?

  6. AnthonyP

    Are the distances from property line to propertyline (generally building façade to building façade or is it just the street itself with the sidewalk outside the above dimensions?

    Very interesting stuff…thanks!

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  8. Jake

    I am standing where you were talking about in the article (13th btwn 6th and 7th, and I can tell you unequivocally that the distance from 13th-14th street is far shorter than it is from 6th-7th Ave

  9. Melissa

    Thank you for posting this! I was looking for the distance of 2nd St between 1st Ave and Bowery for a (somewhat) measured placement of light for an art installation.
    However, this post means that tho’ I can still go out and pace the street, I have some real info to support the math of placement!

  10. W.B.

    A few other things:
    – Avenue A / Sutton Place / York Avenue, from East 114th to East 120th Streets, has yet another name: Pleasant Avenue, as it was known since 1879. Like Sutton Place but unlike York Avenue, Pleasant does not carry over the Avenue A building numbering system.
    – Prior to the late 1920’s Sixth Avenue (a.k.a. Avenue of the Americas since 1945) south of 59th Street had terminated at Carmine Street, as a result of the building of the IND Eighth Avenue subway its southernmost start point became Franklin and Church Streets. I suppose the street width in that stretch would likewise have been 100 feet?
    – North of West 59th Street, Ninth Avenue becomes Columbus Avenue (as it was known since 1896), Tenth Avenue becomes Amsterdam Avenue (starting in 1890), and Eleventh Avenue, as noted, becomes West End Avenue. West End terminates around 107th Street at Straus Park as Broadway turns straight at that point, Columbus terminates at 110th Street (a.k.a. Cathedral Parkway from 1891) where Morningside Park starts, and Amsterdam terminates at 193rd Street around Fort George Park.
    – The 1892 guide obviously did not account for the renaming of Sixth Avenue north of 110th Street as Lenox Avenue (in honor of a philanthropist, James Lenox, whose collection formed part of the New York Public Library) in 1887 (’twas also co-named Malcolm X Boulevard after 1987).
    – North of 110th Street (a.k.a. Central Park North), Seventh Avenue was renamed Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in 1974, and Eighth Avenue was renamed Frederick Douglass Boulevard in 1977. So much to keep up with.

  11. Tim Dierks

    Lexington Avenue got wider in 1955 (according to Wikipedia, I can’t find a relevant NY Times article), using eminent domain to take the stoops of many townhouses (this I know about, as the stoop is missing from 170 Lex, where I once lived, and nearby houses).

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  13. Jim

    You’d think, having lived here for 37 years, I’d have noticed this. But nope.

    Nor did I think that Alphabet City Avenues were meant to continue uptown. I always thought they existed courtesy of that geographical bunion along the lower part of the East River.



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