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Your Assumption About NYC Overcrowding Is Probably Wrong

It feels like the city is so crowded that there isn’t even room to breathe. You step out of your apartment into a swarm of people and you’re jostled and squeezed until you go to bed at night. You assume that now that New York is safe and formerly blighted neighborhoods are being repopulated, the population has grown. But the numbers don’t back that up: Crain’s reports that New York City’s population density is much lower than it was in the past. In fact, parts of the city have an average of 5000 fewer people per square mile than they did in 1970.

NYU’s Furman Center analyzed the density of New York’s neighborhoods, controlling for commercial districts and sparsely populated areas. They found that in residential neighborhoods, density has decreased since highs in the 1950s. Population has increased in formerly less expensive, less populated areas, but that either hasn’t affected the population of established neighborhoods or taken the pressure of density off as the population disperses. Also, Crain’s notes, density has decreased in Manhattan as the borough has grown wealthier and square footage per apartment has increased.

This trend is expected to continue as current sparsely populated areas are rezoned and redeveloped.

(Photo: Chris Ford)