How to read a New York address


114 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018 to the uninitiated would seem like something similar to Morse code, but in fact it is a pretty standard Manhattan street address and it can be very confusing for new arrivals and tourists into America’s largest city. To understand how New York addresses work we need to take a look a little further back to get a better understanding of how Manhattan was designed.

The unique grid layout of Manhattan in actuality makes finding an address far easier than in other major metropolitan cities.

In the early years after Dutch settlement, and subsequent British expansion, the lower portion of Manhattan was established with little thought given to future expansion and little control over the expansion taking over the area. In 1807 New York City’s Common Council (the predecessor to the current City Council) petitioned the State’s Legislature to develop a street plan for Manhattan which would be developed over the next century the area above Houston Street which was at that time populated mainly¬† by country estates, farms and small houses.

New York street signs

It was decided in March 1807 that a 3 member panel would establish a comprehensive street plan for Manhattan which would cover the island North of Houston Street all the way to top of the island where the Hudson and East Rivers meet. After numerous discussion it was determined that a grid system would be the most appropriate given the topography of the land and that it was understood that the cost to build properties would be substantially cheaper as they could be designed as straight sided and at right-angles.

The unique grid layout of Manhattan in actuality makes finding an address far easier than in other major metropolitan cities. Each of the street numbers increases numerically from 1st Street in Lower Manhattan through to 220th Street in Inwood at the very north of the island. Each Avenue is numbered chronologically from 1st Avenue on the Eastern side of Manhattan through to 11th Avenue on the West each running North-South across the island. In addition to Avenues 1 through 11 Lexington Avenue was added later to the grid system at the request of a major landowner at the time to improve the prices of his properties.

Street addresses in New York are categorised into East and West designations. Basically this identifies whether or not the building number lies to the East or West of 5th Avenue. 5th Avenue was identified as roughly the centre of Manhattan and preferred to use as it runs almost the length of Manhattan, hence making it an easy point of reference when determining addresses.

A rough overview of where Street numbers lie in relation to the location on Manhattan is:

  • Any street with a name is located in Lower Manhattan (South of Houston Street)
    • For example: Houston Street, Spring Street, Lafayette Street, Fulton Street etc
  • 1st Street to 34th Street is covers Greenwich Village, Washington Square, Union Square, Gramercy Park and the Flatiron District
  • 34th Street to 59th Street is considered Midtown Manhattan
  • 59th Street to 110th Street is considered the Upper West Side and Upper East Side
  • North of 110th Street is considered Harlem and Morningside Heights

New York Street addresses can be easily broken down in to the following components:

Building Number East or West side of 5th Avenue Street Number Borough State Post Code

And using our example from the beginning of this article we can begin to identify where the address is:

Building Number East or West side of 5th Avenue Street Number Borough State Post Code
114 West 40th Street New York NY 10018

This address is in Midtown Manhattan, on the West side of 5th Avenue on 40th Street. As a local New Yorker or a tourist in the know, you now know that if you were taking the subway you could get off at either Times Square – 42nd Street or 34th Street Penn Station and be a short walk away.

For those who haven’t Googled the address yet, it is the Courtyard Marriott Times Square South located between Broadway and Bryant Park – a very handy location for Australian tourists and business travellers alike. Recommendation

By becoming familiar with how New York City street addresses work will make getting around and asking for directions from New Yorkers infinately easier. It will also make you feel more welcome when you can easily understand when either your hotel concierge or staff member tell you that if you are heading out to a New York Mets game simply jump on either the local or express 7 line train at the West 42nd Street and 6th Avenue subway station.

Jase is the founder and editor of His passion for New York runs deep, after purchasing a New York travel guide while in high school, it's been a love affair ever since. Having visited over 20 times for work and pleasure he decided to start to help other Aussie's who are planning their own New York adventure to ensure they get the most out of their trip to the greatest city in the world.


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