Manhattan is laid out on a uniform grid of streets and avenues (well, most of it), making it easy to navigate.
Streets run east-west. The majority of streets are numbered (as opposed to having proper names). Street numbers ascend as they move northward, from 1st street in Greenwich Village to 220th street in the Inwood section.
Avenues run south-north, with numbers beginning on the east side of the island and ascending to the west. Apart from numbers, Lexington, Park and Madison Avenues (east-west in that order) run between 3rd and 5th Avenues. 6th Ave. is also called Avenue of the Americas. (For more Avenue name variations, see below)
Fifth Avenue is Manhattan’s central dividing line. Streets running to its east are titled “east” (i.e. East 46th St), and to its west are titled “west” (i.e. West 46th Street).
Street address numbers begin at Fifth Avenue, and increase as they move outward (the higher the number, the farther to the east or west). In general, blocks bordering Fifth Avenue would have address numbers 1-100. The following block would have address numbers 200-299, the next 300-399, and continuing to the rivers. (There is an algorithm for locating street numbers, but it is complicated and impossible to remember).
City blocks vary in size, and are generally much longer in between avenues, and shorter in length between streets. Twenty city blocks (measuring north-south) are equivalent to 1 mile (1.6 km).
The Exceptions –
The grid begins north of Houston Street, since the area to its south was well established when the grid came to be in 1811. The streets and avenues of Southern Manhattan have proper names and often run in irregular directions. The street layout of the West Village defies logic and can be particularly difficult to navigate.
Broadway, one of Manhattan’s oldest thoroughfares (and the world’s longest) runs perpendicularly as it progresses north from the tip of Manhattan up into the Bronx. As it criss-crosses the straight avenues, it creates large, open intersections (Union Square, Madison Square, Herald Square, Times Square, Columbus Circle, etc.).
In the East Village, there are four additional avenues beyond 1st Avenue: Avenue A eastward to Avenue D. This area is often called “Alphabet City.”
Central Park defies the grid (it was laid out several decades later), interrupting 60th – 109th St, and bringing 6th and 7th Avenues to an end. The streets/avenues that border the park are referred to as Central Park South (59th St.), Central Park West (8th Ave.), Central Park North (110th St.), and sometimes Central Park East (5th Ave.).
- 9th Ave. becomes Columbus Ave north of 57th St.
- 10th Ave. becomes Amsterdam Ave north of 57th St.
- 11th Ave becomes West End Ave. north of 57th St.
- 6th Ave. becomes Lenox Ave (aka Malcolm X Blvd.) when it resumes north of Central Park (at 110th St)
- 7th Ave. becomes Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. when it resumes north of Central Park (at 110th St)
- Central Park West (8th Ave.) becomes Frederick Douglas Blvd. north of 110th St.
- York Ave. runs one block east of 1st Ave. from 59th St. to 91st St.
- Riverside Dr. runs generally parallel to the Hudson River (one block west of West End Ave.) from 72nd to 181st St.