By Another Name

by Don Friedman on April 17, 2018


That weird little street is Sylvan Terrace. It’s one block long and not on the regular grid, although parallel to it. It’s more or less 160.65 street, running from St. Nicholas Avenue to Jumel Terrace, another weird little street. Per the loomed article, Sylvan Terrace is what’s left of a carriage drive to a long-vanished estate, with small houses built in 1882.

If those small wood houses with high wood stoops look familiar, you probably saw season 1 of Boardwalk Empire, where Mrs. Schroeder lives in one for a while. (That show used a lot of architecturally-odd buildings in New York as stand-ins for various long-demolished buildings in Atlantic City.)

There are twenty of those house, each 20 feet wide* and 30 feet deep, on lots 35 feet deep. The street itself is only 17 feet, six inches wide including the sidewalks. So the total footprint area of the houses, including the street, is 200 feet by 77.5 feet, on a combined lot area of 200 feet by 87.5 feet. The area of the land under the houses is 15500 square feet or 0.00056 square miles. If each house is occupied by four people, that 80 people for a residential density of 144,000 people per square mile. If we use the full lot area (still including the street) instead of the house area, the density is 127,000 people per square mile.

New York as a whole has a population density of 27,000 people per square mile. The densest American city is Gutenberg, New Jersey, across the Hudson from New York, at 57,000 people per square mile. Manhattan has a population density of 69,000 people per square mile, counting only residents; if you include Manhattan’s daytime population of tourists and commuters, the borough maxes out around 133,000 people per square mile.

In other words, this quaint street with its cute houses is as dense as Manhattan’s average during the day. It’s effectively an apartment house turned on its side, packing a lot of people into a small area. That’s not a criticism, merely a recognition that apparent size can be deceiving.

* The houses on the ends of the row are slightly different in size because of the diagonal path of St. Nicholas, but close enough.

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