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New York city profile | city data
  • The City’s first comprehensive cultural plan, CreateNYC, was launched in 2017. This roadmap is harnessing the city’s cultural talent to solve long standing urban problems, ranging from literacy and criminal justice, to immigration and domestic violence.
  • Responding to soaring property prices, the city will build 1,500 units of affordable living and working space for artists.
  • Cultural groups in New York are increasingly interested in supporting immigrant communities, especially in response to the national trends in the US.

City data: Key facts

Geographical area: 1,214.40 sq. km

Total population: 8,622,698

Total national population living in the city: 3 %

Education level – with degree level or higher: 36 %

GDP per capita in 2008 (PPP): US$ 73,300

Creative industries employment: 5.4%

Since the 17th century – when it was founded as a Dutch trading post – New York City has been a centre of trade and one of the main gateways for immigration to the United States. As well as being the capital of finance and law in the United States, New York is a centre for the creative industries: including fashion, design, art and advertising. Along with tourism, which now draws almost 63 million visitors each year, these sectors are growing quickly at a time when employment in the financial sector has plateaued. There is also a growing recognition of the value of creative activity and cultural programming for healthy communities. The creativity driving this success is grounded in New York’s neighbourhoods, which have played an often revolutionary role in developing artforms. These include Yiddish theatre in the Lower East Side, hip hop and graffiti in the Bronx, pop art and punk rock in the East Village, the jazz and literature of the Harlem Renaissance, and the continued evolution of the Broadway theatre district. Culture is deeply ingrained in communities across all five boroughs of New York.

One of the first megacities, its current population is 8.6 million – with more than 20 million in the metropolitan area. Today, nearly 40% of New York City residents are foreign born, and 67% are non-white. New York’s cultural life has long been seen as a symbol of the city’s wider vitality. From Carnegie Hall to MoMA, publicprivate partnerships linking civic ambition with wealthy philanthropists have endowed the city with world-class non-profit cultural institutions, while community-based and grassroots organisations bring cultural enrichment at the neighbourhood level. The City currently has $934 million committed to infrastructure projects for 250 cultural groups, with major upgrades and renovations happening across the city. Current work includes construction of a new, expanded facility for the Studio Museum in Harlem and a five storey, 190,000 square foot addition to the American Museum of Natural History dedicated to science, education, and innovation. However, not all of the City’s investment is in major building projects: it also nurtures the creative ecology, recognising that a healthy cultural life depends on a diverse mix of institutions and individuals. To that end, roughly half of the City’s cultural grants go to small organisations.

The City’s first comprehensive cultural plan, CreateNYC, was launched in 2017. This roadmap is harnessing the city’s cultural talent to solve long standing urban problems, ranging from literacy and criminal justice, to immigration and domestic violence. In particular, the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs now has funding to work imaginatively with other City agencies, using artists and arts organisations as practical problem solvers. The plan also recognises that cultural programming developed by a still largely white arts sector does not speak to the concerns of a very culturally diverse city. As a response, the City is now using benchmarking and new funding conditions to strongly encourage arts organisations to become more diverse and representative of the city’s population.

New York City’s recent economic prosperity has led to dramatic gentrification, posing a real challenge for individuals and organisations to stay in the city. Rents have increased dramatically in areas outside Manhattan that were traditionally more affordable. Some cultural organisations have closed as a result, but others are moving or adopting new operating models. As a way of responding to this crisis, the Mayor has committed to building 1,500 units of affordable living and working space for artists and 500 work spaces for artists over the next decade, to be available at below-market rates.

In the 21st century, New York City has kept its place as one of the world’s leading cities. Its economic power, openness to ideas and immigrants, and world-class cultural assets remain a potent combination. It is now breaking new ground with cultural policymaking which reaches across all parts of City governance, promotes better conversations with city residents and champions better representation for all cultural groups.