It’s easier to determine in Manhattan since all the blocks here are designed on a numbered grid. From Street to street, it’s 20 blocks to a mile. So from say, 40th and 3rd avenue to 60th and 3rd, it’s one single mile. Avenue blocks don’t follow that sort of conformity, are much longer, and so miles divided by avenues tends to be problematic, depending on through which part of town you’re walking or running.
A good way to determine is how I was taught in the Marine Corps. Find a distance of 100 meters and measure out how many average paces it takes for you to cover that distance. Then count that number of paces 16 times in one direction. That’ll give you a mile. See more below.
This was posted in 2010, but these are the basics. While writing my new book, The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin, my characters move about in New York City often. I find myself explaining to those who ask, so here’s some helpful information. Avenue blocks are longer than street blocks. Generally 10 blocks between the avenues equal one mile.
No matter where you are from, your hometown has streets. Maybe some avenues, parkways, calles, boulevards, roads, lanes or rues. In most cases, there is no real rhyme or reason behind why a road has a particular classifying name, it’s simply thrown up there by whoever happens to be planning the surrounding construction. In New York, however, the difference between streets and avenues is very critical and it’s definitely something everyone needs to understand. This post is focused mainly on navigating and understanding Manhattan because it’s very standardized. Let’s hit the pavement.
The most basic thing to remember is that avenues run north and south while streets run east and west (…ish, Manhattan does not a perfect compass make, but don’t try telling any New Yorker that). Most streets and avenues only accommodate one-way traffic, but there are some thoroughfares (14th, 23rd, 42nd, etc…) that do have two-way traffic and are a bit bigger (I’ll fill you in on the history in my next post). This might not seem all that important now, but eventually, you will be sending a text, reading a book or just generally not paying attention as you walk down the street and suddenly find yourself in the middle of two-way traffic because you only glanced down one direction. It happens.
Also, in case you don’t know already, most of Manhattan is a giant grid, so people will give you directions like “it’s on 52nd Street between 5th and 6th”. From that you know the exact block you are going to: the block of 52nd Street that falls between 5th and 6th Avenues. Having a grid is also pretty handy for measuring distance: . So, if you are on 50th Street and 6th Avenue and need to go to 30th Street and 2nd Avenue, you have about 1 mile to walk south and 1 mile to walk east. Remember this when judging whether or not a subway ride is worth it.
Gail Ingis is an author, artist, and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in summer 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.