Visualizing Hyperdensity

The most dense neighborhood in Manhattan is surprisingly low-key.

July 20, 2016, 7:00 AM PDT

By Michael Lewyn @mlewyn

Tudor City

The view from Tudor City, New York. | analgic / Shutterstock

When I read the word "hyperdensity," I imagine rows of bland, 90-story towers of the sort one might see in a science fiction movie, or perhaps in certain parts of Hong Kong. But one of America's most dense neighborhoods does not fit this stereotype.  

According to the Center for Neighborhood Technology's Housing and Transportation Index, Manhattan’s most dense block group is in the Tudor City neighborhood, just south of 42nd Street and near the East River. This block has 464 dwelling units per square mile—far above the 100-200 units per acre that Jane Jacobs suggested was exemplary, or the 50 or 60 units per acre that other smart growth supporters idealize. So when I visited New York to hunt for apartments, I, of course, had to visit this block. 

Tudor City shows that "hyperdense" doesn’t have to mean skyscrapers or luxurious towers. For one thing, Tudor City buildings are only 20-30 stories: not exactly walk-ups, but not extremely tall by New York standards. Buildings taller than Tudor City may actually be less dense; the most luxurious buildings might have more floors, but fewer housing units on each floor.

Another common stereotype is that density means great wealth (in luxurious high-rises) or great poverty (in public housing). But Tudor City has neither. Tudor City’s median household income is just over $90,000—above the Manhattan average, but hardly one of the richest areas in the city. (In fact, Manhattan has several block groups where the median income exceeds $250,000.)

Moreover, Tudor City's rents are actually lower than in most of midtown.  I could have found a studio in Tudor City for under $2000, a extremely low figure by the standards of Manhattan doorman buildings (and, I suspect, below average even for walk-ups).  Thus, Tudor City explodes the common equation of high density with high rents. 

Another common stereotype is that high density means modernist sterility. But Tudor City has retail on the lower floors of some buildings, a generous selection of street trees, and a small park on Tudor City Place (the neighborhood's main street). I'm not quite sure what "human scale" means. But by the standards of midtown Manhattan, Tudor City feels more human scale than I expected. (But don't just take my word for it—look up 25 Tudor City Place on Google Street View.)

Michael Lewyn

Michael Lewyn is an associate professor at Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, in Long Island. His scholarship can be found at

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

Single-Family Housing Construction

New White House Housing Initiative Includes Zoning Reform Incentives

The Biden administration this morning released a new program of actions intended to spur housing construction around the United States.

May 16, 2022 - The White House

San Francisco Houses

‘Mega-Landlords’ Threaten Housing Stability for Renters

As institutional investors buy up a larger share of single-family homes, the families renting them are increasingly vulnerable to rent increases and eviction.

May 15, 2022 - The Hill

Puente Hills Landfill as seen from the air

More Funds to Transform the Puente Hills Landfill into a Regional Park

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors just approved an additional $28 million to support the development of the Puente Hills Regional Park at the landfill site.

May 23 - Supervisor Hilda Solis

Denver, Colorado

Denver Freeway Widening Plans on Hold

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s plan to widen the Interstate 25 freeway through Denver is one of a few plans to widen urban freeways under consideration in the United States.

May 23 - The Colorado Sun

Fringe Development

Public Perceptions of Sprawl and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Urban density has a bad reputation.

May 23 - Greater Greater Washington

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.