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New York City: Through the Eyes of Writers

written by: Julia Bodeeb • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/17/2014

New York City is a fascinating place that has long intrigued writers and artists. Show this great city to your students so that they can see it the same way as great writers and other artists.

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    NYC 1 New York City is the setting for many wonderful poems, short stories, novels, and dramas. It's a great idea to let your students do research about this setting so they can build realistic knowledge about the city of New York. Some day they may be writing about it!

    New York City has a very diverse population, with many residents there who have just arrived from other countries. The city also boasts an eclectic range of architectural styles and a mix of buildings from when the city was first founded as well as very modern, high-rise buildings.

    Although Manhattan is known as a “concrete jungle,” there are many green places with open land in the city. Show students pictures of Central Park and Battery City Park to give them an idea about open land where New Yorkers go to relax and exercise. While NYC 2 viewing the pictures, ask students what they have heard about New York City.

    Unique Areas of New York City

    People have moved to NYC from all over the world. Thus the city has unique sections where many of the residents are originally from another country and live life according to the customs of another culture. Parts of the city that replicate the culture of diverse homelands of people from around the world include Chinatown and Little Italy. The Upper West Side has enclaves of residents from a wide variety of countries.

    Quotes about New York City

    • “Other cities consume culture. New York creates it.” --Paul Goldberger
    • “Mass is said in twenty three different languages in this city.” --Ed Koch
    • “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” --Emma Lazarus

    Discuss the quotes about New York City. Then read excerpts from poems, stories, books, songs, or screenplays that mention New York City. Discuss any examples used of hyperbole, imagery, alliteration, symbolism, and similes. Ask students if they know of any additional literature or songs that mention New York City.

    NYC 3 Then play the song “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra. It is an old song, but a classic. Ask students what imagery the song presents about the city. Ask them about the mood of the song and how it symbolizes the spirit of New York City.

    You can also have your students experience a slide show of art that depicts New York City. Use photos from different areas of the city. Show the city during the daytime and evening and in the different seasons of the year.

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    Internet Research About New York City

    NYC 4 Next, ask students to do Internet research to discover fascinating facts about Manhattan. Tell them they will use the facts in a story or screenplay dialogue that they write.

    Tell students they may research anything about NYC that is appropriate for school such as the population size, different cultural backgrounds of the residents, famous residents of NYC, tourist locations in NYC, historical buildings, cultural centers, events, history, locations that have been mentioned in literature or songs, Central Park locations or events, or other areas of interest.

    Students must compile at least 20 facts about New York City. They should write the list in their notebook to use it for the future writing project. Students will also be asked to share some of their facts with the class. They should pick the five facts they find most interesting. For homework they should review the facts and practice presenting them to the class.NYC 5 

    In the following days, spend class time creating a short story or dialogue for a screenplay that is set in New York City. Students will use facts from the research about New York City to create a realistic setting. Tell students this project will require a final draft of five typed pages.

    Tell the class to use imagery and similes that relate to New York City in their writing for this project. They may also wish to use character names that in some way relate to the city or events that took place in New York City.

    To evaluate this class project, use the standard writing rubric to grade the story or screenplay dialogue. Also check the students’ notebooks to ensure they did the research for this project.

    Websites about New York City

    Websites with Photos of New York City

    Websites such as,, and all contain many images of New York City. Just put the words “pictures of New York City” or “pictures of Manhattan” in the search box and you will find an abundance of images.


    Quotable New York edited by Gregg Stebben, 2001, The Lyons Press, CT.