Erik Bernhardsson    About

Where do locals go in NYC?

One obvious thing to anyone living in NYC is how tourists cluster in certain areas. I was curious about the larger patterns around this, so I spent some time looking at data. The thing I wanted to understand is: what areas are dominated by tourists? Or conversely, what areas are dominated by locals?

After some looking around, I found this Foursquare data dump and analyzed about 200,000 check-ins in NYC. Time to crunch some data…

First of all, I split up check ins into those done by (a) people living within 10,000 feet of the check in (b) people living further away. As the next step I broke up the check-ins by 2,166 census areas of New York and calculated the ratio of locals. I color-coded each census area from green (100% locals) to purple (0% locals). Here is the result, for the five boroughs:

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Some obvious ones stand out, like the airports: JFK and LaGuardia, which are completely dominated by “non-locals” . Interestingly, Red Hook in Brooklyn also is dominated by non-locals (maybe because of IKEA?), as well as Prospect Park and some other areas in downtown Brooklyn. In Bronx, the area surrounding Yankee Stadium is also nearly 100% non-locals.

Maybe not surprisingly, there seems to be some truth to the joke that real New Yorkers do not go above 14th Street. Zooming into lower Manhattan, you can clearly see a sharp dividing line cutting across Manhattan:

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Another thing that stands out is how North Williamsburg is completely dominated by non-locals, maybe because of the huge influx of people on weekends going out partying.

I then split up into (a) people who live in the five boroughs (b) tourists, and color-coded into blue (0% tourists) and red (100% tourists):

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Airports are slightly biased towards tourists. Interestingly Red Hook now becomes a New York affair.

Zooming in on Lower Manhattan again:

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Another thing that stands out is how North Williamsburg is dominated by New Yorkers, meaning that even though most people are not local, they are still from the city.

In contrast, most of Lower Manhattan (East Village, West Village, etc) isn’t just dominated by locals, it’s also very low ratio of tourists to New Yorkers.

The areas most dominated by tourists are, maybe not surprisingly

  • Central Park
  • Times Square and parts of Midtown
  • Financial district
  • Liberty Island and Ellis Island

I did this in Python, mostly using geopandas, Matplotlib, and a bunch of open source data sets. It was a fun weekend project and it ended up taking way too much time. And since I live in Lower East Side myself, I’m probably pretty biased…

Erik Bernhardsson

... is the CTO at Better, which is a startup changing how mortgages are done. I write a lot of code, some of which ends up being open sourced, such as Luigi and Annoy. I also co-organize NYC Machine Learning meetup. You can follow me on Twitter or see some more facts about me.