Scoping Out Your Neighborhood Beat

Get to know your beat from the inside out.

NYC Essentials | Visualizing the City | Databases | Hit the Books | Elsewhere

NYC Neighborhoods: Books

Want to learn more about various NYC Neighborhoods? Come into the Journalism Library and browse our related books! Some basic guides are listed below; some of these books circulate, while others must be used in the library only.

NYC Statistics & Demographics

  • New York City Department of City Planning
    The Department of City Planning is an important city agency, since they profile the city's neighborhoods, compile information about land use, and track NYC population trends, and list Community District Needs (data on districts as well as the Community Boards' own annual assessments of their needs). Also provides excellent report on the NYC foreign-born population, The Newest New Yorkers (2013).
  • County & City Extra: Annual metro, city, and county data book, 2010
  • Encyclopedia of New York City. Journalism Reference: F128.3 .E75 1995
    Answers questions such as: Who was the first mayor of New York City? What is a settlement house?
  • New Immigrants in New York. Journalism: F128.9.A1 N48 2001 (and ebook)
    A 2001 book which includes chapters on specific immigrant groups as well as general essays on immigrants.
  • Infoshare Online
    How many people live in your beat neighborhood? How many are on public assistance? How many have asthma? What are the crime statistics for your beat? Immigration trends? Answer these questions and many more using Infoshare Online, a collection of statistics about NYC from a number of sources, including the US Census Bureau and various City and State agencies. The data can be retrieved by community district number or neighborhood name, covers demographic, health, and socio-economic variables, and in many cases is available for multiple years, which lets you chart trends.

Newspaper Databases

The following databases provide access to a variety of news sources, and can be tailored to search NYC-area topics and/or sources. All of these tools are available from off-campus to anyone with a valid Columbia e-mail ID and password.

  • Factiva
    Factiva is an excellent source for New York City news, with archives extending back to the 1980s. This database also provides access to the AP Daybook (search for "nyc daybook"), a daily guide to events going on around NYC.
  • LexisNexis Academic
    LexisNexis Academic contains the searchable full text of most New York City metropolitan area dailies, with archives extending back to the early 1990s in many instances. (An alternative to Factiva.)
  • Ethnic Newswatch
    Databases like Factiva and LexisNexis are useful, but do not include many articles from ethnic and minority newspapers, which can add dimension to your beat reporting. Ethnic Newswatch includes the full text of newspapers from ethnic, minority and native communities of the United States (including papers based in NYC). You can limit a search to a particular ethnic group's publications, and both English and Spanish language papers are included.
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers
    Once you get to know your beat in its present-day incarnation, use this database to pull up historic articles about it from the New York Times, which is searchable back to 1851.

Visualizing the City

The following sites bring data about NYC to life, by mapping it:

    NYC OASIS is the New York City Open Accessible Space Information System Cooperative. The site presents an interactive mapping feature for data such as census demographics, natural resources, and even neighborhood trees. Maps can be created by zip code, neighborhood, or community district.
  • Mapping Poverty in New York City
    This resource from Community Service Society and United Way maps the impact of poverty on NYC communities.
  • Social Explorer
    A database product that helps to visually analyze and understand the demographics of the United States through the use of interactive maps and data reports.  Explore thousands of historical data maps, from the first US Census in 1790 to the present.

NYC Background & Communities

Online resources useful for background information on the city.


In addition to Columbia University's libraries (including Avery, which houses the architecture & urban planning collections, and Butler, which houses many books on the history of New York City), you may wish to explore:

Questions?  Please e-mail: