Alternative History

"Burning of New York" an artist's rendering of what New York might have looked like when it was attacked.

New York City was the largest city in the United States and one of the largest in the world prior to September 1983, it was one of the hardest hit areas on the entire planet on Doomsday.

NYC had a population of 7,071,639 according to 1980 U.S. Census figures, and an estimated 16.4 million people lived in the New York City Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area.

NYC was a global centre of culture, arts, entertainment, media, fashion, research, education, business and sports. It was the home to the United Nations (the pre-Doomsday counterpart to the League of Nations). It was extremely influential in almost all aspects of American life other than politics.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan was in the city to speak at the U.N. on September 26, 1983 (local time). He and his wife, Nancy, and a handful of staffers were flown out of the city and barely escaped the impact of the Soviet missiles in the area.


Early History

The land that became New York City was originally settled by the Lenni-Lenape tribe of Native Americans. In the 1600s, Manhattan Island the surrounding areas began being colonized by the Dutch.

The Industrial Revolution and World Wars

The Capital of the World

By the end of World War II, New York City had emerged as the pre-eminent major city of the pre-Doomsday world. It was the financial center of the world's wealthiest country, had a major role in producing American pop culture and spreading it around the world, and it soon became the headquarters of the newly formed United Nations. These three factors led many to dub NYC "the Capital of the World."

"I've Seen the Lights Go out on Broadway": New York City on Doomsday

New York's Mayor Ed Koch was with President Reagan for the UN summit that weekend, and thus was one of the first people to learn of the coming attack. According to the Secret Service agents who evacuated the President to Mt. Weather, Reagan asked Koch to come with him as he evacuated, but Koch urged the President to leave without him. Koch hurried out to the news crews outside the UN and asked them to begin filming. He issued an immediate warning for any New Yorkers who had a means to escape to do so immediately. He also gave a heartfelt elegy for the city he loved. Recordings of these final broadcasts exist in TV station archives in the Outer Lands and South Jersey.

Attacked areas

Another artist's rendering of the night New York burned.

The following regions, according to exploration performed by the League of Nations, the Outer Lands Coast Guard and individual explorers and survivalists, are believed to have been directly hit by Soviet missiles.

They are broken down by the political divisions (counties), and U.S. Census Bureau designations, which existed on Doomsday:

  • New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division
    • Kings County (Brooklyn), NY (New York state)
    • Queens County, NY
    • New York County (Manhattan), NY
    • Bronx County, NY
    • Richmond County (Staten Island), NY
    • Westchester County, NY
    • Bergen County, NJ (New Jersey)
    • Hudson County, NJ
    • Passaic County, NJ
    • Rockland County, NY
    • Putnam County, NY
  • Nassau-Suffolk, NY Metropolitan Division
    • Suffolk County
    • Nassau County
  • Edison-New Brunswick, NJ Metropolitan Division
    • Middlesex County
    • Monmouth County
    • Ocean County
    • Somerset County
  • Newark-Union, NJ-PA Metropolitan Division
    • Essex County, NJ
    • Union County, NJ
    • Morris County, NJ
    • Sussex County, NJ
    • Hunterdon County, NJ
    • Pike County, PA (Pennsylania)

The so-called "Five Boroughs" of New York City of Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn (Kings County) and Staten Island (Richmond County) are believed to have been hit the hardest.


An artist's imagining of how the view from Jersey City into New York Harbor might have looked after Doomsday. Later air expeditions into the area would discover that, while the burnt ruins of Jersey City still remained, Manhattan was, in reality, now partially underwater. Interestingly enough, the reconnaissance mission revealed that the artist's imaginary depiction got one thing right: the battered, corroded ruins of the Statue of Liberty had indeed ended up in the area that used to be Jersey City's Liberty State Park, possibly blown there by the shockwaves from Manhattan's destruction, or perhaps knocked down into the Hudson River by the initial shockwave and then drifting ashore with the tides.

Explorers as far back as the 1980s reported seeing "nothing but the ocean" where Manhattan Island, and Kings and Queens counties, should have been. Those explorers were also in the advanced stages of various cancer prognoses due to heavy exposure to radiation, so Outer Lands officials put an official moratorium on exploration of the NYC area for years.

Subsequent official expeditions by the Outer Lands Coast Guard in 2005 and 2009 reported that much of Manhattan Island itself no longer existed, the bombed portions covered up by the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay. Land area belonging to old Brooklyn also was covered up by water. No recognizable landmarks were noted.

That particular part of the reports has been disputed by scientists who argue that only a massive ground burst could have caused Manhattan Island to sink. While it may be possible that parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn are flooded, the land is still there, according to those scientists, albeit in a ruined state (A massive ground burst might help explain much of the lingering radiation, however, due to fallout.)

All official and private expeditions have been done by sea, and from a considerable distance; only a direct flight over, or expeditions directly into, the area would determine once and for all the extent of damage to the five boroughs and surrounding regions.

Portions of adjacent Hudson County (in New Jersey), Westchester County (in New York State) and Long Island directly explored by private or official expeditions had only irradiated, scarred, destroyed land to speak for its current condition.

The closest active survivor states are the Outer Lands (located on the eastern portions of Long Island and coastal areas of southern New England), Delmarva (more specifically, the portion of it in southern/central New Jersey), the northwestern portions of New Jersey far from the urban centers, the area of upstate New York under the protection of the New York Rangers Militia, and the current Republic of New York (located in the south-central portion of the former Upstate region). A bit further out is the Republic of Vermont. (Note: some folks in the Outer Lands assert that there is a group of settlers in the Bronx calling themselves the "Imperial Empire of New York City"; however, this is not officially recognized by the Outer Lands government.)

The League of Nations estimates that repopulation of the area could occur no earlier than 2060, based on conjecture. As of September 2011, mainly because of concerns regarding lethal radioactivity in the region, no known military or exploratory flights had been made over New York City. Air reconnaissance, along with further exploration and testing to determine the types of bursts in New York City and the level of radioactivity remaining there, would help determine if, and when, salvage and clean-up work could begin.

Popular culture

Many books, movies and television shows in the post-Doomsday world have turned New York City either into a setting for post-apocalyptic adventures, or a romantic nirvana of pre-Doomsday America.

A series of survivalist novels published in the ANZC are based around the assumption that the nuclear strikes severely damaged, but not totally destroyed, America's largest cities. The hero protects NYC residents who survived the nuclear attacks against a host of mutants, Soviet soldiers, monsters and zombies in the ruins of such recognized NYC landmarks as the Empire State Building; Times Square; Radio City Music Hall; Yankee Stadium; and Central Park.

The movie Escape from New York: Doomsday was filmed in southern Australia in 1999 and featured a young New Zealand actor who was made up to resemble American actor Kurt Russell, the hero of the 1981 action thriller movie, Escape From New York. The plot featured the lead character fighting in the ruins of Manhattan to rescue the "U.S. President" who had been held hostage by prisoners set free by the explosion over Manhattan Island.

Romantic novels published in the Celtic Alliance, ANZC and South America are set in a romanticized New York City in a number of time periods, stretching from the 1880s up through the early 1980s.

A controversial rewrite of George Orwell's novel 1984 was published underground in Mexico in 1992. New York, the only area to survive Doomsday, is the new setting for Oceania, a technologically advanced totalitarian state bent on war against Hispania (South America) and Asia; the somewhat poorly written novel was said to be a reaction by radical student nationalists against "gringo" refugees from the US who had settled in Mexico.

Episodes of 1970s American sitcoms set in New York City, such as All in the Family, Welcome Back Kotter, Rhoda and Barney Miller continue to be popular worldwide. They are becoming increasingly popular throughout North America as television service is restored.

A collage of 1970s sitcoms set in NYC. Clockwise from top left: All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Welcome Back Kotter, and Barney Miller.