The island of Manhattan (New York County) is largely a protrusion of granite, rising a few hundred feet from sea-level. The southern tip and center of the island are virtually solid granite, while areas in Greenwich Village and Chelsea are composed of softer soil. As a result of this geologic arrangement, Manhattan's tallest buildings are located in these two large "rocky" areas.
Manhattan is flanked on its west side by the Hudson River, and on the east side by the Harlem River (on the north) and the East River (on the south).
Manhattan's street layout consists primarily of avenues and streets. The space between avenues is typically much larger than the space between streets (roughly 3x). Avenues run North-South, starting with 1st Avenue on the East Side, and going westward to 12th Avenue. Streets run East-West, starting with 1st Street in Greenwich Village, and increase in value up to 220th Street at the north tip of Manhattan.
General areas in Manhattan:
Below 1st Street is considered to be the Downtown area of Manhattan
1st to 14th Street contains the general "Village" area. The area west of Broadway is Greenwich Village, and to the east
is East Village.
14th to 34th Street west of Broadway is Chelsea, known for its large loft apartments and studios.
34th to 59th Street is generally regarded as "Midtown"
59th to 110th Street contains the Upper West Side and Upper East Side, respectively. Between the two lies the green oasis of Central Park.
110th to 145th Street lies the village of Harlem
145th to 220th Street has no special designation, but does contain the neighborhood of Washington Heights and the Cloisters.