New York, the "Empire State", has been at the center of American politics, finance, industry, transportation and culture since the Dutch Republic first founded New Amsterdam as a trading colony in the 17th century. The Kingdom of England arrived on its shores and took it over. New York gained its independence from Great Britain in the American Revolution to become part of the new nation of the United States.
- Episode One: The Country and the City (1609-1825)
- Episode Two: Order and Disorder (1825-1865)
- Episode Three: Sunshine and Shadow (1865-1898)
- Episode Four: The Power and the People (1898-1918)
- Episode Five: Cosmopolis (1918-1931)
- Episode Six: City of Tomorrow (1929-1941)
- Episode Seven: The City and the World (1945-present)
- Episode Eight: The Center of the World (1946-2003)
Originally, the documentary consisted of seven parts. The eighth part, The Center of the World (1946-2003), which told the history of the World Trade Center, was produced following the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The series was written by Burns and James Sanders (Architect). Several noted New York City historians, including Mike Wallace, Kenneth T. Jackson, David Levering Lewis and Robert Caro participated in the making of the series, as consultants, and appeared on camera. It was narrated by David Ogden Stiers. Other notable figures who appeared in the series include Rudolph Giuliani (then the mayor of New York City), former mayor Ed Koch, former New York governor Mario Cuomo, former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, poet Allen Ginsberg, novelists Alfred Kazin and Brendan Gill, director Martin Scorsese, journalist Pete Hamill, former Congresswoman Bella Abzug, conservative academic Niall Ferguson and billionaire Donald Trump.