According to the New York Public Library, the first aerial photo of New York City is the image above, snapped by photographer James A. Hart in 1906 as part of a commercial stunt. Hart recounts his adventure:
The tops of the skyscrapers were a thousand feet below us. I could distinguish easily the individual ﬁgures like so many pencil dots on the pavement. A group of dots directly beneath was the curb-brokers at their buying and selling.Not one sound of the hum and roar, of the clanging of electric cars or the whistling of the tugs, could I hear. New York was remote; it was a picture rather than an organism.
Though the photograph is a bit murky, its littered with landmarks that remain today such as Battery Park and Castle Clinton, as well as the western docks that were replaced by the World Trade Center and Battery Park City. Be sure to check out the full article for a detailed account of the backstory of this photograph.