© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected all aspects of life and poses a severe threat to human health and economic development. New York City administration enacted a strict isolation decision at the end of March 2020 to tackle the COVID-19, creating a unique opportunity to assess air quality. Therefore, we investigated the impact of the lockdown on air quality in New York City. We evaluated the air pollutants concentration, i.e., PM2.5, CO, NO2, SO2, and O3, during the lockdown and compared them with pre-COVID-19. We explored the first phase of lockdown through a spatial approach, then formulated the air quality index (AQI) of each pollutant before and during the lockdown. Our findings revealed that (1) there was a significant decline in the concentration level of PM2.5 from 10.3 to 4.0 μg/m3 during phase one of lockdown. (2) NO2 concentrations have been decreased by up to 52% in 1st phase of lockdown. (3) O3 concentration has been increased by 44.4%. (4) Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island County encountered 18.75%, 55.62%, 47.14%, and 47% diminution in AQI due to lockdown as compared to 2018, respectively. Our key findings can provide critical environmental implications for policymakers, researchers, academics, and the US government.