According to Michael Stipe in the London Daily Mail
October 8, 2004, "Leaving New York was written on a plane above the city. On a clear night, the city looks magnificent." Peter Buck added, "The song can be taken literally. On one level, it's just about leaving the city. For me, though, It's hard to hear a song with New York in the title without thinking about September 2001."
Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 2