The single-engine plane made an emergency landing on the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx yesterday afternoon, officials said.
The Piper PA-28 was on its way to Danbury, Connecticut, heading north from the Statue of Liberty when it experienced engine trouble, a spokesman for the Fire Department of New York was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.
The pilot planned to land at La Guardia Airport in Queens but realised he would not be able to reach the runway.
"They couldn't make it and landed on the expressway," the fire department spokesman said.
The pilot and his two women passengers were taken to St Barnabas Hospital with minor injuries. One of the passengers suffered minor head injuries in the landing and was in stable condition, police said.
The plane hit some treetops before it landed, officials and witnesses said, spilling some fuel before touching down and rolling about 100 yards down the lane.
The pilot was able to land on the usually heavily trafficked expressway because a crew of city workers repairing potholes had closed two northbound lanes, workers at the scene were quoted as saying by the New York Times.
After seeing the plane in the air, the crew stopped traffic and closed the third northbound lane.
No cars were damaged during the landing, officials said, but there were major delays into the evening as officials investigated.
Officials said a hazardous materials team removed 50 gallons of fuel from the plane before it was towed, and that the road crew spread sand to absorb hydraulic fuel leaked from the plane's landing gear.
The plane is registered to Michael Schwartz of South Salem, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
Chief Philip Banks III of the Police Department said officials were conducting an investigation.
"Anytime you have an airplane crash and you survive, it's pretty lucky," he said, adding that the Transportation Department workers had done a "fantastic job" in assisting the pilot and his passengers.
Based on preliminary reports, firefighters thought they were responding to a downed jet, Captain Robert Keating said.
"He didn't seem rattled," Keating said of the pilot, and exited the plane "like he was just getting out of a taxi".