New Yorkers were hunching over newspapers and listening to the latest radio broadcasts yesterday as news swept through town that their own Geraldine A. Ferraro was the likely Democratic vice-presidential nominee.
''We are absolutely delighted,'' says Susan Lombard from a noisily happy office of New York National Organization for Women (NOW). Before Walter F. Mondale, the probable Democratic presidential candidate, had made his choice, Ms. Lombard, who lives in Jamaica, Queens, said she had signed up to work on US Representative Ferraro's campaign if she was nominated. ''She is a good choice. . . . She's well spoken and intelligent.''
''It will definitely make a difference in the race,'' says Evelyn Hara, a hospital worker in Manhattan and a Republican. ''It's a good choice for Mondale, because I don't think he's doing too well.'' She still thinks she prefers President Reagan. ''I haven't read that much about her. I don't know if I would be ready for a lady president (should Ms. Ferraro ever be called upon fill the presidency).''
Ms. Ferraro's district in Queens has been cited as the home of Archie Bunker - it is a bastion of moderate and conservative Democrats with strong ties to church and family. And although Ms. Ferraro is a confirmed feminist and votes with liberals on many issues, she seems to hold the affection of her constituency: When she ran for her third term in 1982, she received 73 percent of the vote compared with 20 percent for the Republican candidate.
''I've known her 10 years, and I've watched her grow every day,'' Queens Borough president Donald R. Manes said Tuesday. She does things with ''a great deal of enthusiasm and idealism, and on every problem she's always given everthing she had.''
Mr. Manes, who is also head of the Democratic county committee and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, has said he would do whatever he could to put Ms. Ferraro into the vice-presidential slot.
Others are somewhat cynical. ''I think Mondale has hooked up with Ferraro just to see if he can beat Reagan,'' says a black worker, who adds he will not vote in November. He says he likes something that Jesse Jackson had said - that the point is not just to beat Reagan but to have a good platform that will benefit the people.
''What does she know about communism?'' asks Krystyna Piorkowska on the Lower East Side, who says she'd rather see United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick as a vice-president. She says she doesn't think Representative Ferraro has much experience in foreign policy.
But many New Yorkers were suprised, and pleased. ''She's a perfectly wonderful choice,'' says a woman in Jackson Heights, which is in Ms. Ferraro's congressional district. ''She's got brains, and she's tough.''
The congresswoman's district ranges from the industrial-residental area of Long Island City - currently viewed as a hot real estate prospect for gentrification - to quietly residential streets in Jackson Heights. Most families are from recent-immigrant stock; Ms. Ferraro's father came from Italy.
Barbara Rochman, president of the New York City chapter of NOW, says Mondale's choice is neither a trick or a desperate move. ''I think it shows a lot of courage. It was an intelligent and a principled choice.''
Still, there are some in New York City who consider Ms. Ferraro too liberal.
''She certainly doesn't typify the Democratic Party (here),'' says Henry Jurgs, administrator for the Republican Party in Queens County. He says the Republicans have endorsed Constance Tinneny for the congressional seat in District Nine. Mrs. Tinneny, a homemaker, also has the backing of the Conservative Party and expects a nod from the Right to Life Party.
There are several Democrats who have been named as possible heirs to Congresswoman Ferraro's seat, including New York City Councilman Thomas J. Manton, chief clerk of the Queens's Board of Election Gloria D'Amico, and New York State Assemblymen Ivan C. Lafayette and Clifford E. Wilson.
If the Mondale-Ferraro ticket does not make it to the White House, observers point out the ''great publicity'' and experience could boost Ms. Ferraro's chances in 1986 in a race for the US Senate seat now held by Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R).