The Plan to Build a Mega-Manhattan That Failed, Thank God

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tags: Manhattan, New York



A Really Greater New York. That was the title of the 1911 proposal by an engineer and planner who imagined paving over massive amounts of New York Harbor to make room to build the New York of the future. Oh, you like the East River and would miss it? Too damn bad!

Yesterday Jen Carlson brought the proposal to our attention, explaining how it was drawn up—and enthusiastically promoted—by one T. Kennard Thomson in 1911. Just how much would Thomson's plan have transformed New York? Well, as it stands today, NYC encompasses 469 square miles. Thomson wanted to add a full 50 square miles to that by infilling huge sections of naturally water-bound New York. 

In the context of early modern New York, it wasn't all that crazy. After all, the boundaries of Manhattan had been aggressively expanded since the arrival of Dutch colonists. Ellis Island is built on landfill, as is Battery Park City. During World War II, American naval ships brought back thousands of tons of rubble from English cities that ended up in the East River, serving as infill for FDR Drive.




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