At the break of the 20th century, industrializing cities were growing voraciously and needed more room. A lot of cities are located on waterways because we mastered water transport faster than land transport. But then came trains, and it started to seem like a good idea to dump land into water on a huge scale to create breathing room for boom towns. New York City did this even before the turn of the century; shipwrecks and garbage were often used to create surface area along the edges of Manhattan. The land dug up to create the 4/5/6 line was used to create Governor’s Island. But what if New York City had taken this strategy way further?

These maps, found on Big Think‘s Strange Maps column written by fellow map enthusiast Frank Jacob, give an idea. The maps were created by Dr. T. Kennard Thomson, an engineer and urban planner employed by the City who was involved in the building of many bridges and early skyscrapers. He first proposed this plan in 1911.


In explanation, Dr. Thomas wrote:

I propose to add, by a series of engineering projects, fifty square miles to Greater New York’s area and port foothold. At the same time this will mean an addition of one hundred miles of new water-front…[T]here would be ample room for a population of twenty-five millions, the entire project to be carried out within a few years. Many have said ‘It can’t be done.’ The majority of engineers, however, have acknowledged the possibility, and I have received hundreds of letters of encouragement.

With a time-frame of “just a few years” and an estimated cost of the project greater than that of digging the Panama Canal, Dr. Thomson’s plans posses a charming combination of chutzpah and earnest grandiosity,  the kind that would yield a title like “A Really Greater New York”.

Shortly after Thomson, proposals to full in the Hudson also came to light:

And more recently, Columbia University GSAPP real estate professor, Vishaan Chakrabarti, and the school’s Center for Real Estate proposed a plan called “LoLo” to connect Lower Manhattan to Governors Island:

LoLo-Columbia University-Vishaan Chakrabarti-Real Estate-Lower Manhattan-Governors Island Map

Get in touch with the author @youngzokeziah. See more fun maps in our Weekly Map column.

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