Image via Library of Congress/C.M. Stieglitz
It could be argued that Robert Moses shaped the physical landscape of New York City more so than any other person in the twentieth century. By the end of his tenure, the “master builder” and city planner had constructed 658 playgrounds and 13 bridges, as well as a number of highways, beaches, and the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Today, he leaves behind an architectural legacy, but as Robert A. Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography The Power Broker, critically points out, Moses had a tendency to embark on large-scale projects beyond the funding approved by the New York State Legislature. His ideas were not always welcomed with open arms, yet he had no problem dismissing public opposition to his work and displacing hundreds of thousands of residents.
These seven controversial proposals are examples of projects he never had the opportunity to build in New York City:
9/11 Memorial Competition Entry: Wiktor Szostalo, Poland/United States
This following article was written by Lester Levine, author of the newly released book 9/11 Memorial Visions: Innovative Concepts from the 2003 World Trade Center Site Competition. Levine is a New York City-born poet and a management consultant now based in North Carolina. He says that curiosity led him to read through all 5,201 entries from the 2003 9/11 Memorial competition. In the book prospectus he writes, “I was a voyeur looking into shattered souls, a wide-eyed viewer into a hugely complex range of human creativity. I became enthralled.”
No matter how far we’ve progressed in terms of urban planning, there will always be those that believe that building massive infrastructure will solve all of the city’s traffic problems. In a proposal that harkens back to Robert Moses‘ Lower Manhattan Expressway (LOMEX), a Delaware traffic consultant has proposed twin suspension bridges that would stretch from New Jersey, over Manhattan, into Queens, crossing along both 38th and 39th Streets. Scott R. Spencer, who has termed his project the Empire State Gateway, sees this proposal as a faster fix than the Gateway Tunnel.
One of our favorite articles is about the buildings in New York City that have literally been picked up and moved. Most of these were smaller houses, but all 3,700 tons of the Empire Theatre on 42nd Street was moved in 1997. On a larger, more imaginary scale is the moving of the Empire State Building, as depicted in the 1960s Thunderbird TV comic by Graham Bleathman from England. In the ’90s, the Thunderbird series was re-released as a comic book with new drawings.
In this scene from Terror in New York City, plans to move the Empire State Building began this year, in 2016, to rebuild a large swatch of Manhattan from Union Square to Central Park. Some key buildings, like the Empire State, are going to be preserved while the rest demolished urban renewal style.
This visual is a fascinating find from @Discovering_NYC – a plan to create a canal from a new port in Jamaica Bay to Flushing Bay which had been in the works since at least 1910, when it was presented to the Barge Terminal Canal Commission at an estimated cost of $12 million. A bill for its construction failed to pass the New York State legislature in 1912 but in 1914 the state included the latest in its Annual Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor on the Canals of the State of New York showing a cost between $12.6 million and $21 million.
In May of 1910, the ill-fated New York City mayor, William Jay Gaynor, proposed a new avenue to be added to Manhattan’s street grid that would go between Fifth and Sixth Avenue between 8th Street and 59th Street. While this might seem like a wild idea today, several new avenues were added to the original grid plotted by the Commissioners of New York City, like Lexington Avenue, Madison Avenue, and several thoroughfares uptown, like St. Nicholas Avenue. As a New York Times article reported on May 29th, 1910, the Gaynor’s avenue would be the same width as Fifth Avenue, then at 100 feet.