Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NYC Vintage Image: The New York Of The Future... Then...

Over the past 100 years, engineers and urban planners have come up with some ingenious solutions to New York City's inherent challenges... Here are five that are wildly unique, if not either highly impractical or just plain stupid.
1) In 1918, the concept of technology that could dig tunnels not only beneath existing streets, but tunnels beneath tunnels—that didn't cave in on one another—was next to impossible to imagine. So using the Broadway subway line's construction, city planners offered a visual to demonstrate how steel wedges and wooden beams would be employed to support existing rails, while blasting rock from beneath them.

Eventually, the steel wedge would serve as permanent ceiling for the second layer of tunnels, while another beam would hold everything in place. After areas surrounding the supports were filled with cement, workers could take them away and let the structure stand on its own.

For that matter, it's still pretty astounding.

2) In 1916, Dr. T. Kennard Thomson, a consulting engineer, proposed a novel solution to New York City's growing population problem: add more land! His proposal entailed adding 50 square miles of land from the New York Bay, which would contribute 100 miles of new waterfront, essentially turning downtown Manhattan into midtown!

The black portions at the bottom of the map show where Thomson planned to add land mass, including the new East River he planned to carve inside Queens. With the original East River filled in, Brooklyn and Manhattan would become Manhattan's new East and West Side.

Even though the project was projected to cost more than the Panama Canal, the engineer theorized that the added populace would contribute enough financial returns to justify the investment.
3) A decade after T. Kennard Thomson offered his proposal, in 1924, John A. Harris, special deputy commissioner in charge of traffic, proposed draining the pesky East River and constructing a massive paved boulevard between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

After damming and draining the East River between the Williamsburg Bridge and Harlem River, a new city hall atop the boulevard would house police, health, music and art centers, while new high schools, playgrounds and a theater district would serve all four boroughs.

Beneath the paved boulevard would be parking spaces, subway lines, east and west ramps, as well as a tunnel for large vehicles... Actually, this is a pretty boffo idea... you know, except for turning New York City into a dustbowl.

4) Transferring on the S subway shuttle between Grand Central Station and Times Square is a royal pain in the ass, to this day. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. & Stevens-Adamson Manufacturing came up with a genius solution in 1951: instal conveyor cars that would shuttle passengers between the two stations.

These cars would carry twice as many people a third faster than the existing shuttle train. To further ease traffic, a moving sidewalk would carry commuters to and from the tunnels, the conveyor cars and subway platforms themselves. Damn shame that never happened.5) Welcome to the all-new Times Square, circa 1962! Without cross streets, traffic flow would be magically undeterred, as the center of the universe was transformed into more of a village setting, complete with multi-level connecting theaters, retail and transportation...

Funny, while nothing of the sort ever happened, NYC Mayor Bloomberg has taken today's Times Square back in time, a la George Orwell's 1984. Even though you're outdoors, somehow, smoking is hazardous, despite a steady stream of car, cab and bus exhaust.