Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NYC Vintage Image: New York's Futuristic 'Dream Airport," 1946

The March 18, 1946 issue of Life magazine reported on a genius $3 billion idea to avoid those tenacious, annoying trips from the center of Manhattan to JFK, LaGuardia or Newark airports: simply demolish the center of the city and build a giant runway right in the middle of the island! It'd be genius... if only it weren't utterly asinine.

The article outlines a proposal by prominent land developer William Zeckendorf to construct a runway from Ninth Avenue west to the Hudson River, & north from 24th Street to 71st Street. So long, upper Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen and Midtown West!

The runway would be built atop an all-purpose mega-dock, capable of accommodating both air and river traffic. Ships would anchor at waterfront portals, while 68 planes an hour would navigate across the rooftop runway. Planes would then be lowered by hangars onto multiple floors for disembarking.

In addition, the 144-square-block colossus would house "ticket offices, restaurants, business offices, waiting rooms" and other useful establishments, assuring you never had to go outdoors.

Zeckendorf also came up with a scheme to build a massive "dream city" on 17 acres along the East River between 42nd & 48th streets. New Yorkers breathed a collective sigh of relief upon the project's derailment when architect Wallace Harrison, Nelson Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller purchased the land from him, which they donated for construction of the United Nations.

Zeckendorf was also involved in the creation of Los Angeles' Century City community, built on 176 acres that was once 20th Century Fox's backlot, which was so mired in false starts that it eventually led to his bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, in 2009, the Manhattan Airport Foundation scared the bejesus out of New Yorkers with a plan to replace Central Park with an international air transportation hub. That, however, was a real joke.