Manhattan Unleashed

Manhattan’s greatest achievement may also be its greatest downfall. Bordered by two rivers (the East River is actually an estuary or tidal straight, but whatever) and set back in a protected harbor, the island’s geographic location helped it become one the world’s foremost centers of business, finance, art, design, publishing and almost everything else. In the early twentieth century as expansion on the island continued to move northward, there was soon no where else to build but up. The end result is one of the most vast and recognizable skylines in the world. But has Manhattan’s inability to expand horizontally limited the city’s greatness or potential? Sure, Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey are visible at all times from the east and west shorefronts, but in many respects, they are also a world away from Manhattan.

Think about the city’s potential if there was no East River. The city in the twentieth century would have rapidly expanded eastward, with economic centers of clustered high-rise buildings sprouting up throughout the city. Take Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai, for example. Each are massive cities fundamentally based on its geography near the water, but have grown into what they are because they have not been limited. When Hong Kong outgrew Victoria Island, it took over Kowloon and the New Territories and kept growing. Shanghai has reenergized Pudong across from the Bend to be one of the fastest growing economic centers in the world. What has New York done with Long Island City or Downtown Brooklyn?

Let’s face it, New York City is Manhattan and Manhattan will always be limited to the island. New development means tearing down what’s old and building anew or gentrifying a new neighborhood, both of which New Yorkers do very well. But world-changing economic and high-tech centers (like what is being done in Pudong) will not be built in New York, for where would they build? I love New York, don’t get me wrong, but I feel that its geography somehow limits it in the future even as much as it was helpful in the past.

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One Response

  1. Hmm…good thought. Did anyone thing of reclaming…another Dubai’s The World

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