NYC Almost Looked Entirely Different Because of 6 Radical Concepts

The Chrysler Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park – the number of NYC landmark parks, buildings, and bridges almost seems endless, and shape the way the world views this iconic city. It’s no secret that the city is constantly evolving, moving with the people who inhabit it.

Gizmodo has revealed that the Gotham we know today might have looked completely different because of six radical mid-20th century infrastructures that never came to be.

Check out these could’ve been plans and imagine what the Big Apple might have looked like…

John F. Kennedy Airport is out, airport on the Hudson is in…


Dubbed “Manhattan’s Dream Airport” this travel hub was laid out by William Zeckendorf, owner of the Chrysler Building. Zeckendorf’s dream involved a 144-block-long floating airport right on the edge of the Hudson River with planes taking off on the building’s roof and boats docking below. Think about that for a moment, planes taking off on top of a building in midtown Manhattan? What happens when one of these planes plummets off the runway?

Thankfully, Zeckendorf’s dream airport remained a dream and the estimated $35 billion* dollar project was never cleared for takeoff.

The SoHo super highway…

soho highway

Between 1940-1962 lower Manhattan was on the chopping block as city planners debated gutting the SoHo area to roll out a 10 lane highway from the Holland Tunnel to Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges.

Known as the Lower Manhattan Expressway or LOMEX, the idea was conjured up by Robert Moses, who also envisioned housing complexes running alongside the monster highway. LOMEX was finally stopped dead in its tracks by Jane Jacobs who fought the project in an effort to preserve NYC’s history. Robert Moses plans of highway domination didn’t die completely though, he was a big pusher in the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens-Expressway. Blame him next time you’re in rush hour gridlock.

Estimated cost: $749 million*

Living under the dome…


New Yorkers of the 1960s found themselves potentially living in a real-life sci-fi novel with this one. American architect Buckminster Fuller wanted to create a giant clear dome of clean air that would have stretched from the Hudson to the East River, between 21st and roughly 64th streets. The guy was obsessed with domes and futuristic utopias, coining the term “spaceship Earth.” In the long run it’s probably best that New York City didn’t become “dome-tropilis.” New Yorkers complain about rent enough as it is, but a dome would have only added to the segregation issue. Nobody wants to be left outside the bubble.

Estimated cost: $7.5 billion*

A bridge over the Hudson in 1915…

hudson bridge

Lower Manhattan and New Jersey have always been segregated, at least when it comes to bridges. Part of that is due to the large number of freighter ships that come up the waterway. Architect Alfred C. Bossom aimed to fix that issue with a relatively simple solution: build the bridge higher, 200 feet higher.

Dubbed the “Victory Bridge” as a tribute to WWI, the bridge never saw construction because of the massive costs and just as massive size of the project. The bridge towers themselves would have been 800 feet high. New Jersey eventually got connected with lower Manhattan though using Bossom’s same route for the Holland Tunnel in 1927.

Fill in the Hudson River…

hudson fill

No need to even worry about bridges and tunnels if you don’t have a river getting in the way, right? Norman Sper relayed to Modern Mechanix in 1934 his vision of adding 10 square miles to Manhattan by infilling the Hudson with a multi-layer grid. This grid would connect New York City to New Jersey and at the same time, fix housing and transit problems.

Not satisfied with just Sper’s vision of this super grid, Modern Mechanix asked other engineers and architects their opinion on the idea. Surprisingly, many of them seemed for it. “Provided with sufficient money and time, particularly money, the project could be carried through to completion with unquestionable success,” said one engineer. Perhaps it’s that “sufficient money” thing that killed the estimated $17 billion* project.

More destruction of NYC’s rivers, this time the East River…


Traffic congestion has long been a headache for Gotham and in 1924 Popular Science estimated the city was losing $1.5 million a day on the problem! Getting rid of the pesky East River seemed like a perfect solution to Dr. John A. Harriss, a “special deputy police commissioner in charge of traffic” (because you want a traffic cop redesigning the city).

The idea would have required the building of two dams — one at the Williamsburg Bridge, the other, near Hell Gate in Harlem. Obviously, this never happened and the East River is stinking up Brooklyn to this very day.

*Adjusted for inflation.

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