Plans for New York that never came to pass

Developers are always coming up with shiny new proposals for a smarter, better, more future-focused city.

Thanks to the city’s bureaucracy, financial downturns, as well as the sheer ridiculousness of some of these ideas, most never seem to get past the sketch stage.

But it’s fun to see what could have been—like this 130-story telescope-looking structure, one of 11 proposals received by the city in 1985 to redevelop the site of the Coliseum at Columbus Circle.

Popular Science‘s very cool PopSci blog has a great writeup on it, based on their original 1985 article about the tower.

Of course, the Coliseum did get the boot, replaced by the less rocketship-like Time Warner Center in 2003.

I really like the look of this Art Deco cityscape sketch. But for the Lower East Side? I’m glad it didn’t happen.

This was the original design of the Chrystie-Forsyth Parkway, a four-lane sunken drive between Chrystie and Forsyth Streets from Houston Street to the Manhattan Bridge.

Bridges built over the parkway would accommodate traffic. Skyscrapers and high-rises would replace tenements.

Dreamed up in 1931, Mayor Jimmy Walker disregarded it and opened Sara Roosevelt Park here instead.

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12 Responses to “Plans for New York that never came to pass”

  1. Josie Says:

    I’m glad the Chrystie-Forsyth Parkway plan wasn’t implemented. I have haunting memories of playing in the Sara Delano Roosevelt Park. It was so well designed for use by so many elements of the population it served. And refurbished in recent years it’s still truly delightful.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Me too. I love the small scale of that long, rectangular park and the surrounding tenements.

  3. r185 Says:

    This reminds me of a great book that included a map of Central Park with everything that has ever been proposed to be built in it, including a ski slope.

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    I wonder why the ski slope ideas was shot down….

  5. r185 Says:

    If I remember correctly, it was proposed during Mayor Lindsay’s administration (though I don’t think by his office) and it would be built out of garbage and covered over with dirt. I wish I still had the map. It was from a magazine article or book (don’t recall) and it was loaded with all sorts of crazy stuff that never made it beyond the proposal or planning stage. But if it had all been built, there would have been little room for grass and trees, which was the point of the map.

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    I’d love to see that original book or article. I guess it would have a ski lift too? Maybe a little lodge for snacks? It sounds so elitist!

  7. nycedges Says:

    Don’t forget about the Moses/Rudolph Lower Manhattan Expressway project which would have wiped out the LES and created giant hi-rises with highways running through them
    http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=5010

  8. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks Edges. We have community groups and activists from the 1960s to thank for beating that bad idea back.

  9. Parnassus Says:

    It is always interesting to compare what was planned with what was built. Some, like that telescope-building, don’t seem too realistic, but for others it seems a shame that we missed out.

    In general, I am more on the side of all the historical structures that have to be razed to make way for the new project.

  10. Dave Says:

    There was a wonderful book about just this published 20 years ago, by Rebecca Read Shanor:

    The City That Never Was: Rebecca Read Shanor: 9780140077933: Amazon.com: Books

    The City That Never Was: Rebecca Read Shanor: 9780140077933: Amazon.com: Books

    Buy from Amazon

  11. Kayden Says:

    That “zoom in shot” kind of looks like a side shot of the the Hearst bldg.

  12. Ron Says:

    “I really like the look of this Art Deco cityscape sketch. But for the Lower East Side? I’m glad it didn’t happen.” It’s thinking like that, that has stifled great construction projects. The lower east side now has no soul. Not to say when it was downright dangerous that it did but its for the wealthy now. Tenements have been replaced by apartments with unbelievable rents. The area is littered with boutiques and restaurants that cater to the affluent. At least if we had these projects it would add to the skyline and make the city fun to watch from the sorrounding boroughs and afar. Places where the less entitled live. NYC is fastly becoming for the wealthy, everyone one else need not apply. A little off topic but people like Shelly Silver helped kill the west side stadium project. Now guess what’s going up there? Luxury condos, coops, apartments! At least with the stadium, the less fortunate can enjoy some great sporting events that occur in the city. Albeit they probably can’t afford to attend, but hey better that than luxury buildings with no aesthetics. Thanks for the article though!

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