The insane 1934 plan to fill in the Hudson River

Tired of New York’s terrible traffic and lack of housing options?

It might be time to revisit one of the nuttier ideas for reshaping and redeveloping Manhattan ever proposed: draining the Hudson River and then paving it over.


This idea doesn’t seem to be a hoax. It was covered in the March 1934 edition of Modern Mechanix in a wild article entitled “Filling in the Hudson.”

FillinginhudsonmagcoverThe terrifying illustration on the opening page shows the Hudson River dammed up and filled in from Lower Manhattan to the tip of Harlem.

The plan, proposed by “noted publicist and engineering scholar” Norman Sper, would “reclaim” from the Hudson River 10 square miles, which would “not only provide for thousands of additional buildings, but also for avenues and cross streets,” to ease congestion.

“Today there are ten avenues laid out along the length of Manhattan,” proclaims the article. “These are crossed by 125 streets. It is the lack of up-and-down arteries which has given rise to the existing traffic crisis. Sper would double the number of avenues.”

The water from the Hudson River would be diverted into the Harlem River and the East River. The entire project was supposed to cost the city a cool $1 billion.


It’s unclear how far this idea went; it doesn’t appear to have been covered in any of the major dailies. And since there is no 15th Avenue running through the middle of the Hudson, obviously no one ever took it seriously.

Check out more crazy plans and proposals for New York City that thankfully never made it past the blueprint stage.

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5 Responses to “The insane 1934 plan to fill in the Hudson River”

  1. Robert S Johnson Says:

    Reblogged this on The Quotidian Hudson and commented:
    This would have changed the focus of my photography over the last five years…

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Yes, but you could walk to Manhattan from Rockland County!

  3. The bizarre 1916 plan to fill in the East River | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] a West Side airport, and 100-story housing developments in Harlem, and an even weirder 1934 plan to fill in the Hudson River, this is another bizarre plan for the city that never came to […]

  4. New York Definitely Doesn't Need A 'new Mannahatta' - TFD Says:

    […] future. But as many have noted, it has much more in common with the various misguided plans to… pave over the Hudson and the East River. There is even a plan from 1911 to extend the borough so that its southern point […]

  5. New York Definitely Doesn’t Need ‘New Mannahatta’ – ReTime Says:

    […] the Big Idea of Tomorrow. As many have pointed out it shares much more with other misguided plans. Hudson River Bridge PaveAnd The East River. There’s even a plan from 1911 to extend the borough so that its southern point […]

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