The bizarre 1916 plan to fill in the East River

“At first glance, a project to reclaim 50 square miles of land from New York Bay, to add 100 miles of new waterfront for docks, to fill in the East River, and to prepare New York for a population of 20 million seems somewhat stupendous, does it not?”

That’s the lead sentence in a fascinating article published in Popular Science in 1916, written with great enthusiasm by an engineer, Dr. T. Kennard Thomson.

Thomson had big dreams for New York City, and he laid them out in this article—his vision of making Greater New York a “Really Greater New York.”

The craziest idea? To turn the East River into a landfill extension of Manhattan, so “it would not be much harder to get to Brooklyn than to cross Broadway.” A new East River from Flushing Bay to Jamaica Bay would then be built.

Also nuts is the plan to lengthen Lower Manhattan so it just about touches Staten Island, and rework the Harlem River so it extends in a straight line from Hell Gate to the Hudson.

The point of his Really Greater New York? To rake in more money.

“Imagine the value of this new land for docks, warehouses, and business blocks! The tax assessments alone would make a fortune!” Thomson writes.

But like moving sidewalks, 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 pass.

[Images: Popular Science]

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6 Responses to “The bizarre 1916 plan to fill in the East River”

  1. Sara Wykes Says:

    Just imagine! 😊 Sent from my iPhone


  2. Zoé Says:

    Fascinating post (as usual).

    Considering how much of downtown is built on landfill (& the other landfill & leveled hills existing within Manhattan) I guess they thought it was not an idea born of total madness.

    “moving sidewalks” lol! People would be angry about non-locals *standing* in front of them too slowly/stepping off the sidewalk too slowly vs. walking in front of them too slowly…

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Right, and all that extra dock space! He couldn’t envision a time when the New York City waterfront was no longer the moneymaker it had been.

  4. David H Lippman Says:

    Smoley hokes, I’m glad they didn’t do that….we lack access to waterfronts as it is.

  5. Ben David Says:

    Well they did fill in Spuyten Duyvil to make an easier passage.

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