Is It Time to Add Land to NYC? Introducing "Lower Lower Manhattan"

lower lower manhattan cure lolo© CURE

Lower Manhattan is one of the densest areas in the world, a forest of skyscrapers, teeming with residents, commuters and tourists. It's an economic powerhouse: the Financial District and Midtown provide the majority of New York City's tax base. So in planning for the city's future, more downtown isn't a bad way to go. That's the thinking behind "Lower Lower Manhattan," an ambitious idea to expand downtown Manhattan into its harbor.

lower lower manhattan lolo cure© CURE
"LoLo," as the yet-to-be-created district has already been dubbed, is the work of the Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE) at Columbia University. The idea is to connect Lower Manhattan to Governor's Island by creating a land bridge from landfill. The resulting 88 million square feet would be home to office buildings, stores and restaurants, and could generate $16.7 billion in revenue over the next 20-30 years, reported the New York Times.

Crazy As It Seems?

The notion of adding land to Manhattan is not a new or a revolutionary one, argue Vishaan Chakrabarti, the director of CURE, and Jesse M. Keenan, the Center's research director. 10% of the present day borough is artificial, created via landfill over the past 400 years. Much of that is at the island's southern tip. Adding more land that could be an economic boon shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, Keenan says:

The key takeaway is that throughout the history of New York, for better or for worse, we've molded and shaped the city's water line in response to economic and environmental conditions...[and] the idea that thereĀ“s a sanctimonious preservation of the geometry of our shoreline in plan, in terms of maintaining the iconography of the status quo, makes little sense given the reality that these things evolve, in this case from an industrial to an amenitized ecologically sensitive landscape.

In fact, a similar but much more ambitious project was proposed in 1916 and nearly approved. Kennard Thomson, consulting engineer and urban planner, wanted to fill in the East River, build a new one farther east, and add a lot of land to the southern tip of Manhattan.

lower manhattan land growth © CURE

Not Gonna Happen

Despite, this, LoLo is not going to happen, Keenan says. The enormity of the project, which comes with a lot of environmental concerns, would require an enormous amount of political will and cooperation. But CURE means the proposal to be more than food for thought. It's a feasible idea with historical precedent. The money it would add to the city's coffers, could be used to improve and expand public transportation and infrastructure, vital to New York's future growth.

That's not to say it isn't outlandish. As Chakrabarti himself said at a panel titled "How Should New York Grow," the outer boroughs are not nearly as dense as Manhattan- that's where growth should be concentrated.

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Is It Time to Add Land to NYC? Introducing "Lower Lower Manhattan"
Idea to create land bridge to Gov's Island, make more land in NYC.

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