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A supplement to Harper’s Weekly, from May 6, 1871 — 145 years ago!

NewYorkFromABalloon1871HarpersWkly

BalloonAboveNY

A group in the Bay Area — calling itself BARF — is directly challenging the opposition to new development that is such an important factor in that region’s astronomical housing prices — and taking on a lot of sacred cows in the process. Interesting article.

From the Internet Archive: a 1918 viewbook of the Woolworth Building, which, at that time, was the tallest building in the world.

I took these pictures in October 2015, during a visit that I made to City Hall (1802-12), with Honey, as part of Open House New York. City Hall is located in New York’s historic town green — the topic of a previous LT post. My current office is at 250 Broadway, which is the glass building located just to the right of the Woolworth Building in a couple of the outdoor photos. More about the history and architecture of City Hall can be found here. Images of the Council Chamber, including its incredible ceiling, are at the end of the series.

We hear more and more about the threat to coastal cities from rising sea levels. But being able to visualize the local spatial implications of this phenomenon brings it home in an entirely new way. One of the most interesting tools is the Surging Seas Risk Zone Map, from Climate Central, a Princeton-based independent organization that promotes public awareness about climate change. Here, you can search for any location, and visualize the contours of new shorelines with sea levels that have risen in increments of feet and meters.

Here’s a map of what would happen in the Newark Bay basin by 2100 if sea levels rose by more than two meters, as envisioned by a recent analysis of the potential loss of significant Antarctic ice sheets:

NewarkBasinSLPlus7ft

Urban New Jersey, plus 7 feet of sea level. Source: Climate Central, Princeton, N.J.

In this scenario, Newark Airport, the entire Seaport area, and much of the Ironbound has been flooded. In addition, Newark Bay appears to have swallowed up most of the salt meadows, and the blocks along the tidal portion of the Passaic River are under water. Finally, take a look at Hoboken and downtown Jersey City, on the far right: the Hudson River waterfront has essentially become a barrier island, while the blocks leading back toward the Palisades have been saturated.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at some of the coastal areas of New York City, under the same scenario:

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Coastal New York, plus 7 feet of sea level. Source: Climate Central, Princeton, N.J.

The submerged areas on this map (e.g., the Rockaways, Coney Island, Howard Beach, Canarsie, Red Hook, and the South Shore of Staten Island) line up almost perfectly with the areas that experienced the most destruction from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Keep in mind that these maps offer a vision of what could happen with just a seven-foot (7′) rise in global sea levels, which is now being held out as a plausible scenario for 2100. Some of the projections to the year 2500 show global sea levels rising 49 meters.

Hushed in the smoky haze of summer sunset,
When I came home again from far-off places,
How many times I saw my western city
  Dream by her river.

Then for an hour the water wore a mantle
Of tawny gold and mauve and misted turquoise
Under the tall and darkened arches bearing
  Gray, high-flung bridges.

Against the sunset, water-towers and steeples
Flickered with fire up the slope to westward,
And old warehouses poured their purple shadows
  Across the levee.

High over them the black train swept with thunder,
Cleaving the city, leaving far beneath it
Wharf-boats moored beside the old side-wheelers
  Resting in twilight.

From Flame and Shadow (1920), by Sara Teasdale.

Bridges 1811At the time of its adoption, the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 envisioned the eventual urban development of all the raw land that would become Central Park. Intersections that would never come to be — like West 64th Street and Sixth Avenue, or West 109th Street and Seventh Avenue — were surveyed and marked on the rural land of New York County.

Recently, some physical evidence of the preliminary grid-platting has, quite literally, come to light in the right places. In a recent New Yorker article, Marguerite Holloway describes the discovery, and explains the origin of the mysterious markers in Central Park — as well as why they had disappeared and remained buried for nearly two centuries:

So the grid plan sank below the park, largely lost to the sculpted waves and undulations of landscaping. Just a few white marble pillars remain, marking a forgotten aspect of Manhattan’s original street plan, and evoking a wilder, emptier landscape in which white stones stand like cairns.