A total of 1,760 acres are available for purchase. That’s the amount of more Manhattan we’ll require.
“Building the Skyline: The Birth and Growth of Manhattan’s Skyscrapers” is Mr. Barr’s book.
Eric Adams was sworn in as New York’s 110th mayor on January 1. He’s now in charge of the city’s reaction to major issues that are only becoming worse. Affordability of housing is one of them. Another topic is the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, flooding, and storm surges.
Expanding Manhattan Island into the harbor is one method to assist address both challenges in one bold legislative move.
Mr. Adams said last September that watching severe flooding from Hurricane Ida’s leftovers was “a huge wake-up call to all of us about how we must recognize how this climate change is affecting us.” This realization should motivate him to take aggressive actions to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Mayors Bill de Blasio and Michael Bloomberg both proposed climate-change plans that included expanding the Lower Manhattan waterfront along the East River. These recommendations, while desirable, would be tiny measures that would barely make a dent in such large-scale problems.
This innovative proposal provides strong surge protection while simultaneously providing new dwellings. It accomplishes this by extending Manhattan by 1,760 acres into New York Harbor. The southern Manhattan shoreline would be reshaped by this landfill development, as it has been by many others in the city’s history. New Mannahatta is the name given to the newly developed area (drawn from the name the Lenape gave to Manhattan).
A neighborhood of that magnitude would be larger than the Upper West Side (Community District 7), which covers 1,220 acres. Imagine developing a diversified neighborhood from the ground up, with everything from traditional brownstones to five-story apartment complexes to high-rise towers. New Mannahatta could contain over 180,000 new dwelling units if it is created with the same density and style as the Upper West Side.
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Mayor de Blasio announced an affordable housing plan in 2014 that included the construction or preservation of 200,000 apartments. Despite this, rents continued to climb due to a lack of building keeping up with population and income growth. To give you a feeling of scale, 171,000 housing units were built between 2010 and 2018, enough to house around 417,000 people. During the same time span, though, the city’s population increased by nearly 500,000 people.
The Covid epidemic temporarily slowed the market in New York City, but its effects are fading, and the affordability dilemma has resurfaced. Rents are gradually reverting to pre-pandemic levels. Mayor Adams has laid out his plan for affordable housing, which includes tax breaks for new construction across the five boroughs. Additional Mannahatta provides the opportunity to achieve the goal of constructing a large number of new units, many of which can be made affordable to low-income families.
Creating land in the port would also aid New York City’s climate change defenses. The new community would shift susceptible areas such as Wall and Broad Streets further inland, and the peninsula might be built with specific flood safeguards along its coastline to protect itself and the rest of the city. Surges would be absorbed by wetlands ecologies along shorelines in particular. The new peninsula might reproduce past ecologies and establish environmental and ecological research facilities committed to improving the condition of New York’s natural world, and it may be built at a higher elevation to strengthen its protective ability.
One of the advantages of developing this new neighborhood is that it can be paid for using sales or long-term land leases. In 2019, average building sales on the Upper West Side were over $1,500 per square foot, while average citywide building construction expenses were around $500 per square foot. The remaining funds will be used to develop land and infrastructure, including new subway lines. New ferry routes could be built along the shorelines, assisting the city’s overall objective to increase boat traffic. The project may potentially earn a profit if properly managed, especially if funding comes from the new government infrastructure plan. The city would get new real estate tax revenue after the properties were built. For example, the Upper West Side donated $1.4 billion to the city’s coffers in 2017.
Big Thinking in the Big Apple
The Brooklyn Bridge, the subway system, and the 92-acre Battery Park City were formerly major constructions in New York (largely spared the flooding from Hurricane Sandy in 2012). Big thinking is required in these perilous times.
Mayor Adams has the opportunity to leave a legacy of making New York more secure and affordable. New Mannahatta can help the city thrive in the twenty-first century.
Professor of economics at Rutgers University, Newark, Jason M. Barr (@JasonBarrRU) is the author of “Building the Skyline: The Birth and Growth of Manhattan’s Skyscrapers” and The Skynomics Blog.