Sunday, March 27, 2011

200 Years of the Grid, Census Results, League Prize and Waste-to-Energy

This week marks the bicentennial of the Manhattan grid system, introducing the 90-degree, angular streetscape we know today. The grid reveals priorities of a 19th century New York, and this bicentennial offers a unique moment for urban enthusiasts to explore and understand the ideas behind 11 major avenues and 155 crosstown streets laid out in 1811.
The creation of the grid is lauded for introducing long, standardized, narrow blocks and responsible for shaping lots and blocks for facilitating real estate demands, breaking up traditionally large estate parcels. It has also been criticized for many of the pedestrian and traffic issues of Manhattan today — the narrow, pre-automobile streets gave rise to the term “gridlock.”
The significant lack of open space — only two areas included in the 1811 map, the ‘wide green’ or ‘Parade’ (Central Park came in 1850) and a future market — perhaps reflects the grid’s expected reliance on waterborne transportation and a clean, accessible riverside. In the words of William Bridges:
“It may to many be a matter of surprise that so few vacant spaces have been left, and those so small, for the benefit of fresh air and consequent preservation of health. Certainly if the City of New York was destined to stand on the side of small streams such as the Seine or the Thames, a great number of ample places might be needful. But those large arms of the sea which embrace Manhattan island render its situation in regard to health and pleasure as well to the convenience of commerce, peculiarly felicitous.”

The of statue of political figure Roscoe Conkling, built in 1893 and located in Madison Square Park, New York, photo by peterjr1961

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