Canals of New York

What New York Doesnt have any canals?

Last year CIVITAS, a non-profit that works to improve land use in East Harlem and the Upper East Side, working with local politicians, they staged an ideas competition to redesign a section of the waterfront that runs from 65th Street to 125th Street,.  This builds on an initiative of Mayor Bloomberg launched in 2012 a Vision 2020 plan has already seen some of the city’s 500 miles of shoreline transformed into parks.

The winning entry is quite extraordinary.   Syracuse University architecture student Joseph Wood proposed a network of Venetian canals woven through the Manhattan street grid.  Fastcodedesign

Wood’s sepia-toned renderings describe a sinuous series of promenades, streams, and pathways threading through the existing urban infrastructure that runs along the island. Pedestrian bridges rise over FDR Drive, while bike paths rise over slower-moving foot traffic.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, industrial canals cut into the city grid all along the East River waterfront, moving goods and waste in and out of Manhattan. These inlets were long ago filled in, but Wood’s design would see the them reemerge – this time for public use.

Interestingly FDR drive has an interesting history, it is built on top of Bristol Town Centre.

During World War II, the Luftwaffe savagely bombed the city of Bristol, England, a major port for American supply ships,” …“After the supplies were unloaded, the American ships had no British goods to replace them on the return trip, and needed ballast for stability. So they loaded up rubble from Bristol’s bombed-out buildings.”“Back in New York, the ships dumped the ballast from 23rd to 34th Street as landfill for whatwould become the East River Drive, now Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive Michael Pollack in his FYI column in The New York Times June 2009.


Wood said he was stunned that the jury selected his design, which was assigned as part of an architecture studio. “I was very surprised because they presented the competition like a basic nuts-and-bolts problem,” said Wood said by phone. “I think they took a step out of themselves to allow such a conceptual idea to win.”

Of course what New York Really needs to do is replace FDR highway with an East River Waterfront connecting the city back to the East River and creating a tramline along the waterfront which could move far more people with far less land, it would be extraordinary, especially in combined with Wood’s visionary masterplan.

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