Anyone that lives in New York knows it’s expensive. Land scarcity and high-paying jobs create a big market for $4,000 a month one-bedroom apartments with crappy views and even crappier kitchens.Â But what if land wasn’t quite as scarce? Would we be paying a more reasonable price for our apartments? Dr. T. Kennard Thomson wrote about the 1916 New York expansion plan in Popular Science.
…Dr Thomsonâ€™s radical, but ultimately indispensible plan: â€œI propose to add, by a series of engineering projects, fifty square miles to Greater New Yorkâ€™s area and port foothold. At the same time this will mean an addition of one hundred miles of new water-front. New Yorkâ€™s City Hall would become the center of a really greater New York, having a radius of twenty-five miles, and within that circle there would be ample room for a population of twenty-five millions, the entire project to be carried out within a few years. Many have said â€˜It canâ€™t be done.â€™ The majority of engineers, however, have acknowledged the possibility, and I have received hundreds of letters of encouragement.â€
By Dr Thomsonâ€™s estimates, enlarging New York according to his plans would cost more than digging the Panama Canal â€“ but the returns would quickly repay the debt incurred and make New York the richest city in the world. He then goes on to describe how he would reclaim all that land. The planâ€™s larger outlines: move the East River east, and build coffer dams from the Battery at Manhattanâ€™s southern tip to within a mile of Staten Island, on the other side of the Upper Bay, and the area in between them filled up with sand. This would enlarge Manhattan to an island several times its present size.