News & Politics

The New York Of The Future? Say Hello to ‘LoLo’


And another hundred people just got off of the train? Try another two hundred thousand. An article printed in the Sunday New York Times — which poses in its headline the daunting question: “How Many People Can Manhattan Hold?” — explains that the Department of City Planning’s Population Division expects that Manhattan will have 220,000 to 290,000 new residents by 2030. Currently Manhattan’s population is at 1.6 million, not including the commuters who bring that number up to 3.9 million during the work day.

So, how do we accommodate for our new friends of the future?

One idea? Forget SoHo, try LoLo, an idea conceived by Director of the Center for Urban Real Estate at Columbia University, who thinks “we have to create more Manhattan:”

His plan for doing so is called “LoLo” or “Lower-Lower Manhattan” — a brand-new neighborhood, built from landfill in the harbor connecting Lower Manhattan to Governors Island and beyond, with blocks of skyscrapers, new subway lines, and waste-to-energy and desalination plants.

If that sounds far-fetched, keep in mind that much of the waterfront in today’s Manhattan was built this way, including Battery Park City. The LoLo that Mr. Chakrabarti proposes would add one square mile to Manhattan, with enough apartments and office buildings to accommodate 94,000 residents and 370,000 commuters.

Others think you have to build higher — a strange thought for a city already known for its oversized scrapers. That’s the theory ascribed to by Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, author of the book Triumph of the City:

Mr. Glaeser thinks restricting building height is fundamentally unfair. He has proposed scrapping the city’s permitting process in favor of “impact fees” that developers would pay to cover the infrastructure costs associated with their buildings. So if somebody wanted to build a 50-story building, he or she would simply put up the money required to support its water, sewer, power and so forth.

The city of the future is undoubtedly a scary idea — (“How many years does New York have before it starts to look like ‘Blade Runner?'” one woman in the Times story asked) — but, at surface-level, these discussions all can read a little Jestons-y, a little ironically retro, a little too reminiscent of the Futurama exhibit at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair predicting what a city would look like in 1960.

That said, the Times makes us confront some decidedly concrete ideas about what could possibly happen to the Manhattan we know and love, which just might be even more unnerving than any Tomorrowland-style forecasts.


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