Make NYC more affordable by extending Manhattan: professor

    The answer to New York City’s affordable housing crisis? Make Manhattan bigger.

    Rutgers professor Jason Barr believes there is a single solution to both cheaper NYC real estate and the issue of increasing global warming-related climate threats: Build more NYC. 

    “There is a way to help tackle both issues in one bold policy stroke: expand Manhattan Island into the harbor,” Barr, the author of “Building the Skyline: The Birth and Growth of Manhattan’s Skyscrapers,” wrote in a New York Times opinion piece this month. “This new proposal offers significant protection against surges while also creating new housing. To do this, it extends Manhattan into New York Harbor by 1,760 acres.” 

    The new acreage — which Barr proposed to be named “New Mannahatta” — would be built from landfill and reshape the borough’s southern shoreline, making it jut out into New York Harbor past Red Hook. New Mannahatta would be bigger than the Upper West Side — which is 1,220 acres — and could fit a comparable amount of housing: close to 180,000 units, ranging from brownstones to mid-level and high-rise apartment buildings.

    “Imagine replicating from scratch a diverse neighborhood that contains housing in all shapes and sizes,” Barr hyped.

    A rendering of Barr’s proposed extension.
    Courtesy of Jason Barr

    In addition to physically providing more land to help NYC better meet the demand for residential housing, it would also “push vulnerable places like Wall and Broad Streets further inland, and the peninsula can be designed with specific protections around its coastline to buffer itself and the rest of the city from flooding,” he explained of its global warming-based appeal.

    “Building the land at a higher elevation would further improve its protective ability, and the new peninsula could recreate historic ecologies and erect environmental and ecological research centers dedicated to improving the quality of New York’s natural world,” he said.

    Not everyone is on board, however.

    In a response piece for Curbed, writer Willy Blackmore pointed out that the “closest counterpart” to Barr’s New Mannahatta are the landfill-based neighborhoods that Robert Moses constructed along the Jamaica Bay waterfront.

    “How have those fared over the years?” Blackmore quipped. “Queen’s Broad Channel — with its houses on stilts extending over marsh-grass-dotted shallows — is arguably the most flood-prone neighborhood in the city, and has the highest proportion of repeat flood-insurance claims.”

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