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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
New York set the stage for urbanization in virtually every city in the nation. So much of what you see in US cities is built on a NY model. Our CBD's are called downtown because NY's original CBD was in Lower Manhattan. We number and grid our streets like Manhattan's. When NY built department stores, we followed.

So we all used NY as a standard.

But New York...and its original form as Manhattan...is not typical for a US city. American cities are not built on a long and narrow island that forces density and concentration due to its island status and its linear nature which interconnects it in a way that a spread out or sprawling location could not.

But what if NYC had the same greatness and status in the US, but its topography were vastly different? How would New York have been a different city and how would the American city that was often built in its image have been different?

For the sake of argument, let's imagine that:

• there was no East River so that Manhattan ran directly into what is now Brooklyn and Queens.

• there was no Harlem River so that Manhattan ran directly into what is now the Bronx.

• the Hudson would still be there (out of necessity...you have to have it to get to the Mohawk and the Great Lakes and the building of the Erie Canal that enahnced NYC's prospects so much), but it was narrower, more connected with NJ?

• the lower and upper bays still exist and piers line the Hudson the way they traditonally do (and did)

Assuming its premere status was unaffected, what type of New York would have developed in this setting? Would high rises been necessary in a more sprawled city? Would a subway system so suited to a long but narrow island been less connected in a more sprawling setting? Could the ferment and the energy of NYC existed without Manhattan in its long and narrow form? And how might a different type of NYC have affected other US cities. Without the topography of Manhattan would the US, along with NYC, be a vastly different place today?
 

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Manhattan more or less runs into the Bronx already. The Bronx was the only other borough to go by New York, NY and that lasted until whenever zip codes were introduced (60s?) and was also the last borough to give up the 212 area code (fairly recently... 1992).
 

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Maybe it would be one big high rise heaven. :) Like Hong Kong and Tokyo, Sao Paulo.

Maybe it would've spread around the whole CONTINENT making it one big continent of high rises. Hahaha jk
 

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As long as New York had the natural harbor and the decision to build the Erie canal was the same, I believe New York would be essentially the same city. Maybe a little lower in sillouette but not much different.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Manhattan more or less runs into the Bronx already. The Bronx was the only other borough to go by New York, NY and that lasted until whenever zip codes were introduced (60s?) and was also the last borough to give up the 212 area code (fairly recently... 1992).
Andy, I fully agree with you. The Harlem River is not hard to negoatiate. But it is the final piece that makes Manhattan an island.

I believe that Manhattan's island location and its linear shape (that allowed areas in midtown to be as concentrated as the original Lower Manhattan area) made New York what it is today.

I have no doubt that it would have achieved greatness if it had had the room to spread out like other US cities. But it would be a vastly different place than it is today. No comparison. There would not have been the pressure to build up that the contricted real estate of lower Manhattan first encouraged and was later supplemented by midtown.

The energy and force of NYC comes from the shape of the island. Even the subway system was able to serve the citizenry due to the island's narrowness.

Without these factors, NYC would be a vastly different city today, perhaps more akin to the great cities in Europe in layout.
 

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I don't think that topography would play a role all the time. We can have a city that is not seperated by geographical barriers and not be dense at all. Although, I do find it ironic that Manhattan has more skyscrapers when it by square miles it is less than the smallest farmland. The main reason it has to build up is b/c of the fact that it's an island, so it cannot sprawl unlike it did prior to 1898.
 

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new york started in manhattan and that's why it is the densest part of new york and why any downtown is the densest part of its respective city. it's where the city began and is where commerce and government are located. manhattan is uber dense becuase of its status as the financial and corporate capital of the US and becuase at one time it was to the US as london is to the UK and paris is to france.

had the dutch chosen modern day queens, staten island or jersey city instead, i think it would resemble manhattan in density while manhattan could have ended up like one of the outer boroughs.
 

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had the dutch chosen modern day queens, staten island or jersey city instead, i think it would resemble manhattan in density while manhattan could have ended up like one of the outer boroughs.
I've always wondered about that. If the Dutch and the British hadn't swapped Manhattan for Suriname how would the New Amsterdam and as a result the rest of the United States have developed? Imagine if somone had the idea that New Amsterdam should live up to its namesake and have canals linking the Hudson and East Rivers! That'd definitely shake up the topography of Manhattan.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've always wondered about that. If the Dutch and the British hadn't swapped Manhattan for Suriname how would the New Amsterdam and as a result the rest of the United States have developed? Imagine if somone had the idea that New Amsterdam should live up to its namesake and have canals linking the Hudson and East Rivers! That'd definitely shake up the topography of Manhattan.
meanwhile it took LA to recreate Venice. sorta.
 

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meanwhile it took LA to recreate Venice. sorta.
Actually, it took Abbott Kinney to create Venice. It took LA to fill in two thirds of the canals. Actually you can get Gondola rides in the Naples
area of Long Beach as well as in Newport Beach.
 

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Manhattan itself was formed as a result of erosion by water. Islands that are formed from when a river cuts through instead of using the meander (river loops) are known as cut-offs. If sediments form on the original meander than it becomes an oxbow lake. Historically, Manhattan has been an island for ages. Brooklyn and Queens are known for having hilly terrains in the center of the two b/c of the Wisconsin Glacier that created the hills. The only reason why Staten Island has more hills is b/c of the fact that they were never grated and that they were taller. The same glaciers created the valleys in The Bronx, which explains why the Cross-Bronx Ewpwy is where it stands today.
 
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