Mapping the Never-Built Highways of NYC from Robert Moses and Others

Posted On Thu, September 10, 2015 By

Posted On Thu, September 10, 2015 By In maps, Transportation

If there’s one thing most people attribute to Robert Moses it’s highways. The master planner built 13 expressways throughout New York, including the Cross Bronx Expressway, Brooklyn Queens Expressway, the FDR Drive, and the West Side Highway. Love him or hate him, this was a pretty profound feat of urban planning. But had he been granted free rein, Moses would’ve constructed even more highways. The two failed attempts that remain most notorious are the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would’ve cut east-west along the residential areas of Broome Street, as well as a Mid-Manhattan Expressway, a proposed six-lane elevated highway along 30th Street.

After mapping these aforementioned Moses proposals, cartographer Andrew Lynch decided to take his project one step further and create a map series of all the never-built highways in NYC, both from Moses and others.

As Lynch explains, “There have been many different highway proposals over the first half of the 20th Century, some from Moses himself and some from others. Because of this I had to narrow down which roads to show…For the most part I’ve made up where interchanges are, where ramps lead, and even where the highways themselves cut through neighborhoods since many of these official plans changed many times over the course of Moses’s career.”

Unbuilt Highways of NYC, Vanshnookenraggen, Andrew Lynch, Robert Moses

The never-built roads visualized in the Brooklyn map are the Prospect Expressway Extension, Cross Brooklyn Expressway, and Bushwick Expressway (which would have run along Broadway). In Queens, there’s the Queens-Interboro Expressway, Astoria Expressway, Nassau Expressway, and Clearview Expressway Extension.

Mid-Manhattan Expressway, Lower Manhattan Expressway, Robert Moses, Unbuilt Highways of NYC, Vanshnookenraggen, Andrew Lynch

Robert Moses, Unbuilt Highways of NYC, Vanshnookenraggen, Andrew Lynch

In Manhattan we see the Cross Harlem Expressway, the Lower Manhattan Expressway, and the Mid-Manhattan Expressway. Lynch also provides zoomed-in views of the latter two from his previous mapping project.

Unbuilt Highways of NYC, Vanshnookenraggen, Andrew Lynch, Robert Moses

Unbuilt Highways of NYC, Vanshnookenraggen, Andrew Lynch, Robert Moses

The roads in the Bronx are the Sheridan Expressway, City Line Expressway, Mosholu and Pelham Parkway Expansions, and Pelham Shore Drive. Staten Island has the most unbuilt highways — the Shorefront Parkway, Richmond-Korean War Veterans Memorial Parkway, Wolfe’s Pond Parkway, Willowbrook Expressway, and West Shore Expressway Extension.

Lynch points out that had all of these roads been built, we wouldn’t have just seen an increase in asphalt and street noise, but the loss of many communities, as Moses typically drove his roads through “blighted” areas, using eminent domain to clear out entire neighborhoods.

[Via Vanshnookenraggen]

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All maps © Andrew Lynch/Vanshnookenraggen

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  • KevinJWalsh

    Nice job, but I wish he allowed tighter zooming.

  • designnerd

    neat. what a different world it would have been.

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