Photo courtesy of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
Deemed by historians as the “single most important document in New York City’s development,” the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which planned Manhattan’s famous grid system, turns 204 years old this month. As the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation tells us, the chief surveyor of the plan, John Randel Jr., and city officials signed the final contract on March 22, 1811. The plan, completed at the end of the 19th century, produced 11 major avenues and 155 cross-town streets still used today.
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It’s easy to tell if you’re dealing with a Queens address–there’s the hyphenated street number and the variety of numbered thoroughfare names (Street, Place, Road, Avenue, Lane, Terrace). The really hard part, however, is actually getting to that address in Queens, especially if you’re a resident from another borough to whom it feels like trying to maneuver your way in another country where you don’t know the language. But instead of continuing to find ourselves lost, we decided to get to the bottom of this complicated system.
Prior to the consolidation of New York City in 1898, what is now known as the borough of Queens was only a hodgepodge of unconnected towns, each of which had its own road system and addresses. Once the towns were combined into one borough, having multiple road systems was becoming a hindrance to fast-growing Queens. So by 1911, the borough hired engineer Charles U. Powell to replace the old systems with a carefully planned grid system.
The rest of the story is right this way