In 1835, after almost two centuries of European colonization from the Dutch and the English, a rip-roaring fire erupted in lower Manhattan that burned everything to the ground from Broad Street to the East River. It was a devastating fire that destroyed homes, businesses and the architecture of old New York that the Dutch had first established. The only thing that saved the west side of Broad Street was the fact that the street was so broad that the fire couldn’t leap across it. But with that loss, opportunity arose and the chance to rebuild all that was there before, only better. It’s the reason so many of the older buildings that we know today were built in the 1840’s in the financial district.
President Trump promises to rebuild the so-called crumbling infrastructure of America. It was actually President Eisenhower who built the interstate highway system that we enjoy today, paving the way for Americans to do what they love best: drive! And it helped to invent the trucking industry to deliver goods throughout this great land. However, what the current CEO in charge has misdiagnosed is that America, and New York in particular, has been in a rebuilding phase for the last 16 years since 9/11 and more recently Sandy, and we are on the cusp of enjoying the fruits of the efforts of those that actually started this boom, just like in 1835 and after.
What do I mean? Well, think about it. We now have a brand new boardwalk running along our fabulous beach that is buffeted with new dunes, sea-grass and trap-bags. We now have a brand new ferry service that costs about half what it once did, runs all day long, and comes with software apps and a new dock. And how about the new cashless tolls? Will traffic move more quickly through the bridges and tunnels now? Will Rockaway traffic not be backed up at the end of a long summer day leaving the beach?
I am originally from Greenpoint, and that whole town has gone through a metamorphosis, some good, and some bad. But the construction of the new Kosciusko Bridge in record time is truly something to admire. If you are driving west toward the bridge, traffic moves very smoothly, removing the bottleneck that once was. The eastbound side still has traffic, but the plan is to build a twin and to have two bridges, effectively providing a stent to the heart of this traffic conundrum.
Let’s not forget bridges closer to home such as those on the Belt Parkway between Howard Beach and Plum Beach, as the government has methodically been replacing the older structures with modern gems that speed traffic along the belt. At some point the new Tappan Zee bridge will open too and uncongest the artery to upstate as well.
Don’t get me wrong, traffic is still a nightmare in New York, but ever so slowly, these major public construction projects are coming to fruition and they will serve us well through the next 50 years. And how about the subways, admittedly still not perfect, especially if you are on the LIRR or Metro-North, but consider the new Second Avenue Subway, you can get on that train from the Upper East Side and take it right to Sheepshead Bay! Or how about the beautiful Oculus that is now connected to the new Fulton Street Station on one side and the Westfield Shopping Center on the other side.
Slowly, New York is emerging from its cocoon again and will unfurl its wings and fly. These things don’t take months or years, they take decades in some cases, and their architectural beauty, functionality and form make lasting impressions on how we live, commute and see life. It’s happening all around us at breakneck speed, all we have to do is look around!