2/4 The never-before-told story of the grid that ate Manhattan. City on a Grid, by Gerard Koeppel

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Manage episode 242625277 series 124879
By Audioboom and John Batchelor. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
Image: A portion of a map of the city [currently, Manhattan] from 1776; De Lancey Square and the grid around it can be seen on the right. Public domain.
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City on a Grid: How New York Became New York (Kindle Edition),by Gerard Koeppel (Author)
You either love it or hate it, but nothing says New York like the street grid of Manhattan. Created in 1811 by a three-man commission featuring the headstrong founding father Gouverneur Morris, the plan called for a dozen parallel avenues crossing at right angles with many dozens of parallel streets in an unbroken grid. Hills and valleys, streams and ponds, forests and swamps were invisible to the grid; so too were country villages, roads, farms, and estates and generations of property lines. All would disappear as the crosshatch fabric of the grid overspread the island: a heavy greatcoat on the land, the dense undergarment of the future city.
No other grid in Western civilization was so large and uniform as the one ordained in 1811. Not without reason. When the grid plan was announced, New York was just under two hundred years old, an overgrown town at the southern tip of Manhattan, a notorious jumble of streets laid at the whim of landowners. To bring order beyond the chaos—and good real estate to market—the street planning commission came up with a monolithic grid for the rest of the island. Mannahatta—the native “island of hills”—became a place of rectangles, in thousands of blocks on the flattened landscape, and many more thousands of right-angled buildings rising in vertical mimicry.
The Manhattan grid has been called “a disaster” of urban planning and “the most courageous act of prediction in Western civilization.” However one feels about it, the most famous urban design of a living city defines its daily life.

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