New York City’s epic transformation

Written by Staff Writer at CNN New York

New York City has undergone multiple transformations since the 19th century, as the borough gained steam and become one of the world’s most important commercial centers. At the same time, it was born of the public reaction to the so-called “menace of unlimited mass immigration,” which sparked a period of revolutionary urban planning from the likes of Robert Moses and Joseph Chamberlain.

By 1931, just prior to the end of World War II, King Sullivan opened the Bronx River Gardener Project, a park that was designed to “catch the excess water and precipitation and mist from the Bronx River that are then reused in the soil.”

Creating a home for its recycled water, the city’s first municipal park took shape, covering an area of 135 acres and becoming home to the Bronx Historical Museum. The Bronx River featured prominently throughout its design, and as the project came to fruition the power plant was relocated to the site to prevent more pollutants from being used for power generation.

The Green-Wood Cemetery, where scenes from “Brooklyn Bridge” were filmed, is one of the most historically important cemeteries in America. Credit: Courtesy Green-Wood Cemetery

By the end of World War II, New York City was made more liveable, and the focus shifted from ornamental urban renewal to modernist architecture, primarily in New York’s High Line. The park was constructed in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, connecting the SoHo and West Chelsea neighborhoods with its unique horizontal orientation. It eventually won its first Pulitzer Prize for architecture in 1999.

This ambitious undertaking was based off the design of James Corner Field Operations, architect of the High Line. The parks is, according to the organization’s website, “an extraordinary greenway that elevates the city along a linear train track beneath an elevated swath of the Hudson River.” The trail features bridges, bridges decks, tunnels, a garden, seating areas and mosaics created by public art consultant Dale Chihuly.

For around five miles, travelers can bike along the High Line, then take an auto-free promenade through the borough of Chelsea, emerging from Columbus Circle at West 23rd Street. Some have suggested that the park was inspired by Central Park, but unlike that park, the High Line is infinitely green and adaptable to different needs. This range of features makes the High Line an international destination; many countries from Japan to Chile have built elevated parkways within their own cities.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard, located in Brooklyn, has been serving the U.S. Navy for more than 250 years. Credit: Courtesy Brooklyn Navy Yard

Completed in 2006, John Jay College Campus is New York City’s first residential facility and one of the most popular schools in the city. Completed in 2006, the 195-unit building has a wellness center, a rooftop park, and overlooks Broadway.

Developed in 1901, the Brooklyn Navy Yard began serving the U.S. Navy more than 250 years ago, and is the city’s largest naval manufacturing and repair facility, with more than 1,000 crafts and equipment as well as a marina, four large marina ramps, a commercial “West End,” and 350 surface acres. It even hosts the NYC Shark Encounter tank. In 1912, it hosted its first ball, and in 1913 served as the venue for the inaugural Democratic National Convention.

In 1943, artist Jacob Lawrence, along with civil rights activist Adam Clayton Powell Jr., was commissioned to redesign Brooklyn Borough Hall. Lawrence’s and Powell’s 1931 design was incorporated into the decision by an advisory commission to create a white-sand building of T-shaped forms and various colored accents. The Brooklyn Museum of Art occupies the first floor of the building, the local Black Museum occupies the second, and the Supreme Court and the Borough Hall offices occupy the final two floors.

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