The Changing Shoreline of New York City surveys key points along New York City’s shoreline with a particular focus on Manhattan’s waterfront expansion. Historical maps of New York City juxtapose current coastal conditions of the city, revealing dramatic material landmass changes through time which are expressed through subtle contour differentiations mapped by a single line. The street grid of Manhattan, brought into effect by the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, provokes a hard edged condition insensitive to the many natural ecologies and layered boundaries that Manhattan island once hosted. The plan imposes efficiency and modernity onto the diverse landscape contained in the original outline of the earliest maps of Manhattan, usually obliterating the natural conditions when confronted with a diverse shoreline.
In an attempt to destabilize the perception of coastal boundaries in Manhattan today, the stories below trace minute accounts of a Manhattan that was in the process of radical transformations. The focus on water further shifts the city imaginary to explore a territory that has been consecutively filled-in, uprooted, and neglected in the expansion of the great metropolis. This guided tour outlines existing programs along the hardened shoreline, a brief history of the site and its past shoreline qualities, as well as future proposals for many of these sites which today face variable urban pressures due to changing climate conditions and urban revitalization developments.
The Changing Shoreline of New York City is a project by Laura Blaszczak made during her internship at the New York Public Library (with some help by Bert Spaan and Luuk van de Ven), and is part of NYPL’s NYC Space/Time Directory.
To browse more maps from NYPL’s collections of digitized historical maps, prints and photos, visit Digital Collections. To plan a research visit to view maps in person or for more information about both digitized and non-digitized maps, contact the staff of the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division.
The source code of this project is available on GitHub.