Midtown West in 2016

One of the truisms about Manhattan is that they aren’t making any more of it. This was never true—look at Battery Park City—and will never be true. Look at the West Side, where a new station, park, and towers will rise, creating a 21st-century Xerox of the early-twentieth-century development around Grand Central.

The hub for this new neighborhood is Moynihan Station. But that’s only half the building. Cablevision’s Dolan family is in talks to move Madison Square Garden to the Ninth Avenue side. This would create an immediate anchor for the planned redevelopment of the Hudson Yards, as well as opening up some incredibly valuable real estate between Seventh and Eighth.

The (New) New York Lower Manhattan Brooklyn and Queens Waterfront High Line Midtown West Harlem Fresh Kills Hunts Point Downtown Brooklyn Flushing How You’ll Get Around

The city and the MTA are now evaluating their options for the Hudson Yards. They want to pick something spectacular, a third landmark that would pull population west from Moynihan and south from the revamped Javits Center. A 2005 rezoning of the area will, as former Manhattan city-planning director and current Related vice-president Vishaan Chakrabati wrote, “allow a city the size of Minneapolis to be built on the West Side over the coming decades”: 24 million square feet of office space, 13,500 units of housing, one million square feet of both hotel and retail space. Residential developers have already bought up much of available 42nd Street, with additional new towers at Eleventh and 40th, and Dyer and 37th.

Eleventh Avenue figures prominently in both the city’s rezoning and in the latest plan to expand the Javits. The first renderings from the winning team, shorthanded as Rogers Fowle Epstein, are disappointing, just a brighter glass skin for a middle-aged glass building that was already a gloomy imitation of team leader Richard Rogers’s work of the seventies. The new Javits design extends the current center north to 40th Street, and imagines Eleventh Avenue as a tree-lined boulevard, with turn-ins for taxis and buses and entrances right off the sidewalk. Conventioneers would see the river from the city’s largest ballroom, and, if a second phase were built, from a third story built over the existing center. But the building continues to turn its back on the Hudson River—no pedestrian bridge across the highway, no outdoor terrace, not even an arcade leading commuters to the brand-new 39th Street ferry terminal. The building wants to corral conventioneers between Javits and Broadway, pretending that the waterfront is the same old dismal place. The Municipal Art Society and the neighborhood association have filed a lawsuit against the Javits expansion plans on environmental grounds.

One alternative plan, of which sustainable-minded developer Douglas Durst was a proponent, has been proposed by the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association. The plan, designed by Meta Brunzema Architects, till, and urban planner Daniel Gutman, would have expanded the Javits south, tucking the new building under an undulating eleven-acre park irrigated by recycled wastewater.

The High Line would come to a spectacular end in this park, as would the new Park Avenue, “Hudson Boulevard”—the landscaped strip that City Planning zoned between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. It includes a library and reader’s grove, a theater, a new public school, as well as a blockwide park that would raise picnickers high above the West Side Highway and provide a bridge over the highway to the Hudson River Park. It is a sustainable, open-air vision of an urban catalyst, making its money by raising adjacent real-estate values (just like the High Line). In 2007, the city may look for bidders for the cultural building at 32nd and Tenth, suggested in the rezoning. In the zoning plan, this building looks suspiciously like a work by Frank Gehry. “I will be disappointed if it is just a bunch of office buildings and residences,” says Doctoroff. “I don’t know—what does New York need that it doesn’t have? What could New York create that no other city has? We ought to start with that as our standard.”

Rising in the West

(1.) Javits Center
Rogers FXFOWLE Epstein, 2010.

(2.) West Side Rail Yards
No completion date.

(3.) Moynihan Station
David Childs/SOM, late 2010.
Moynihan Station, named for its original champion, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, is New York’s chance to right the shocking wrong of the demolition of the first Penn Station. Luckily, McKim Mead & White’s Farley Post Office, just across Eighth Avenue, became available, giving New York both a second Beaux-Arts station and the first 21st-century one. Childs’s “potato chip” transit hall is gone—too expensive—and with it an asymmetric, punky spirit. The exterior of the station will be restored to its original glory (netting hundreds of thousands in preservation tax breaks), while the interior will be illuminated by a pair of subtly high-tech parabolic skylights. Thirty new entrances and exits will spread the commuter traffic to Ninth Avenue, with side-street entrances as well as an underground tunnel to Penn Station.

(4.) High Line
Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, phase one, 2008; phase two, 2009.
“There’s this magic to this hidden, self-seeded emergent landscape,” says Field Operations principal James Corner. “It is not designed, it is wild, so the challenge is how do we get a pathway up there that people can walk on but not turn it into a rose garden or a topiary garden or a manicured lawn.” The High Line today has microclimates—protected portions where close-by buildings and billboards have allowed tallish trees to grow, and also bare, windy patches of dried-out lawn where the line is open to the elements. The High Line of the future will have patches of wild grasses, narrow flowering meadows, and thickets of tough trees. The goal is to make the path as varied as possible, so that, despite its total linearity, one can get a little bit lost.

(5.) Chelsea Arts Tower
Kosser and Garry Architects, Gluckman Mayner Architects, HOK, fall 2006.

(6.) Vesta 24
Garrett Gourlay Architects and James D’Auria Associates, April 2006.

(7.) Marianne Boesky Gallery
Deborah Berke & Partners Architects, September 2006.

(8.) West 23rd Street building
Neil M. Denari Architects, Marc Rosenbaum, Gruzen Samton, 2008.

(9.) General Theological Seminary Tower
The Polshek Partnership, no completion date.

(10.) High Line 519
ROY Co., late 2006.

(11.) West 19th Street building
Ateliers Jean Nouvel, no completion date.

(12.) IAC Headquarters
Gehry Partners, March 2007.

(13.) 516 West 19th Street
Selldorf Architects, 2008.

(14.) The Caledonia
Handel Architects, 2008.

(15.) Chelsea Market Residence
Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, no completion date.

(16.) The Standard, NY
The Polshek Partnership, 2007. High Line Club
Developers Charles Blaichman and André Balazs, no completion date.

(17.) Pier 57
Michel De Fournier and Gensler, no completion date.

(18.) Dia High Line
Roger Duffy/SOM, 2008. NEXT: The Harlem of 2016

Midtown West in 2016