The Real Deal New York

A filled-in Harlem River is a developer’s dream: OPINION

Elimination of the waterway would add up to 800 acres to New York City
September 08, 2014 12:50PM

New York City is perpetually starved for space, thus limiting housing, commercial space and parks. But one proposed undertaking would yield an additional 400 to 800 acres: filling in the Harlem River.

So goes the proposal of Charles Urstadt, former New York state housing commissioner and namesake of 1971’s Urstadt Law, which handed Gotham’s power to pass local rent laws to the state legislature. In a Sunday op-ed in Crain’s, Urstadt argued that plugging the Harlem River would not mean foregoing a natural waterway, as the Manhattan/Bronx dividing line was crafted as a man-made shortcut between the Hudson River and the Long Island Sound in 1904.

Filling in the seven-mile-long river, which stretches 400 feet wide on average, would create a space between four and eight times the size of Battery Park City, Urstadt wrote. “Planners would have a free hand to dream big about the kinds of development New York needs most,” he opined.

Among the former housing commissioners ideas are expanding Columbia and New York University’s respective campuses to the area, or drawing schools like Stanford or MIT as Cornell came to Roosevelt Island. Housing accessed by light rail is another of his suggestions, as is the addition of a park.

“Because the land itself would be owned by the city, then rented (most likely for 99 years) to developers, the income stream would help pay for schools, parks and other amenities,” Urstadt wrote. “Moreover, as land values (and the ground rents they command) rise over time, this project would generate surplus income for the city treasury.” [Crain’s]Julie Strickland