New York’s Nightmare of a “Dream” Airport

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New York Dream Airport
Proposed New York City Airport, from Life magazine, March 18, 1946

This may have seemed like a good idea pre-9/11, but the idea of building a huge airport in Manhattan would surely be laughed out of the room nowadays.

I’m not sure if it was more realistic half a century ago, but this is what Life magazine published in March 1946: A “dream” airport for New York on the Hudson River shore.

It is an airport built 200 feet above street level right over 144 square blocks of Manhattan’s crowded, valuable West Side from 24th to 71st Streets and from Ninth Avenue to the river.

New York Dream Airport interior
Proposed New York City Airport, from Life magazine, March 18, 1946

The top would be roughly the size of Central Park and accommodate three parallel runways.

Under the landing platform would be ten stories of apartments and office space, topped by a vast hangar deck with a 50-foot ceiling clearance.

Further down, traffic would be tunneled through the network of buildings while ships could dock right under the terminal

The idea came from William Zeckendorf, a prominent New York real-estate developer for the company Webb and Knapp. He estimated that building this monstrosity would cost around $3 billion, or nearly $40 billion in today’s money. He also figured it would take 55 years to recoup the investment.

Life predicted increased air travel would make Zeckendorf’s idea “a necessity”. Thank God they were wrong about that.

New York Dream Airport timetable
Timetable for a proposed New York City Airport, from Life magazine, March 18, 1946

The whole thing would have reduced transportation times, that’s for sure. It still takes longer to get out of Manhattan than does a plane ride from LaGuardia or JFK to Philadelphia.

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