Filling in the Hudson to Rebuild New York

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Airship over Manhattan New York
An airship hovers over Manhattan, New York. From Modern Mechanix, March 1934

In March 1934, Modern Mechanix reported on a plan to fill in the Hudson River and connect the island of Manhattan with New Jersey.

The plan, proposed by publicist and engineering scholar Norman Sper, involved damming the Hudson River on the north and south sides of Manhattan and widening the Harlem River in order to allow for sufficient drainage into the East River. Some ten square miles of new land would be created.

Manhattan New York map
Plan to fill in the Hudson River, New York. From Modern Mechanix, March 1934

Sper estimated that the project would cost around $1 billion to execute, or $19 billion in today’s money. But the potential profits were enormous, argued Modern Mechanix:

An annual income of a hundred million dollars a year would represent a return of ten percent on the investment of a billion dollars and engineering experts all agree that this would be only a trifle of the amount that could be realized from this great project.

Several engineers consulted by Modern Mechanix agreed, but this was 1934 — the height of the Great Depression. It’s not hard to understand why this reclamation never happened.

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