New York City is the cultural and financial capital of the world. It is also our nation’s most densely populated urban area. Yet surprisingly, New York City has no viable airport. JFK, La Guardia and Newark may work for people who live in certain outer boroughs. But they are not an acceptable option for the majority of New Yorkers, requiring travel through some of the most congested traffic arteries in the nation. A journey which by train takes nearly two hours and by automobile can take up to three hours. For a place which purports itself to be the greatest city in the world, this is not a workable model.
Davenport, Iowa has an airport. Tallahassee has one. And so does Lexington, Kentucky. But New York City doesn’t. Amazingly, there is still a large, undeveloped and underutilized site in the center of New York City. In fact, this site has remained undeveloped for so long that many of us forget it even exists. It’s called Central Park. Ask most New Yorkers when was the last time they visited it. Statistically that number is fewer than one visit per person per year. But how many times did those same New Yorkers go the airport? It doesn’t take long to realize Central Park squanders 843 acres of the most valuable real estate in the world.
But it doesn’t have to stay this way. In the past decade residents of high-density areas the world over have empowered themselves to reclaim disused and blighted urban spaces and infuse them with new life and new sense of purpose. From London’s Tate Modern to Paris’ Promenade Plantee to New York’s own High Line examples abound of this enlightened philosophy of urban conservationism. Our regional airports are more overcrowded than ever. Millions of skilled workers are without jobs. And Congress stands ready to spend billions on shovel-ready stimulus programs to reenergize our economy and get New Yorkers back to work.
One day New Yorkers will move seamlessly between Midtown and Shinjuku without ever setting foot in an automobile. We will cross 59th Street and enter into a unique urban oasis, a place seemingly apart from the rest of Manhattan yet existing at its very core. And figuratively serving as its very lifeblood. A relic of our past magically transformed and reinfused with purpose. An unprecedented transportation amenity connecting us with London, Hong Kong, and the other great cultural capitals of the world.
Public dollars helped create Central Park in the 1850s. And public responsibility dictates that we transform this underutilized asset into something we so desperately need today. Manhattan Airport will prove New York City no longer allows it’s vestigial prewar cityscape to languish in irrelevance but instead reinvents these spaces with a daring and inspired bravado truly befitting one of the world’s great cities. The moment is now.