Concept: bulldoze under Central Park and replace it with a modern, international airport. The idea is so simple, so beautifully elegant, so inevitable that it's hard to believe we didn't think of it ourselves. Rather, credit the shadowy figures behind The Manhattan Airport Foundation, who've worked up an incredibly detailed plan to turn Frederick Law Olmsted's bucolic paradise into a postmodern universe of runways, terminals, and baggage claims. Good news for purists, too: per the Manhattan Airport FAQ, "Whenever possible, vestigial architectural elements of the Park space be retained or reworked into the context of the new design." And they mean it!
You've got to admire the Foundation's bravado: "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."
Of course it is.
And what of the other obvious objections? Child's play. From the FAQ:
What will happen to landmarks such as Cleopatra’s Needle, Beethoven and Strawberry Fields?To help the cause along, they're soliciting donations of $1,000 to dedicate a bench in the new terminal. Curbed readers, we can do this! Who's in?
The Manhattan Airport Foundation charter states that whenever possible, vestigial architectural elements of the Park space be retained or reworked into the context of the new design. Under the current plan the Imagine mosaic and Strawberry Fields will be preserved however they will be located indoors within the main terminal concourse. Tavern on the Green will be given the option of applying for a franchisee lease in the concourse food court. The American Elms will not need to be removed. It will be necessary to relocate other elements, such as Central Park Zoo, to new locations and the upcoming feasibility study is addressing these concerns...
What about the AirTrain, can’t we just take that to JFK?
The AirTrain and Kennedy airport are vital for residents of Queens and Long Island. However neither one is a viable solution for individuals living and working in Manhattan. The trip from downtown Manhattan traveling by subway on the E Line from Canal Street station, then transferring in Jamaica Queens and taking the AirTrain to terminal 8 takes one hour and fifty minutes door-to-door. For individuals living and working in Manhattan as well as visitors to New York City, this is not a workable model.
I own an apartment alongside Central Park. What will Manhattan Airport do to my property value?
History has proven that bringing a transportation amenity to an underserved region elevates the perception and economic well-being of the area. In the past, these types of transformative public works projects have created an influx of interest and new investment in the neighborhoods in which they have been built. There may be some who resist the progress. But as neighborhood residents, small business owners and local civic organizations begin to experience the economic “trickle-down” effect these types of large scale redevelopment projects have precipitated time and time again; Manhattan Airport will be embraced.
· The Manhattan Airport Foundation [manhattanairport.org]