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An aerial view of hundreds of skyscrapers and high-rise buildings in Midtown, Manhattan.

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NYC neighborhoods, then and now: A decade of change

See how NYC has changed in the past 10 years

Thousands of new buildings were erected across the five boroughs this decade.
| Max Touhey

New York City looks markedly different than it did a decade ago.

New silhouettes were cut by the massive Hudson Yards megaproject, a crop of skinny supertall towers on Billionaires’ Row in Midtown, and a revitalized lower Manhattan with One World Trade Center soaring above its neighbors.

But Manhattan isn’t the only borough that has experienced radical changes in the past 10 years: Formerly low- and mid-rise neighborhoods where only a smattering of tall buildings existed a decade ago have been utterly transformed by high-rises (looking at you, Long Island City). Projects that were years in the making have finally come to fruition—see the transformation of the area that’s now home to the Barclays Center—and new ones have sprung up in other parts of town. And some decades-old structures have vanished from the skyline.

For a sense of how profound these changes are, check out this series of before-and-after shots, taken by Curbed NY photographer Max Touhey.

Long Island City is the city and the country’s fastest growing neighborhood, a fact made clear by a side-by-side comparison of the area roughly a decade ago and now. Several new towers have sprung up across the Queens enclave, spurred by a 34-block rezoning in 2001. At the time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration projected the effort would spur 300 new apartments. In reality, it launched a wave of new development that created some 3,000 apartments by 2013. By 2018, another 5,000 new apartments had been built, according to a Municipal Arts Society analysis.

An 11-acre megaproject on the Williamsburg waterfront will completely reimagine the 138-year-old Domino Sugar Refinery, a staple of north Brooklyn’s skyline. On the heels of a 2010 neighborhood rezoning, developer Two Trees purchased the site in 2012 and has since been at work converting the site into a mixed-used destination with apartment and office buildings. The effort still has years to go but the factory’s iconic yellow sign has been torn down, along with sections of the historic site.

Perhaps the biggest thing to note about the St. George waterfront on Staten Island is how little it has changed in the past decade. In 2012, the city was optimistic about a potentially game-changing waterfront development: The New York Wheel, which was set to open in 2015 and become a huge tourist draw, alongside the Empire Outlets outlet mall. As of 2019, the mall has opened, but the Wheel project is DOA; all that was ever built is a parking garage on the waterfront. 

This view of Midtown and the Queensboro Bridge reveals some changes from 2012 to 2019. The Cornell Tech campus has reshaped part of Roosevelt Island, and further south, the World Trade Center redevelopment came into focus. Another thing visible that didn’t exist in 2012: The NYC Ferry, which launched in 2017.

In 2012, there were only a handful of cloud-piercing skyscrapers on the Midtown Manhattan skyline, including the Chrysler Building. But by 2019, those structures had been joined by a dozen other tall towers, including One Vanderbilt, 432 Park Avenue, and Central Park Tower, which, at 1,550 feet, is the tallest residential building in the city.

Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the first piece of the megaproject formerly known as Atlantic Yards, was still under construction in 2012. Seven years later, the stadium has become a popular venue for concerts and sports—and it’s been joined by several other buildings in the development, now known as Pacific Park. An all-modular rental that hugs the arena opened in 2016, and other rental and condo buildings soon followed. The whole thing is set to be complete in the next decade.

The difference between Hudson Yards in 2011, prior to construction on the megaproject, and in 2018, when much of the site was completed, is dramatic. In that time, the train yard on Manhattan’s far west side went from a blank slate to having a hodgepodge of new skyscrapers. Several new buildings (including the Manhattan West megaproject across Tenth Avenue) have also risen around the site, a byproduct of the 2005 rezoning that created the Hudson Yards Special District.
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