Lower Manhattan Expressway
|Lower Manhattan Expressway|
Map of Manhattan with the LOMEX in red
|History:||Proposed in 1941; cancelled in 1962|
|West end:||Holland Tunnel at the Hudson River|
|East end:||Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges at the East River|
The Lower Manhattan Expressway (LOMEX), also known as the Canal Street Expressway, was a controversial plan for an expressway through Lower Manhattan in New York City. It was to be a ten-lane elevated highway stretching from the East River to the Hudson River, connecting the Holland Tunnel on the west side to the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges to the east. The road would have required the leveling of parts of the Little Italy and SoHo neighborhoods. The LOMEX was originally conceived by Robert Moses in 1941, but further development of the project was delayed until the early 1960s. It was cancelled in 1962 in the face of widespread community opposition to the road.
The Lower Manhattan Expressway would have begun at the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan, where it would have connected to Interstate 78 (I-78) at the eastern portal of the Holland Tunnel. From here, the LOMEX would have proceeded generally southeastward as a ten-lane elevated highway, carrying I-78 over what became SoHo and Little Italy, two areas that would have had portions razed to accommodate the highway. Near the eastern edge of Little Italy, the road would have split into two branches, both leading to bridges over the East River on Manhattan's east side. The main branch would continue southeast as I-78 to the Williamsburg Bridge, while the other would head south to the Manhattan Bridge as I-478. In contrast to the elevated main route, the spur to the Manhattan Bridge would have been mostly depressed, passing under Chrystie Street and the Chrystie Street Connection of the New York City Subway. The I-478 designation was later reassigned to the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel.
The expressway was originally conceived by Robert Moses in 1941; however, efforts to build the road were delayed until the early 1960s. By 1961, Moses had set in motion two immense federal initiatives, which would have leveled fourteen blocks along Broome Street in Little Italy and what is now SoHo. The highway would have required many historic structures to be condemned and destroyed, and would have displaced an estimated 1,972 families and 804 businesses.
Members of the affected communities, led by community activist Jane Jacobs, banded together to fight the proposed LOMEX. They held rallies, staged demonstrations and attended hearings to block the project at every step of the process. On December 11, 1962, there was a stormy six-hour-long special executive session of the New York City Board of Estimate on the second floor of New York City Hall, where city officials voted unanimously to block the planned expressway. Assemblyman Louis DeSalvio said in a speech:
Except for one old man [reference to Robert Moses], I’ve been unable to find anyone of technical competence who is for this so-called expressway. And this old man is a cantankerous, stubborn old man who has done many things which may have, in their time, been good for New York City. But I think it is time for this stubborn old man to realize that too many of his dreams turn out to be nightmares for the city. And this board must realize that if it does not kill this stupid example of bad city planning, that the stench of it will haunt them and this great city for many years to come.
The final plan for the Expressway, which had been approved by the Board of Estimate on September 15, 1960, would have cost over $80,000,000, later rising to $100,000,000. Estimates published in The New York Times in 1962 showed that the $100 million cost would have been covered by $90 million from the federal government, $10 million from the state of New York and $220,000 in city funds. The short section of the Williamsburg Bridge spur directly under Chrystie Street, with its south edge aligned with the north edge of Broome Street, was actually built; the low bid of $1,017,585 was accepted on January 26, 1961, for this 156-foot (48 m) section, and the road was completed in January 1964.
Many city planners[who?] now celebrate that this expressway was not built, citing the highly functional and exciting neighborhoods like SoHo that would have been divided to build it. Jane Jacobs' approach to city planning, cultivating neighborhoods and street-level interactions, has been widely accepted among city planners.
Robert Moses planned to build other expressways through Manhattan, most of which were never constructed as planned. The Mid-Manhattan Expressway would have been an elevated highway running above 30th Street. The Cross Harlem Expressway would have run at ground level at 125th Street. The Trans-Manhattan Expressway, the only one of Moses' planned Manhattan expressways ever constructed, connected the George Washington Bridge with Moses' Cross Bronx Expressway and was completed in 1962.
|I-78 west (Holland Tunnel)||Continuation into New Jersey|
|1||NY 9A (West Side Elevated Highway)|
|3||To I-478 (Manhattan Bridge) / Canal Street||Continuation into Brooklyn|
|4||Delancey Street / Essex Street / Avenue A|
|I-78 east (Williamsburg Bridge)||Continuation into Brooklyn|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
- Hunt, Richard P. (December 7, 1962). "Expressway Vote Delayed by City; Final Decision Is Postponed After 6-Hour Hearing". The New York Times. Retrieved August 25, 2008. "Mr. DeSalvio caused a stir early in the hearing by saying that only one old man, whom he described as stubborn and cantankerous, was in favor of the expressway. He did not mention any name."
- Anderson, Steve. "Lower Manhattan Expressway (I-78 and I-478, unbuilt)". NYCRoads. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
- State Presses City on Starting Lower Manhattan Expressway, The New York Times, December 26, 1960, page 1.
- City Link Gets Start, The New York Times, January 27, 1961, page 13.
- Verrazano Link Will Open on S.I., The New York Times, January 27, 1964, page 25.