6th Borough Photo: The Awl  

New York City is brimming with music, theater, fine art and diverse cuisine to last a lifetime. But there is one thing in short supply: space.

So why not build some more?

That’s the question posed by John Methven of The Awl, an NYC-based current events and culture blog. Methven gathered a detailed account of plans, past and present, to construct a sixth borough in the city. If created, the so-called Franken-Borough would most likely be built smack dab in the middle of the East River.

While the idea might sound preposterous, it shouldn’t. New York has already added man-made land to parts of Liberty Island and Battery Park City. And you can’t forget billionaire Barry Diller’s plan to build a floating park atop Pier 54, an old, defunct shipping dock. 

In his blog post, Methven suggests that the idea isn’t so far-fetched.

“Why not [build] a massive public project, an architectural feat the city has never seen, an unconventional and extraordinary construction project that would remake the entire geography of lower Manhattan for decades — our generation’s Brooklyn Bridge? Manhattan is a giant Frankenstein’s monster of an island, Gotham with a plastic surgery addiction,” he writes.

Methven asked Kevin Thurman, a New York City-based attorney, about the issue. Thurman suggested that the project would be difficult to tackle because of its massive cost and various issues surrounding public policy. He said that for the project to work, it would have to benefit the city in a clear and specific way.

“The threshold question upon which others rest is: Why? If we accept that New York City is special, what does more land here help achieve? Housing? Economic development? Parkland? Renewable energy? Storm barrier protection? If any of these is the goal, aren’t there easier ways to achieve it? I keep returning to the same question: Why?” he said.

Indeed, a project of this size, scale and most importantly, cost, would be important to justify. Bill Hanson is an engineer with Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corporation, which handled the Liberty Island project. Hanson estimates that the plan for a sixth borough could cost $200 to $300 million.

Though many see such an idea as a pipe dream, no one knows how Mayor de Blasio would react to a thoughtful, comprehensive proposal. De Blasio’s latest financial plans place a heavy emphasis on housing and infrastructure. The city has already created 20,300 affordable apartments, a good chunk of its goal of 200,000 affordable apartments by 2025. The sixth borough could prove to be the perfect place for the new residences.

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