Tag Archives: JFK Airport

The story of how Idlewild Airport was renamed for John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was memorialized in dozens of ways following his assassination on November 22, 1963. None of these are more vital to the daily lives of New Yorkers than John F. Kennedy International Airport — or Kennedy Airport or simply JFK — the busiest airport in the Northeast.

You may not realize how quickly it was renamed for the fallen president. On November 15, 1963, President Kennedy left Idlewild Airport (the airport’s former name) after a short stay in the city. Six weeks later, that airport would be named after him.

New York joined the nation in mourning following the televised funeral of President Kennedy on November 25, 1963. Thousands watched the ceremony from a large television screen hanging in Grand Central Terminal. Traffic stopped in Times Square and Boy Scout buglers played taps from atop the old Hotel Astor. All airport traffic at Idlewild stopped at noon.

New York Like A Vast Church ran the headline in the New York Times.

Calls immediately rose to memorialize the president in the city. On December 4, less than two weeks after Kennedy’s death, Mayor Robert Wagner announced that he would submit a bill to the city council to honor Kennedy with a name change to Idlewild.

Unfortunately, these ultimately successful calls to rename New York’s largest airport came at the cost of obliterating the memory of another notable American.

Wired New York

Idlewild was the popular name for the airport which opened on July 1, 1948, because it was built upon a former golf course and luxury accommodation of that name. According to the Times, “The name Idlewild is believed to have been inspired by the fact that the site at that time was wild and that the hotel and park constituted a recreational facility for the idle rich.”

But its full, official name was New York International Airport, Anderson Field, named for Major General Alexander E. Anderson, a decorated World War I veteran and Queens businessman. Unfortunately Anderson had few proponents fighting to keep his name on the airport by 1963.

The following week, “[i]n an action marked by solemnity and silent prayer, the City Council voted unanimously yesterday to change the name of New York International Airport at Idlewild, Queens, to the John F. Kennedy International Airport.” [source]

It was revealed then that city officials wished to name the airport after Kennedy even more quickly than that. Indeed, the idea had been unofficially suggested hours after Kennedy’s assassination but it had taken the extra time to get the official approval from his widow (and future New York City resident) Jackie Kennedy.

Photographer Meyer Liebowitz/The New York Times

By Wednesday, December 18, the name change had been formally approved and workmen busily rushed to change all the signs at the airport.  Idlewild officially became John F. Kennedy Airport in a ceremony held on Christmas Eve 1963.

The president’s younger brother Edward Kennedy was in attendance, helping to unveil a 242-foot-long sign emblazoned with the new name. Their brother Robert F. Kennedy was scheduled to attend but canceled.

You would think such a name change to be relatively uncontroversial but this was not the case.

In an editorial which ran a few days after the ceremony, the New York Times remarked: “The speedy change of name — whether it be of an airport or a bridge or a park or a cape — reflects the love that millions of people all over the world had for Present Kennedy; but, as we have previously stated, it is only debasing the subject of our grief to attach his name so hastily to a miscellaneous collection of public works, almost as if we were afraid that without these tangible reminders he would be soon forgotten. “

Meyer Liebowitz/The New York Times

And President Kennedy almost got his name upon a newly built bridge in the New York City area, too.

That same month, a Staten Island politician filed a bill to the New York state legislature to name a new bridge being built in the Narrows after Kennedy. “Assemblyman Edward J. Amann Jr … profiled at Albany for introduction into the Legislature in January a bill calling for changing the name of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the John. F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge.” [source]

By the time it officially opened the following year, the Verrazano had kept its tribute name to the 16th century European explorer. But New York does have a bridge named for a Kennedy — the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (the former Triborough Bridge).

Below: A month after the dedication, Robert did stop by the airport named after his brother. 

JFK International Airport Chamber of Commerce

The breezy story of Ozone Park, Queens: “the Harlem of Brooklyn”

Ozone Park, a quiet residential Queens neighborhood near Woodhaven, is one of those places created by real estate developers in the 1880s. It happens to have one of the best neighborhood names in all of New York City. So where did it come from?

Ozone is a gas that exists as part of the Earth’s atmosphere and, more dangerously, as a component of ground-level pollutants like smog and industrial waste. By all accounts, the word should sit nowhere near the word ‘Park’ where the foul-smelling gas would kill everything.

OzonePark

But when ozone gas was first identified in 1840, its harmful effects were not widely understood. It was associated with fresh air, filled with refreshing recuperative properties.  One dictionary in particular describes ozone as “clean bracing air as found at the sea side.” By the 1860s and 70s, beach resorts and hotels were advertising their properties are paradises full of tonic air with all the ozone you could want!

Below: This cigarette card was labeled ‘Ozone is present in the air at the sea-side.” So you have cigarettes and ozone…..

New York Public Library
New York Public Library

 

There was no borough of Queens in the 1860s, only the counties of Kings and Queens sitting near each other on the western end of Long Island. The county of Queens was sparsely populated outside of a few towns further north, including Flushing, Jamaica, Astoria and Newtown (later Elmhurst).

The vast population rise and the improving financial fortunes of the cities of New York and Brooklyn in the 1860s inspired some developers to sweep into under-populated areas with the hopes of developing new communities. It was in the decades following the Civil War that many new Queens communities sprouted up in this way.

In the 1870s, the cooking and houseware manufacturers Florian Grosjean and Charles Lalance built a large factory near the site of the old Union Course racetrack, long since closed. The company town which sprouted up around the factory became the basis for the Woodhaven neighborhood.

In 1876, the factory was destroyed in a devastating fire, so complete in its destruction that Grosjean, upon seeing his life’s work in flames, fainted to the ground.

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Courtesy Project Woodhaven

 

But Grosjean rebuilt his massive factory just a bit south of the original site, constructing more new cottages for his workers. While the factory is long gone today, its distinctive clock tower can still be seen in the neighborhood today. [You can read more about Grosjean’s contribution to the area here.]

I bring up the origins of Woodhaven because the southern factory opened up new opportunities for some undeveloped land. New employees of Grosjean’s factory would eventually venture into this area needing housing,

In 1880, the Long Island Railroad built a station south of Woodhaven as part of its line from Long Island City to Howard Beach. Two years later, two speculators Benjamin W. Hitchcock and Charles C. Denton bought up most of the plots of land around the station and began marketing the area as a visionary new neighborhood called Ozone Park!

Hitchcock had made his money in the music publishing business, one of several enterprising Manhattan businessmen who looked to the vast undeveloped spaces of Long Island to make money. He coined the name Ozone Park to promote the area’s proximity to fresh tonic ocean air.

Below: Postcard of an Ozone Park filling station circa 1930s

Courtesy Boston Public Library
Courtesy Boston Public Library

Here’s a few examples of advertisements used to lure prospective customers to  the area:

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (7/9/1882):

“A FREE invitation to visit Ozone Park, on the New York, Woodhaven and Rockaway Railroad, adjoining Woodhaven and Brooklyn, with a view of affording homes to persons of moderate means on easy payments.”

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From the New York Sun (8/27/1882):

“OWN YOUR HOME at OZONE PARK, And enjoy the pure, life-giving air of the ATLANTIC OCEAN……”

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From the New York Sun (4/21/1883):

“Save your children! Save your money! Invest and get rich! OZONE PARK is ‘the Harlem of Brooklyn.’ Come and investigate!”

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Wait — ‘the Harlem of Brooklyn‘? Ozone Park isn’t even in Brooklyn, although it’s near the modern border of the borough.  In the 1880s Harlem was a thriving and newly developed Jewish and Italian neighborhood, a new rowhouses were being built along the routes of elevated rail lines. This is certainly the comparison the developers had in mind with this particular advertisements.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

By 1884, the developers carved streets to connect the properties.  Far from relaxing and ‘tonic’, the area was a fury of building construction.  Five years later there were at least 600 residents living in Ozone Park, enough to merit its very own post office.

The development of South Ozone Park was bolstered with the construction in 1894 of the Aqueduct Racetrack (pictured below in 1941).  When Idlewild Airport (later JFK Airport) was completed in 1948, anything positively “ozone” about the the air quickly evaporated.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

 

 

Thank you Project Woodhaven for inspiring this article!

 

 

MetroCard adventure: The 10 best free Open House NY events that don’t need a reservation

The Edgar Allen Poe Cottage — with horse and buggy! — photographed between 1910-1915. You can visit it as part of Open House New York and even go visit their new visitors center. (Courtesy LOC)

Open House New York is the absolute best time of the year to wander the city and visit dozens of New York City’s greatest historical landmarks and architectural wonders.  Unfortunately, reservations for many of those places pretty much filled up within ten minutes.

Never fear, for a great many of the most interesting ones don’t take reservations and are wander-in-as-you-please type venues. Go to their website or pick up a copy of the Open House schedule and stitch together some great weekend plans.  
Trust me, I never, ever remember to make reservations (although, for the first time ever, I actually did get in a couple this year) so I always rely on the free sites.  And there are plenty to choose from.

You can even make a theme day out of OHNY free sites. For instance, do this free tour of Bronx historic homes:  the Van Cortlandt House, the Valentine-Varian House, the Bartow-Pell Mansion and the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage, all open this weekend.  NOTE: Be aware that the government shutdown has shuttered some of these locations for the weekend.  So no Hamilton Grange, no African Burial Ground and no Grant’s Tomb!

Below are some my personal recommendations, ten must-see stops for your weekend.  I’ll be spending my weekend hitting several Open House sites, including some of those listed below.  You can follow along with my trek through the city on Twitter (@boweryboys).   I’ve also made some podcast listening suggestions below; you can download them from the links, pick them up on iTunes, or stream them on Stitcher and other services.

All the times below are from the Open House New York website. Please check their site before you go for any changes!

Above: One of the first playgrounds in the city, located in the Settlement yard. You’ll see this on your tour. (Pic courtesy Facts on File)

HENRY STREET SETTLEMENT
Manhattan, Lower East Side, 265 Henry Street
Open: Saturday only, with free open tours at 10am, 10:45am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 2:15pm, 3:00pm, 3:45pm
If you are anywhere near the Lower East Side this weekend, you owe it to yourself to take a look inside here.  The Henry Street Settlement is a landmark medical and social-outreach facility, founded 120 years ago by Lillian Wald to serve the over-crowded immigrant community.  You have to see how they’ve stitched together this series of classic old row houses from the inside.  Wait until you see Lillian’s sleeping porch!
Before you go: Read this profile on the settlement that I wrote last year for the Partners In Preservation program.

NEW YORK MARBLE CEMETERY and NEW YORK CITY MARBLE CEMETERY
Manhattan, East Village, 41 1/2 Second Avenue and 52-74 2nd Street
Open: Sat and Sun, 10am-5pm
Manhattan’s two oldest cemeteries are quiet oases from the street, spacious greens interspersed with the grave and vault markers of New York’s oldest families.  Worth a short visit, even if you’ve been before. Do you remember a couple years ago when they found some C-4 explosives in the 2nd Street site?

GRAND LODGE OF MASONS
Manhattan, Chelsea, 71 West 23rd Street
Open: Sat and Sun: 11-2pm
I think I recommend this every year. Because it’s totally bonkers! These elaborate ceremony rooms dripping in gilded finery will set you imagination ablaze. You’ll need three hands to count the number of pipe organs. Paranoid people or those allergic to decorative pomp should probably avoid.

FIFTH AVENUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH CLOCK TOWER
Manhattan, Midtown East, 7 West 55th Street
Open Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 12:30pm-5pm
Reservations to the Trinity Church bell tower downtown filled up pretty quickly.  But if really, really want to tour a Gothic tower, look no further than this beautiful church’s clock tower, which will be open to those in comfortable shoes.  Afterwards, just a few minutes east, go take a look at the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden in one of Manhattan’s oldest buildings. (Open Sun 11am-4pm)

FRICK ART REFERENCE LIBRARY
Manhattan, Upper East Side, 10 East 71st Street
Open: Sat-Sun Noon-3pm, tours on the hour
There are a lot of great sites open on Fifth Avenue along Central Park. Start with the Central Park Arsenal and later on, proceed up to the Ukrainian Institute of America, the National Academy Museum and the New York Academy of Medicine, all free.  But don’t leave out this new addition to the OHNY calendar, the Frick Art Reference Library, built in 1935 and designed by John Russell Pope (better known for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC). If you spend your afternoon touring all these buildings along Central Park’s east side, you’ll feel instantly smarter.

BROOKLYN ARMY TERMINAL
Brooklyn, Sunset Park, 140 58th Street
Open: Saturday 11am-5pm
Believe it or not, this was designed by Cass Gilbert, the same person who gave us the Woolworth Building.  Completed in 1919, this was the largest military supply base in the United States through World War II, an awe-inspiring space that today is leased to private tenants.. If industrial architecture fascinates you and you haven’t yet seen this building up close, make this your first stop of the day. (Picture courtesy On The Real NY)
Before you go: If you’d like a primer on Gilbert’s early New York work, here’s my article on Gilbert’s three other buildings constructed prior to the Woolworth.

OLD STONE HOUSE
Brooklyn, Park Slope, 336 3rd Street
Open: Sat 9-5pm, Sun 10-5pm
This reconstructed Revolutionary War site is already a favorite for many in the neighborhood. But there’s one particularly fascinating reason to visit this weekend — on Saturday, reinactors in period uniforms will play baseball based upon 1864 rules.  The Kings County Fiber Festival will also be taking place. You can never have enough fiber in your diet! (Of the crochet variety, that is.)
Before you go: Hear about the history of the Old Stone House in our podcast on New York and the British Invasion 1776. [website] [podcast]

ST. GEORGE THEATRE
Staten Island, St. George, 35 Hyatt Street
Open: Sunday only, 10 am-2pm, with a free guided tour at noon
A few minutes walk from the ferry terminal, this fabulous old theater was built in 1928 and a few years later purchased by William Fox, the powerful movie executive whose name is attached to 20th Century Fox and the Fox Television Network. The stage is frequently used on television and movies. Were you a fan of NBC’s ‘Smash‘? The faux Marilyn Monroe musical was mounted here.
Before you go: Listen to the Bowery Boys podcast on the Staten Island Ferry to learn the origins of the name St. George. [download here] [webpage]

The Trans-World Airlines Flight Center, open this weekend for your intercontinental enjoyment. Pic courtesy Life Magazine.

TWA FLIGHT CENTER
Queens, JFK Airport
Open: 11am-4pm
Yes, this means you’ll have to go to the airport without the benefit of having a vacation attached to it.  But if you haven’t see this Eero Saarinen masterpiece up close yet, it’s worth the voyage.  One of the most flamboyant examples of modernist architecture still standing, Saarinen’s groovy, bird-like structure  embodies a way of thinking about flight and broke the mold for fashionable public spaces.  I dare you to come out here dressed as a vintage flight attendant.
Before you go: Listen to the Bowery Boys podcast on Idlewild/JFK Airport to discover the secrets to JFK’s ‘charm bracelet’ design. [download here] [webpage]

HINDU TEMPLE SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA (GANESH TEMPLE)
Queens, Flushing, 45-57 Bowne Street
Open: Sat-Sun 8am-9pm, free tours at 12, 1:30, 2:30 4pm  
One of the most fascinating religious structures in New York, the Ganesh Temple was built in 1970 with granite shrines and imported stone from India.  Wandering through with your shoes off is both marvelously peaceful and slightly disorienting.  A beautiful, otherworldly gem in the midst of Flushing.  And there’s a delicious canteen in the basement.

October is for lovers — of architecture and archives!


The Eero Saarinen-designed TWA Flight Center at JFK International Airport, pictured above under construction in 1961, is Thursday’s Archtober Building of the Day! 

 Argh! There is so much to do in the month of October. Tomorrow, I’ll elaborate at length on this weekend’s big tenth anniversary Open House New York. But don’t let that and your premature search for Halloween decorations get in the way of taking part in two other marvelous October surprises:

It’s Art and Architecture Month here in New York, and the second annual Archtober festival is already underway, a month-long array of exhibits, tours and presentations on city design.  As paired with a few Open House opportunities this weekend, the festival is the absolute best time of the year to learn about and marvel over New York’s distinctive architectural history.

You can find a calendar of events here, but some highlights you’ll want to explore:

— Several architectural boat tours around Manhattan throughout the month, hosted by AIA New York and the Center for Architecture

Walking tours of note include the Big Onion tour of Brooklyn Heights (13th and 20th), a stroll through Hidden TriBeCa hosted by the Municipal Art Society (20th) and a special stroll past all the new and wacky structures in Washington Square, Cooper Square, Bond Street and the New Bowery, led by AIA New York (27th)

— A special previews and opening reception for the FDR Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, which officially opens on October 24th.

Most of the above need reservations. You can find more information at the Archtober website.

They also honor one structure a day as the Archtober Building Of The Day, offering tours of some of those particular buildings.
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And next week is New York Archives Week, which is also featuring some pretty astounding and unusual exhibitions, many free to the public.  This blog would be nothing without the availability of public archives, so I’m definitely running to some of these events. I mean, who doesn’t love themselves some good ephemera? The full calendar is here, but ones of note include:

— Archives in Action: Use of Archives for Girl Scouts of the USA 100th Anniversary, with a tour of their Fifth Avenue collection

— A look inside the Curatorial Center at the Museum of the City of New York, with highlights from their manuscript and ephemera collections

— Tour of the beautiful Central Synagogue Sanctuary on 55th Street and a lecture on the architectural drawings of Henry Fernbach, a leading architect of Jewish civic and religious buildings in New York

But I think one of my favorites has to be the October 10th presentation by the Greater Astoria Historical Society, a look at a half-century of maps from the E. Belcher-Hyde Map Company which produced maps of the New York area for over 100 years. Check here to make reservations.

At right: A 1918 atlas of Queens, produced by the E. Belcher-Hyde Map Company

Top image courtesy Life Google Images. Bottom image courtesy New York Public Library

Notes from the podcast (#124) Idlewild/JFK Airport

If Barbarella were an airport terminal, certainly she would be this one. A traveller’s dilemma: what destination could possibly be as exotic as the airport from which you were leaving?

Scandals: We had a blast talking about JFK Airport this week, and it’s always funny seeing something we just talked about popping up in a major news event the weekend of release. Had we recorded the show this week, perhaps we have mentioned disgraced French politician and International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was pulled off his flight at JFK Airport and arrested in connection with a sexual assault at a Times Square hotel.

Strangely enough, Tom (a superb French speaker) was walking around with his family in downtown Manhattan this past weekend, and they were interviewed about the scandal by several international news teams, including TV5MONDE, RFI (Radio France International) and TF1. So if you live in France or a French-speaking nation, you probably saw Tom and his family on your national news yesterday!

Correction: I put Roosevelt Field in Hempstead, Long Island, when it’s actually in nearly Garden City. I wasn’t really so far off; Garden City is located in the region once called the Hempstead Plains, which I discussed last week as the location of America’s first racetrack.

Eero Saarinen: Our show was running long, so some of our praise of Saarinen’s other work got left on the cutting room floor. But there are two other Saarinen buildings in New York, and both prominently placed — the monolithic CBS Building on Sixth Avenue and the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center. You can read more about them here.

Pretty pictures: If you’d like to look at a lot more fantastic pictures of Idlewild’s glory days, visit the forum at Wired New York with lots of postings from airplane buffs. The image above is from there.

The mystery of Idlewild: One of the more frustrating aspects of doing research was the utter lack of information about Idlewild Golf Course, which was purchased by the city to construct the airport. Taking some golf enthusiasts at their word, it appears to have opened in 1930 and remained open for over a decade. But what was that named after? There’s a Idylwylde golf course in Ontario, Canada, that was constructed in 1922. Any connection?

Jamaica Sea-Airport: Some of the acreage LaGuardia bought up by the city to construct Idlewild was actually already being used as a landing strip. The Jamaica Sea-Airport was a tiny airfield off the bay that opened in 1927, using three runways and a small tin hangar. At right: An antique lapel pin from this long forgotten airstrip.

For More Information: Some key books we used for this show include Airports: A Century of Architecture by Hugh Pearman, Naked Airport by Alastair Gordon/ and John F. Kennedy International Airport by Joshua Stoff, from the Images of Aviation series. And I highly recommend the petite photography book The TWA Terminal by acclaimed architectural photographer Ezra Stoller. I’ve put another one of his images below, but the whole book is a perfect capsule history of this strange building.

Idlewild Airport/John F Kennedy International Airport: from a golf course to a motley crew of classic architecture



PODCAST Come fly with us through a history of New York City’s largest airport, once known as Idlewild (for a former golf course) and called John F. Kennedy International Airport since 1964. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia wanted a new and improved facility to relieve the pressure from that other Queens airport (you know, the one with his name on it), but a greater challenge faced developers of the Jamaica Bay project — the coming of the jet age and the growth of commercial travel.

The solution for Idlewild was truly unique — a series of vastly different and striking-looking terminals assigned to individual airlines. This arrangement certainly had its critics, but it has provided New York with some of the most inventive architecture found within its borders.

From stained glass to zodiac sculptures, from the out-of-this-world dramatics of the Pan Am WorldPort to the strangely lifting concrete masterpiece by Eero Saarinen, we take you on a tour of the original ’60s terminals and the airport’s peculiar history.

With guest appearances by Robert Moses, Martin Scorsese, the Beatles and a pretty awesome dog named Brandy.

You can tune into it below, download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, or get it straight from our satellite site.

Or listen to it here:
The Bowery Boys: Idlewild/JFK Airport

Click on the pictures below to enlarge. And these demand to be enlarged!

The Eastern Airlines building (“Terminal 1”) for the once-powerful airline that brought Robert Moses an early public defeat in the contentious battle for funding Idlewild Airport.

A large sequence of toadstool like concrete awnings adorn the entrance of Terminal 2, which serviced Northwest, Northeast and Braniff airlines.

The spaceage Pan American terminal, later called WorldPort. These postcards are courtesy DavideLevine/Flickr. He’s got a great many more JFK postcards to check out as well.

Overlooking the International Arrivals Building. From this vantage, you can see the ‘Versailles’ like gardens and fountain that briefly ruled the airport grounds until the demand for parking became too great. (avaloncm/Flickr)

Outside the International Arrivals Building, 1960 (rjl6955/Flickr)

Inside and outside the TWA Flight Center, designed by Eero Saarinen. Pictures by Ezra Stoller

The interior of I.M. Pei’s Sundrome for National Airlines, with walls that seem to melt away with the sunlight. Currently unused, the building is slated to be demolished.

American Airlines terminal, distinguished by its extraordinary face of stained glass. (Photo Dmitri Kessel/Google Life)

The simple but sleek United Airlines terminal.

The style of the jet age was partially defined by airline flight attendants. Airlines used sex appeal in their marketing and garbed their female employees in trendy (and often revealing) uniforms. These women were graduates from Overseas National Airways training school in Queens, June 1966. (More information here.)

Idlewild/JFK would see as many movie and music stars than any other location in New York. Here’s Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller in 1954…

… and the Beatles arrive at JFK to screaming fanfare, 1964

Children could pretend to be air traffic controllers with this 1968 toy. Many years later, an actual air traffic controller would bring his children in to direct real planes.

Why not? Let’s build this outlandish Manhattan airport!

The ultimate terminal for air and sea, if you don’t mind eliminating a few neighborhoods. Goodbye Hell’s Kitchen! (Click image to enlarge)

Are you a Manhattan business professional who’s tired of sitting in maddening traffic to get all the way out to John F. Kennedy Airport? Does LaGuardia Airport seem dreary and dismal to you? And Newark Liberty International? In New Jersey? Fuggedaboutit!

How many times have you thought, “If only they could demolish a significant portion of Manhattan and built an airport here?” Sure enough, visionary New Yorkers are one step ahead of you.

A 1946 issue of Life Magazine, (adorned with a wistful cover of post-war Paris) outlines a proposal by one of the 20th century’s most ambitious land developers, William Zeckendorf. The Hudson River Terminal project would consume Manhattan’s entire westside from Ninth Avenue on to the water, 24th to 71st Street. Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and other neighborhoods would cease to exist.

The runway sits atop an all-purpose colossal structure, a mega-dock, able to accomodate both air and river traffic. Ships would anchor at waterfront portals, while a staggering 68 planes an hour (about the number JFK can handle today) would land on the rooftop runway. The planes would then be lowered hangars on multiple floors. No taxiing around wasted empty space here!

But New Yorkers wouldn’t just get a fine runway out of the deal. With connections to both subways and train, the Hudson River terminal would become the ultimate “communications hub.” Naturally, the West Side Highway would burrow through the structure.

Pretty much any New Yorker going anywhere would have to pass through here. Luckily, then, this almost 144-block colossus would house “ticket offices, restaurants, business offices, waiting rooms” and other useful establishments, assuring that you’d never need to go outside.

You can read about this fascinating pipe dream in this issue of Life Magazine, and there’s a couple additional illustrations as well. Thankfully, this travesty never saw the light of day.  Donald Trump’s ‘Television City’ idea, another failed Westside development project, which would have erected a 152-floor building and an elevated parking lot in part of the area affected by Zeckendorf’s proposal, seems like a modest proposal in comparison. (That will be the last time ‘Donald Trump’ and ‘modest’ will be used in a single sentence.)

Zeckendorf was no stranger to riverside annihilation projects. His ambitious plans to built a massive ‘dream city’ on the East River that would have dwarfed Rockefeller Center fell through in the 1940s. The United Nations headquarters sits on the land once earmarked for that purpose.

But people still dream of a Manhattan airport, even in jest. In 2009, the Manhattan Airport Foundation horrified New Yorkers with a plan to replace Central Park with a glorious new airfield. They were joking. Zeckendorf, sixty years earlier, was not.

Images from Life Magazine

Eero Saarinen and his three gifts to New York

Above: an early photo of Saarinen’s TWA terminal

I played hookey from New York City this weekend and journeyed down to Washington DC, where among other things, I checked out the Eero Saarinen exhibit at the National Building Museum. Saarinen, a versatile furniture designer and prolific architect, is best known as designer of the St. Louis Gateway Arch and has a resume of structures all over the globe. Saarinen was known as an architectural chameleon of sorts, shifting styles to fit the project. Although he died relatively young, at age 51 of a brain tumor, he gave New York City three very memorable, completely different buildings.

Vivian Beaumont Theatre (150 West 65th Street, at Lincoln Center) — Completed four years after Saarinen’s death, the Vivian Beaumont was designed as part of the Lincoln Center complex, thus its concrete and glass containment works in sync with the other buildings in the plaza. Friendly but formal, this massive theatre remains as the only Broadway house outside the traditional Broadway district and has a notable thrust stage that gives performances a virtual in-the-round feel. Its two largest recent productions — South Pacific and The Coast of Utopia — gathered piles of Tony Awards. (There’s also a smaller off-Broadway stage, the Mitzi E. Newhouse, inside the building.)

CBS Building (51 West 52nd Street, affectionately known as Black Rock) — Saarinen’s critics accused him lacking a defining aesthetic, something you might believe comparing the Lincoln Center playhouse to this lurching, severe structure on Sixth Avenue. Both buildings opened the same year, 1965, executed by Saarinen’s firm. The CBS Building (pictured at right) employed a moat of public space, and the building springs out of the crevice like an ominous plant. On an avenue of steel, the rather scary CBS Building was the first to use reinforced concrete, although it’s draped in black granite.

TWA Terminal (JFK Airport, Queens) — If you’re gonna write home about a Saarinen building in New York, make it the kooky, sometimes foolish, always imaginative terminal he designed for TWA that was completed in 1962. (Its a tragedy that he never saw any of his New York buildings — not to mention the Arch itself — in final form.) The terminal is so exotic and loopy that it jolts arriving passengers.

It has the unity of some organic space being, retro-futuristic down to its benches. Or as Saarinen describes: “All the curves, all the spaces and elements right down to the shape of the signs, display boards, railings and check-in desks were to be of a matching nature.” It outlived TWA, which was bought out in 1991. Thankfully landmarked in 1994 — saving it from any potential urges to demolish its now-dated, spacy halls — its slated to reopen in the fall as a gateway to a new JetBlue terminal.