Maps & Models: Robert Moses Planning Maps

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Robert Moses was the longtime New York State Parks Commissioner, who was largely responsible for the building of the state's highway system from the 1920s-1960s. Moses had open disdain for mass transit, favoring the automobile. Just as the original Penn Station's grandeur represented Gilded Age America's reverence for train travel, maps of the highways Moses created reveal mid-century America's celebration of the automobile. This is best witnessed in his grand plans to transform New York City into a car-friendly environment.

Moses planned two elevated highways which would have cut straight through Midtown Manhattan and the Lower East Side. The proposed route of the Mid Manhattan Expressway would have run one block south of Penn Station along West 30th Street - one block south of Penn Station, greatly altering or destroying much of its neighborhood.

A map created by blogger vanshnookenraggen using Google Map Maker shows the Mid Manhattan Expressway's proposed route.

Rectifying the map and overlaying it with the Penn Station neighborhood Historic Resources map in Google Earth reveals that the Expressway would have destroyed several historic buildings, including the original Penn Station service building (#34); the Gilsey House(#55); and the Church of the Transfiguration (#56). 

A 1950's drawing of the proposed highway running alongside the original Penn Station.


In this 1960s model, the Expressway travels past the new Madison Square Garden with Penn Station underneath.


An artist's rendering of how the elevated expressway would appear in its route between 30th and 29th Streets.