OLDNYC.COM--> Virtual Tour --> LOMEX (I-78) --> Delancey and Canal Streets Picture Gallery #2

The subway wasn't the only reason why Moses and his engineers didn't chose Delancey as the right-of-way for the LOMEX.  Just west of Bowery, Delancey becomes Kenmare Street.  Delancey Street also becomes significantly smaller in width after it turns in to Kenmare Street.  This picture illustrates another issue: Kenmare Street dead-ends at Lafayette Street.  A couple of large buildings block Kenmare Street from making its way west.  This, of course, would have had serious repercussions for the proposed LOMEX.

Broome Street is one of the few streets in this area that runs the from the Holland Tunnel to the Williamsburg Bridge.  Canal Street is the only other street that shares this characteristic.

Kenmare Street looking east.  The large three-lane in each direction of Delancey Street is now a small one-lane in each direction Kenmare Street.

As previously mentioned, Canal Street is one of the few east/west roads that crosses Lower Manhattan.  This is a picture of Canal Street, looking east.

Notice the large amount of vehicle truck traffic on it's surface streets.  This is like this almost twenty-four hours a day.  LOMEX may have never have been built, but vehicles use Canal Street as the main arterial for east/west travel across Manhattan.

Canal Street looking west.

So why didn't Moses engineers decide to build an elevated highway utilizing the Canal Street right-of-way (ROW)?  Good question, but unlike the Delancey Street ROW alignment theory, this one is a little tougher to answer.  Canal Street is certainly wider than Broome Street is at many locations.  Canal Street, like Broome Street, passes over several subway lines, so engineering a highway on either street would be a challenge.  Because of Canal Street being wider than Broome Street in certain areas, engineering a highway utilizing the Canal Street ROW might not have resulted in as many buildings being razed in order to make way for the ROW.  So... why was Broome Street chosen over Canal Street? Moses may have provided the answer to this one himself.  From nycroads.com:

"The route of the proposed expressway passes through a deteriorating area with low property values due in considerable part to heavy traffic that now clogs the surface streets. Construction of the expressway will relieve traffic on these streets and allow this locality to develop in a normal manner that will encourage improved housing, increased business activity, higher property values, a general rise in the prosperity of the area, and an increase in real estate tax revenues."  Moses had basically written off the Broome Street area as being in decline, and the building of his highway may have helped out the area economically.

In fairness to Moses, when one looks at all of the beautiful buildings along Broome Street today, one has to remember that many of these buildings were not so beautiful during the time of the LOMEX proposal.  Yuppies and artists weren't exactly taking up residences in these commercial buildings by the significant numbers that is witnessed today.  Many of these buildings were old commercial factories, and many were not being well kept by their owners.  The people that saved these buildings from destruction were the community activists wanted to protect these historical buildings, and they weren't about to have them bulldozed over for a new road.  Then again, no one - not Moses, not the community activists, not the politicians, would have thought that SoHo would have received the dramatic revitalization efforts that it has gone through even to this day.  Who would have known that SoHo would have become fashionable, and people would flock to this interesting area.

Another theory that may have been true at the time was the overall cost of razing the buildings along the LOMEX route.  It may have been cheaper, due to the makeup of commercial tenements and private real estate along the north side of Broome Street, to raze those buildings as opposed to razing some of the buildings along a Canal Street route.  One would have to look at any financial studies and cost/benefit analysis that may have been conducted at the time as to why Broome Street was utilized for the highway's ROW rather than Canal Street.

At the corner of Canal and Lafayette Streets.  Notice the beautiful building, now home to HSBC bank.

Canal Street certainly has a nice group of buildings as well.  Unfortunately, due to the heavy traffic that Canal Street handles, many of these buildings are painted with black soot from the exhausts of automobile and truck traffic.

What about Grand Street for the LOMEX alignment?  Here is a picture of Grand Street.  Grand Street has some beautiful buildings as well.  It is about as wide as Broome Street, but it doesn't run the entire width of Lower Manhattan, making the LOMEX alignment utilizing this street not feasible.


What's my position on LOMEX?

I feel that LOMEX should have been built, but not in the way that Moses and highway engineers had originally planned. As you saw during the tour, Canal and Broome Streets, the major east/west arterial routes for Lower Manhattan, are clogged with traffic - mostly that of commercial truck traffic. New York City has almost a 100% dependence on trucks for freight transfer in to and out of the city. As you may have seen from other OldNYC.com Virtual Tours, railroad freight operations in New York City is almost nil. Whether environmentalists, politicians, and community groups want to believe it or not, New York City needs trucks in order for goods and services to be delivered. How the city wound-up in this transportation quagmire is a discussion for another day, but the reality is that we are in this situation for the long term until planners start to formulate new transportation methods. The Tri-State Transportation committee in it's 1966 report Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan was correct in saying "The need for a limited-access crossing of lower Manhattan is one of long standing. The new bypass routes, while of great significance, are far removed for large traffic volumes moving between close-in areas along the Hudson and East rivers. The Lower Manhattan Expressway should be completed to join together the disconnected portions of the regional network approaching lower Manhattan." (from nycroads.com).

The issue is how the LOMEX should have been constructed. Although it is thirty-five years after construction was to take place, and engineering methodologies have evolved since that time, Moses may have been more successful had he directed that the highway be as unobtrusive as possible. The original plans for the highway would have forced hundreds of buildings along the north side of Broome Street to be demolished in order to appropriate the vast amount of land needed for the elevated ROW. Displacement of nearly 2,000 families and 800 businesses, according to nycroads.com, also contributed to the public outcry over the proposed highway. SoHo's residents were not eager to have a highway similar to the Gowanus Expressway running through their neighborhood.

If engineers had planned on tunneling the highway through most of it's route, maybe public opposition to the project would not have been as fierce. Scrubbers in the tunnel could have helped to control pollution, and noise pollution would not have been an issue since the cars and trucks would travel underground. According to nycroads.com, a cut-and-cover tunnel was proposed in 1968 by then Mayor Lindsay. Cut-and-cover tunneling techniques still may have resulted in the loss of buildings along the north side of Broome Street, depending if the lane configuration in the tunnel had the east/west carriageways parallel to each other. The only way engineers could have saved some of the buildings was to build a tunnel that allowed for a stacked carriageway configuration. For example, the eastbound carriageway would reside over the westbound carriageway inside the tunnel. The tunnel would have to be extremely deep in order to accommodate such a configuration. The tunnel would have been very expensive to built, even in 1966 dollars. The Federal Interstate Highway guidelines are budget conscience, so a deep-tunneled LOMEX might have been rejected for high cost reasons. In any event, by 1968, political and community groups were so dead-set against any form of highway that no engineering alternative was going to pass through the various approval boards.

Playing Monday morning quarterback, maybe if Moses proposed and agreed to a tunneled highway in 1955, there might have been a LOMEX serving the Interstate Highway System today. Unfortunately, as it is widely documented, Moses was somewhat of a thick-head when it came to how a highway would ultimately be built in an area. Rarely did Moses seek outside counsel from community groups for his projects. Community groups in the Bronx can testify how Moses did not want to reroute the Cross-Bronx Expressway as to do minimal damage to the neighborhood. One of the few successful community groups that did convince Moses to reroute his expressway were the wealthy community-based groups in Brooklyn Heights. Moses originally wanted to run the Brooklyn Queens Expressway though the center of Brooklyn Heights. The community fought with Moses, and a compromise was reached. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was built on the outer cliffs of Brooklyn Heights in a cantilever design. The Promenade was also a result of that compromise. LOMEX, on the other hand, was not built because of community opposition. Moses had met his match, and this time he was stopped.


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