One of the Neatest NYC Videos We’ve Ever Seen

If you have 2 minutes, take a look at this video showing how dense Manhattan became between 1800 and 2010.

As described in a great article in the Atlantic’s City Lab, the video tracks neighborhood population densities on Manhattan using historical maps, aerial photographs, and census ward statistics.

City Lab points out two interesting things about the video-

  1. Population densities in Manhattan’s neighborhoods reached their peaked in 1910, fell for 70 years, and have been rising slowly since 1980. But Manhattan’s current population density is nowhere close to what it was in 1910.
  2. Manhattan was completely built up by 1951 (Battery Park City, later built on a landfill, notwithstanding).

The video was produced by the NYU Stern Urbanization Project, based on research by Shlomo Angel and Patrick Lamson-Hall. Angel and Lamson-Hall’s research paper on density in Manhattan is a very interesting read.

And you think New York City is crowded?

Take a look at the NYU Stern Urbanization Project’s youtube channel.

They point out that the urban population of the developing world is projected to grow from 2.5 billion to roughly 7.5 billion in the next 100 years. How will all these new urban residents be accommodated? The average city size in the developing world will have to triple; and/or entirely new cities will need to be built, says NYU.

Preparing for 9 Million Residents in NYC, One Step at a Time

Between 2000 and 2014, New York City grew by almost half a million residents—483,000 to be exact. This was the biggest population increase among the nation’s largest cities during that period, reports the City.

And New York City is well on its way to meeting the projection of nine million residents by 2030. The Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency notes on its website:

“Population growth will place new pressure on an infrastructure system that is already aging beyond reliable limits. Many of the systems pioneered in New York City are also among the oldest in the U.S., and susceptible to disrepair over time, or damage by severe weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy.”

How Are We Planning? Take a Look at the City’s Budget

Take a look at the Summary of Mayor de Blasio’s proposed 2016 Executive Budget. It’s reader-friendly, in slide format, and provides lots of interesting information about the City’s long-term planning priorities.

[The New York City Council will give final approval to the City budget prior to the start of the Fiscal Year on July 1- this is called the adopted budget.]

We were intrigued by the proposed 2016-2025 Capital Budget (see slide 44). Capital costs refer to spending on long-term assets, like buildings, streets and infrastructure. This category does not include annual operational expenses, like personnel.

We’ve highlighted capital budget categories that have a clear connection to environmental protection and sustainability.

2016-2025 Capital Budget, Major Categories:

  • Education: $23.4 billion
  • Environmental Protection: $14.7 billion
  • Bridges & Highways: $12.6 billion
  • Housing: $8.4 billion
  • Administration of Justice: $4.7 billion
  • Economic Development: $3.4 billion
  • Health & Hospitals: $2.9 billion
  • Resiliency & Energy Efficiency: $2.5 billion
  • Parks: $2.5 billion
  • Sanitation: $2.3 billion
  • Technology: $1.7 billion
  • Fire: $1.3 billion
  • Public Buildings: $1.2 billion
  • Mass Transit: $0.8 billion
  • Culturals & Libraries: $0.8 billion
  • Social Services: $0.6 billion

Combined, the various environmental protection and sustainability categories make up over a quarter—27 percent—of the City’s 2016-2015 capital budget.

All sorts of questions can be asked about the dollar amounts allocated to these categories. For instance, how is mass transit going to get the capital support (from the city, state and the feds) it actually needs? We will dig into that in a future post.

For the moment, here’s some more detail on this $14.7 billion “environmental protection” category.

Maintaining Clean Water for 9 Million, at a Cost of $14.7 billion

As the last couple days have demonstrated, adequate stormwater infrastructure in New York City is absolutely critical, and the need for this infrastructure will increase as our climate continues to change.

Here’s how the Mayor has allocated $14.7 billion in capital spending for the Department of Environmental Protection, which is also the city’s water utility, over the next ten years (see slide 50):


  • Sewers and In-City Water Mains: $6 billion (41%)
  • Wastewater Treatment: $5.6 billion (38%)
  • Upstate Watersheds (which provide our drinking water): $1.4 billion (9%)
  • Drinking Water Supply: $1.2 billion (8%)
  • Equipment: $500 million (4%)