Constructing a Land Use Framework for Infrastructure: Land Use Planning and Infrastructural Development on Manhattan’s Waterfront, 1830-1920

Authors: Nick Lombardo*, University of Toronto
Topics: Land Use, Urban Geography, Historical Geography
Keywords: infrastructure, land use, urban geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Infrastructure literally undergirds every aspect of contemporary urban life. Telephone wires crisscross the air above us, streets lay under our feet with sewer pipes and fibreoptic cables buried beneath them, while huge expanses of cities are taken up by airports, sea ports, or sewage treatment plants. Capital intensive, materially expansive, and built and operated by state and private actors together, infrastructure is a defining feature of the modern city. Despite the material ubiquity of these infrastructural assemblages in cities, and their pivotal role in the economic processes underpinning urbanization, infrastructure is often elided in studies of the land use patterns and processes of cities.

In this paper, I present findings from extensive archival research carried out on the development of the waterfront of Manhattan as it was transformed from a small-scale, privately owned commercial space, to a massive infrastructural complex built for the steamships of industrial capitalism. This research sought to understand how the piers, docks, and wharves of the industrial era were constructed by state and private actors in ways which precluded all other land use on the waterfront. I argue that from a relatively mixed use commercial era waterfront, a land use control framework was developed which was required for the transformation of the waterfront into modern infrastructure. This research suggests a relationship between land use control and infrastructure that requires further examination.

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