Maps reflect empirical data gathered at particular points in time, while also illustrating methods of analysis, assumptions, and underlying values. The slum clearance and redevelopment maps presented in this section depict urban areas in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and were prepared for specialized audiences who were more directly associated with decision-making and city planning processes.
1. Brooklyn Civic Center an Downtown Improvements Study
The Brooklyn Civic Center plan was the first step in the rehabilitation of downtown Brooklyn. The 1944 study was authorized by the Board of Estimate at the request of the City Planning Commission. Its purpose was to create a fitting civic center and stimulate private as well as public redevelopment of the area thus enhancing civic as well as property values.
The following is a series of three plates accompanying the Brooklyn Civic Center and downtown improvements plan. The three maps use an identical template, including the North-South arrow; the legends are similar, located in the bottom left.
Only thumbnail images are available of these plates due to copyright restrictions. They can be viewed in the Map Room, Olin Library.
Plate I depicts the existing streets and predominant land uses. The predominant property uses in the downtown area reflected changes going back more than one hundred years and presented many anomalies and improper uses. According to the Planning Commission, during periods of rapid growth a variety of industrial and commercial activities “invaded” districts and blocks that previously had been exclusively residential. Sometimes this resulted in an increase in property values, but disinvestment as owners of residential properties deferred maintenance with the expectation of demolition for redevelopment.
Plate II presents the map changes in the downtown area. By the time the plate was drawn, many of the map changes had already been made, including the official mapping of the Brooklyn – Queens connecting highway. All the other proposed map changes stemmed from this major highway. The land taken for the highway would constitute slum clearance by its very nature. An immediate effect of the new peripheral highway would be the complete change of the character and uses of the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge, Cadman Plaza: it would become a city park of “unusual size and shape.” Other important changes included widening of a number of streets to accommodate the local traffic as well as elimination of unneeded streets.
Plate V introduces the redevelopment plan for the center and downtown area, including existing and proposed public buildings, parks and landscaped areas, existing private institutions and buildings as well as areas identified as suitable for re-planning, clearance and redevelopment. Prior to preparing the plan, the commission completed a survey and prepared a general plan to correlate the various projects. It also realized that it was equally important to coordinate public and private redevelopment, because separate, uncoordinated improvements would not in themselves lead to the rehabilitation of the target sections. The commission came up with the solution to clear large areas and to redevelop them in units large enough to permit control of the environment. These large units would be isolated from through traffic and would provide light, air and open space, which could not be achieved by constructing separate apartment houses on ordinary blocks of a gridiron street system.
2. Fenway Urban Renewal Project, Boston
The map illustrates a project initiated by the Boston Redevelopment Authority to “upgrade the area physically and economically, and to provide framework of environmental conditions to enhance the opportunities for living, working, and recreation.” The project was necessitated by a number of deficiencies in the area, among them overcrowding or improper location of structures, conversions to incompatible types of uses, such as conversion of residential buildings to commercial or mixed ones; a number of heavy commercial, industrial, and mixed-use structures generated conditions which were not compatible with the adjacent residential and institutional uses. Many streets were unsafe, congested, poorly designed, or otherwise deficient. Finally, many public or community facilities were inadequate, contributing to unsatisfactory living conditions or economic decline. The map shows existing and proposed facilities and institutions.
Only a thumbnail image is available of the map due to copyright restrictions. It can be viewed in the Map Room, Olin Library.