Here’s what four iconic NYC landmarks could have looked like

These crazy construction plans never saw the light of day.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
Editor, Time Out New York

New York City welcomes about 65 million tourists each year, who come to see its iconic landmarks, from Times Square to the Empire State Building. For those of us who live here, these buildings are how we navigate the city. But what if things were different?

Residential home developer Barratt London unearthed four construction plans for NYC that never saw the light of day but could've changed the skyline dramatically. The company used 3D modeling to bring them to life through renderings you'll see below.

Midtown Manhattan Airport on Manhattan's west side

Barratt London nyc landmarks midtown airport
Photograph: Courtesy Barratt London

Can you imagine an airport in the middle of Manhattan? Real-estate mogul William Zeckendorf did. In 1946, the developer, who then owned the Chrysler Building and the Astor Hotel, proposed an airport which would have stretched a whopping 144 blocks from 24th to 71st streets and from Ninth Avenue to the Hudson River. The project would have cost $3 billion back then, which is about $39 billion in today's money. And while it might've been nice to not have to schlep out to the ends of Queens to catch a flight, we can't imagine the congestion this midtown airport would've created. 

Civic centers on Roosevelt Island

Barratt London nyc landmarks roosevelt island
Photograph: Courtesy Barratt London

Roosevelt Island (formerly Blackwell's Island and Welfare Island), used to be home to quarantine hospitals, a workhouse, a prison, and an insane asylum, so it's no wonder why someone might think it'd be a good place to put municipal offices. In 1902, Thomas J. George responded to complaints about a lack of civic centers in the city with  a proposal to regenerate the island with an Acropolis-style civic center complex. Had it been done, it would have stretched seven blocks long. Although it's an admittedly beautiful design, it's probably a good thing that New Yorkers don't have to take the tram to handle city business. 

A massive George Washington monument at Union Square

Barratt London nyc landmarks Washington monument
Photograph: Courtesy Barratt London

Today, Union Square has a bronze statue of George Washington on horseback, sculpted by Henry Kirke Brown, which was unveiled in 1856, but the monument could have been a massive tower.

In the mid-1800s, Calvin Pollard proposed a Gothic-style George Washington monument made of granite that would have been 425 feet tall and contained more than 400,000 books and a statue of Washington holding the Declaration of Independence while surrounded by Lafayette and other allies. Despite getting city approval, it never came to fruition because its estimated cost was too much at $400,000 and its design wasn't agreed upon.

It certainly would have changed the entire look and function of Union Square.

Totem-style tower in Times Square

Barratt London nyc landmarks times square
Photograph: Courtesy Barratt London

This one isn't as dramatic as the others since Times Square is full of massive skyscrapers, but its design is a little bit off, comparatively. This tower, designed by architect George Ranalli, came out of a 1984 competition by the Municipal Art Society and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for a building that could regenerate the area and provide "a more visually striking design" than the redevelopment plans for No. 1 Times Square, which were heavily criticized for their monotony. Ranalli won the competition (and $10,000) for his totem-style tower, which featured a sphere and stepped pyramidal forms at the very top. The building was intended to reflect the theatrical and eccentric nature of Times Square, Barratt London says. Sadly, the fantastical design didn't happen, but it's fun to think what Times Square would be like had it been built. 

Most popular on Time Out

- This house on a waterfall is available to rent just three hours from NYC
- Find out what your NYC building looked like in the 1940s
- 10 perks of wearing a mask all the time in NYC
- Chelsea Market is now home to one of the city’s largest outdoor dining setups
- The best lake vacations for NYC families

Popular on Time Out

    You may also like
    You may also like