“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” - Jane Jacobs
There was almost a highway built in SoHo.
But could you really imagine it? A highway cutting through all your favorite shops and cafes? With a highway, would it really even be SoHo?
Yet, in the 1960s, there were plans to build the Lower Manhattan Expressway, or LOMEX for short, a highway connecting the Holland Tunnel with the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. It was planned by Robert Moses, a city planner, and arguably the one of the most powerful people in the New York City government from the 30s to the 50s, and definitely the most powerful unelected figure. As one of the greatest city planners, he still remains a polarizing figure today. He was the man behind Lincoln Center, Shea Stadium, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the original West Side Highway, many other projects and even two World’s Fairs - one in 1939 and one in 1964.
However, there were some huge problems with building the LOMEX. 2,000 families and 804 businesses would have been had to be evicted directly to build the LOMEX, and Moses moved to demolish even more blocks in the neighborhood for “slum clearance” to replace with soaring high rises, in line with the popular “urban renewal” philosophy. At the time, SoHo was a lot poorer than it is now and the motion to clear the neighborhood was completely legal. The LOMEX would have completely destroyed the neighborhood, or any future of it. This made one woman challenge the “master builder” of New York.