The Vanishing Skyline

By on Wednesday, January 17th, 2007 at 6:57 am

Just a few years ago, a walk along Palisades Avenue afforded magnificent views of the New York City skyline. Out of state visitors arriving by Interstate 78 enjoyed similarly spectacular views of Manhattan as they rounded the final bend of elevated highway before descending into the Holland Tunnel. But over the past five years, New York’s skyline has slowly melted away, and now belongs on the endangered species’ list.

Waterfront development in Jersey City has accelerated in the last five years, and with lots along the water filling with thirty, forty, and fifty story buildings, the new towers are moving further west. A decade ago, when lower Manhattan still had the twin towers of the World Trade Center, most of Jersey City’s skyline did not exist. And by the time the new world trade center is finished, the urban infill on the Jersey side of the Hudson River will obscure the line of demarcation between New York and Jersey City from anywhere but the river’s edge.

The Hudson River, the most obvious evidence that there are two city skylines, not one, is still visible in a few spots along the waterfront. Yet, between current construction and proposed plans for new towers, these ‘holes’ will soon be filled. Once the Hudson River is no longer visible, the vistas from places like the Palisades or the elevated levels of the Turnpike will offer only a single, uninterrupted skyline. The uneducated viewers may find difficulty in identifying Jersey City as its own place, separate from lower Manhattan.

New York’s skyline of course will still be taller than that of Jersey City’s. Already, the World Financial Center and many of lower Manhattan’s other towers surpass those in Jersey City in terms of height. Even with proposals for more tall towers on New Jersey’s side, the World Trade Center replacement will raise New York’s skyline higher. But its likely Freedom Tower and her smaller cousins will not have the same magnitude of the original World Trade Center; the first fifty stories of the Freedom tower will be hidden by the shroud of Jersey City’s skyline. Indeed, much of lower Manhattan, at least from a western viewpoint, will simply be absorbed by Jersey City.

Jersey City’s skyline has quickly become one that would rival most international cities, and over the next two decades further development will certainly lead to more towers on the Jersey City side. As a result, very soon, New York’s skyline, at least from the west, will disappear altogether.



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