While most like me take the arrow-straight city plan of New York for granted it really is one of the defining features that makes New York New York. Taken from the best of Roman city planning the wide streets, near endless lines of sight and walls of towering steel structures produce the overpowering grandeur associated with the world’s first and finest modern city. Because it is the first of its kind New York is a veritable timeline of the history of urbanization, at least for the past 400 years. But instead of an old town and a new town, the old and new of New York is a interspersed throughout Manhattan as though assembled randomly. The 1931 General Electric building sits across the street from the 1952 masterpiece Lever House which is adjacent to the 1884 Italian Renaissance-style Villard Mansion.
This is all thanks to the grid. When it was laid out in 1811 it opened up the ability for rapid development to more desirable properties throughout Manhattan. The wealthy migrated north along 5th Avenue, outpacing the waves of developers that chased after them. Pioneers of the skyscraper too fled the crowding of lower Manhattan for Midtown and the Flatiron District the only other solid bedrock necessary to support their massive towers of steel. Here, on Lexington looking west between 58th and 59th, the trend of upward continues. To the south the spire of the greatest skyscraper ever executed, the Chrysler Building, peaks 16 New York City blocks to the south.