Since September 2001, when New York could have abandoned its architectural and cultural ambitions, the city has defied skeptics by unveiling one new attraction after another.
Much of the credit goes to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is nearing the end of his third (and final) term, and some of the go-getters he appointed to key posts. One of them, former parks commissioner Adrian Benepe, oversaw not only the creation of the High Line on the west side of Manhattan and the renovation of the gorgeous Art Deco McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but also the addition of 500 acres of parkland throughout the five boroughs. In what has become a golden age of landscape architecture—remember the names Michael Van Valkenburgh, Ken Smith and James Corner Field Operations—the new parks are as well designed as those created by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux 150 years ago.
At the same time, transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan added bike lanes and pedestrian plazas all over the city. One of her biggest projects—an experiment in minimizing automobile traffic in Times Square—is now becoming permanent. (Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta won the competition to design the new pedestrian-friendly amenities.) Still in the works are the third phase of the High Line, which will sweep around the Hudson Yards development to 34th Street; the transformation of Governors Island into a park by the Dutch design firm West 8; and the creation of new public spaces by Columbia University as part of its expansion northward.
And those are just the outdoor spaces. Indoors, the city’s biggest cultural institutions are also growing. The Whitney is constructing a new home at the south end of the High Line; once that is complete, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will expand into the Whitney’s landmark Madison Avenue building. Look for the Museum of Modern Art to add more galleries (now that it owns the site of the American Folk Art Museum, its former neighbor on 53rd Street). And the Culture Shed, an ingenious, expandable pavilion by Rockwell Group and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, will anchor the new Hudson Yards neighborhood.
Here are a few of our favorite new projects.