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Zoning Before Zoning: Land Use, Density and the Grid in Mid-19th Century New York City

Thursday, October 2, 2014
6 PM in Lehman Hall 421
Free event

Not until the 20th Century did American cities turn to zoning regulations to gain control over their space and built environment. Mid-19th Century New York had a largely unregulated land-use environment, where property owners found minimal restrictions to their choices to develop urban land. But the city made by the “invisible hand” had its own spatial order, with distinguishable patterns of commercial, industrial, and residential land uses, mixed areas, crowding and density, which can be rendered visible by digital mapping analysis. Drawing on cartographic data made available by the New York Public Library, this talk will explore the spatial logic of America's first metropolis in the middle of the 19th Century, focusing on the central problems of urban land use, Manhattan’s grid plan, population density and crowding.

Gergely Baics is Assistant Professor of History and Urban Studies at Barnard College – Columbia University. He teaches courses on comparative urban history, and his research focuses on the economic, social and geographic history of food provisioning in early New York City.

Leah Meisterlin is Term Assistant Professor at the Barnard & Columbia Colleges Department of Architecture. She teaches courses on architectural design, urbanism, and spatial analysis. Her academic work and professional practice focus on issues of spatial justice, data-driven design and research methods, and social and political space.