The city of New York is a rich tapestry of interwoven streets, parks, rivers, industry, and infrastructure. In 1811, a commission was convened by the state Legislature to regulate and plan for orderly development in New York City below 155th Street. This plan put in place the rectangular grid of streets and lots that is iconic of New York City today. This map is one of the few known originals in existence and has been called the single most important document in New York City’s development.
The Commissioners Plan of 1811 laid the foundation for the expansion of New York City during the 19th century. As the population grew, New York City needed an orderly way to expand infrastructure, housing, and transportation. The state Legislature gave the commission the “exclusive power to lay out streets, roads, and public squares, of such width, extent, and direction, as to them shall seem most conducive to public good... .” The commission had authority to lay out streets and alter existing roads on all of Manhattan above Houston Street.
This section of NYC shows the difference between the planned grid blocks and the older narrow grids.
The same location today, the East Village, where the meeting of two distinct types of street grids is still evident.
The biggest deviation from the Plan of 1811 is Central Park, which runs from 59th to 110th Street. Although the original plan included public spaces, the 843-acre park was a later alteration to the city grid. Pictured here is the grid plan before the park was added.