America is a Nation built on the water. Ships brought Europeans, its metropolis’s are situated on great bays and rivers. New York, the biggest city, in the most powerful country in the world is a city of water situated on three islands and the mainland of New York State. With the storied history of water and the Nation it would be expected to be close to the sea and water. This love of water clashed when the age of the automobile came to be. Cities needed, or actually wanted roads and highways to handle to massive influx of cars. Unfortunately these cities, like most cities lacked land and were not interested in knocking down homes to build highways, except for maybe Robert Moses.
Roads now bar millions of Americans from accessing their beloved waters. Cities built their roads on their waterfronts, The FDR Drive and Henry Hudson parkway in New York and Route 18 in New Brunswick are perfect examples. Waterfront property is highly valued, for restaurants who want waterfront decks, and homeowners who desire marvelous views waterfronts are also valued for recreation, parks and beaches. This access to the waters, which nurtured this nation, is severely limited. Yes New Brunswick has a park on the water, but to get to these parks you likely will have to cross Route 18 a major roadway. To call this a barrier to access would be an understatement.
Why this was done varied. The Henry Hudson Parkway for example was built in arguably the cities most beautiful spot high above the Hudson to give drivers a few seconds of glorious views of New Jersey Palisades and the river below. He did so at the cost of cutting all New Yorkers off from access to their River. Parks were built on the Hudson, yes but like Boyd Park in New Brunswick; freeways cut them off from all the cities people.
The saddest part of this is that there aren’t many better options. Land is scarce in cities and if you aren’t building on the waterfront odds are you knocking down homes and businesses. The costs of building on the waters edge are much less noticeable in the short term even if in the long term is deprives cities of some of their greatest resources.
Thankfully some cities are finally realizing the mistakes of the past with New York especially making a great effort to bring its people to rivers edge with new and more accessible parks being developed on the East and Hudson River’s banks.