ExtendNY stretches the Big Apple's gridiron all across the globe – with some bizarre effects
- Manhattan's street grid is famously regular and predictable. What if you extended it across the globe?
- This web tool does exactly that, and in the process, turning New York into the world's first, last, and only "planetary city."
- But grids are square, and the world is not. Somewhere in Uzbekistan, global Manhattan goes haywire.
Can't afford to live in New York? Yes, you can, and it won't even cost you a penny. In fact, you don't even have to move there. The Manhattan gridiron will come to you instead!
New York, but from the comfort of your own home
A nifty website called ExtendNY has rolled out the iconic street grid across the entire planet. You can now enjoy a real New York address at the corner of Such-and-such Street and This-and-that Avenue from the comfort of your own home.
New York may no longer be the biggest city in the world – Tokyo snatched that title somewhere in the second half of the 20th century – but the Big Apple still has a better claim than most other cities to be the Capital of the World.
It's a city built by immigrants, home to people of every persuasion and complexion, speaking languages from all across the globe. Countless screens reflect the city's skyline, cityscape, and frenetic energy back to the rest of the world.
Even first-time visitors feel oddly at home between the familiar bridges, yellow cabs, and skyscrapers of Manhattan. Plenty of locally-set movies and series – in turn glitzy or gritty – have seen to that.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – born in New York, by the way – hasn't really left the city: Number 10 Downing Street also has a Manhattan-style address.Credit: ExtendNY
So it feels weirdly appropriate that ExtendNY, devised in 2011 by Harold Cooper, should allow New York to cover the entire planet and become not just the capital of the world, but a synonym for the world itself. New York is the first, last, and only planetary city the planet needs.
Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel, New York socialites
As a result, a lot of famous addresses the world over get an equally iconic New York one as well. The British Prime Minister, currently Boris Johnson, famously works out of Number 10 Downing Street in London. Ah yes, but that's also on the corner of 63,708th Street and E 10,894th Avenue in New York.
His opposite number in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, resides in the Bundeskanzleramt, overlooking the river Spree in Berlin. Or, when she daydreams of a slightly different life: the corner of 75,490th Street and E 11,126 Avenue in New York.
A new meaning to the Upper East Side
Can't get away from New York. Even the top of Mount Everest is a street corner in the Big Apple. Credit: ExtendNY
Even natural features don't escape global New York. The top of Mount Everest, on the border of China and Nepal? The corner of 96,104th Street and 67,128th Avenue. The actual North Pole? The map looks a bit funny, but the address is credible enough: the corner of 58,725th Street and 12,993 Avenue.
Similarly, the Eiffel Tower, the Ka'aba in Mecca, or your own place – all are now distant suburbs of NYC.
Uzbekistan: the nexus of the universe
The weirdest bit of global New York is a place in Uzbekistan, where a street reduced to a single point intersects with all the avenues. Credit: ExtendNY
Because the grid is rectangular and the earth is not, there are a few points where Global New York runs into bizarro territory. In remotest Uzbekistan, ExtendNY's gridiron arrives at a strange point, where the succession of streets have condensed into one that consists only of a single point – 127,001st Street – which intersects with all of Global New York's Avenues. That mind-bending street corner is mirrored by a similar opposite in the South Pacific. As Kramer suggested, this could be the nexus of the universe — in Global New York, anyway.
Although Manhattan's grid may strike us as thoroughly modern, gridded cities are by no means a recent invention. In French, a grid plan is called a plan hippodamien, after the ancient Greek architect Hippodamus of Miletus (5th century BC), a.k.a. the 'father of European urban planning'.
The loneliness of Stuyvesant Street
However, like most cities in the Old World, the oldest ones in the New World grew up unplanned. In New Amsterdam, which occupied the southern tip of Manhattan, the streets followed old native trails, cow paths, and property lines, and generally the lay of the land.
Stuyvesant Street is a poignant and lonely relic of one of several attempts to impose order on that chaos. Sitting awkwardly between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, it is one of the very few streets in Manhattan to be aligned almost perfectly east to west.
In the late 18th century, the City commissioned Casimir Goerck to subdivide its Common Lands, in the middle of Manhattan, into sellable lots. Goerck's name is now largely forgotten, quite literally. The small street in the Lower East Side that once carried his name was rebranded Baruch Place in 1933. But his plan, in the words of historian Gerard Koeppel, is "modern Manhattan's Rosetta Stone."
Goerck oriented streets 29 degrees east of due north, in order to align with the shape of the island itself, and devised a standard of five-acre blocks, two features which would come back in the famous Commissioners' Plan of 1811. Goerck's East, Middle and West Roads would become 4th, 5th, and 6th Avenues. In fact, the Commissioners' Plan is essentially an expansion of Goerck's grid laid out over the Common Lands.
An 1807 map of the Commissioners' Plan, clearly showing the planned city blocks extending from North Street (circled, left) to 155th Street (circled, right). Credit: Harper's New Monthly Magazine (June 1893), public domain.
The Plan proposed a city grid north of Lower Manhattan, from Houston Street (pronounced "house-ton" and not "hyoos-ton", by the way; then appropriately called "North Street") up to 155th Street – with two exceptions:
- Greenwich Village, then independent from New York City, was excluded – hence the visibly different orientation of the streets in "the Village."
- 10th Avenue went well beyond 155th Street, all the way up to the northern tip of Manhattan.
The Commission adopted Goerck's gridiron as the most practical layout for the city, as "straight-sided and right-angled houses are the most cheap to build and the most convenient to live in." In its predictability and repetition, the gridiron was a reflection of "republican" values such as plainness and uniformity, order, and equity.
In all, the Plan created about 2,000 city blocks. It took about 60 years for that grid to be filled in – but alterations were made, the biggest of which was the establishment of Central Park. Created in 1857 and completed in 1876, it runs from 59th up to 110th street, and from Fifth to Eight Avenues. It takes up 843 acres or just over 6 percent of the entire island of Manhattan.
From the 1860s onward, the grid was essentially extended northward, despite the fact that the difficult terrain necessitated some alterations.
Manhattan, Sartre's "Great American Desert"
Broadway, which originally only went up to 10th Street, was eventually joined up with other roads north, until it reached Spuyten Duyvil at the top of Manhattan in 1899. Its angled intersections with the grid helped create some of New York's most emblematic open spaces, including Times Square, Madison Square, and Union Square.
Walt Whitman (pictured here around 1870, about 50 years old) could wax lyrical about New York (see Strange Maps #842: Whitman Poem Transformed into a Map of Brooklyn), but wasn't a fan of the grid. Credit: From Henry Bryan Binns: A Life of Walt Whitman (1902), public domain.
From the start, the plan had come in for harsh criticism. In more recent times, it's been praised as visionary. Here are some put-downs by famous voices:
- Alexis de Tocqueville, the French philosopher famous for his observations of the newly independent U.S., criticized the Plan's "relentless monotony."
- Poet and journalist Walt Whitman wrote that "our perpetual dead flat and streets cutting each other at right angles, are certainly the last thing in the world consistent with beauty of situation."
- And architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who would go on to design Central Park, lamented that "no city is more unfortunately planned with reference to metropolitan attractiveness."
- "Rectangular New York," in the words of writer Edith Wharton, is "this cramped horizontal gridiron of a town without towers, porticoes, fountains or perspectives, hide-bound in its deadly uniformity of mean ugliness."
- Lamenting its "deadly monotony", architect Frank Lloyd Wright called the grid a "man trap of gigantic dimensions."
- In his essay on New York called "Manhattan: The Great American Desert," French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that "amid the numerical anonymity of streets and avenues, I am simply anyone, anywhere, since one place is so like another. I am never astray, but always lost."
Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-43) is "an optical vibration that jumps from intersection to intersection like traffic on the streets of New York."Credit: public domain; the picture is part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
- In his 1987 book Delirious New York, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas called it "the most courageous act of prediction on Western civilization."
- Earlier, his fellow Dutchman, the artist Piet Mondrian, had transferred his admiration for the vibrancy of the grid to canvas, as Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-43).
- The Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly called it "the best manifestation of American pragmatism in the creation of urban form."
- Hilary Ballon, curator of "The Greatest Grid" on the occasion of its bicentennial in 2011, said that "New York's street system creates such transparency and accessibility that the grid serves as metaphor for the openness of New York itself."
- "It may not be every urban planner's beau ideal, but as a machine for urban living, the grid is pretty perfect," said economist Edward Glaeser.
- Not all French philosophers hated Manhattan. "This is the purpose of New York's geometry," wrote Roland Barthes: "that each individual should be poetically the owner of the capital of the world."
Welcome to / Bienvenue à Haussmanhattan
It's doubtful whether it was Barthes' words that spurred Mr. Cooper to devise his web tool; but thanks to ExtendNY, every place on earth is now a poetic extension of the capital of the world.
For another example of Manhattan's global appeal, check out Haussmanhattan, a visual project by architect/photographer Luis Fernandes that mashes up the early 20th-century architectures of New York and Paris, after the latter's renovation by Georges-Eugène Haussmann.
Manhattan's Flatiron Building fits in well at the pointier end of the Île de la Cité at the center of Paris. Credit: Haussmanhattan, by Luis Fernandes.
Check out ExtendNY here. For a slightly less ambitious plan to extend New York, check out Strange Maps #486: The Failed Plan to Build a "Really Greater New York".
Strange Maps #1087
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some wild animals thrive near humans, but only up to a point.
- A recent study used motion-triggered cameras to study mammal behavior at 61 sites across North America.
- The results showed that large, carnivorous mammals with slow life histories are most negatively impacted by human presence and development.
- The researchers noted that although some mammals are able to tolerate or even benefit from humans, there might be a threshold to how much human disturbance mammals can tolerate.
The proliferation of human civilization has impacted nearly every animal species on Earth. Since the 16th century, humans have driven about 700 vertebrate species to extinction, while our presence and activities threaten to kill off more than one million plant and animal species over the coming decades.
But it's not always a zero-sum game. Amid the chaos of the Anthropocene — the term some geologists use to refer to the current geological age in which human activity is the dominant force on the environment — some animals are doing fine. It's not just pet labradoodles and cockapoos: Deer, squirrels, mosquitoes, and cephalopods are a few of the species that have been surviving or even thriving among us in recent decades.
So, why do some species suffer amidst human civilization while others adapt?
A new study published in Global Change Biology explores that question by analyzing which North American mammal species live most successfully among humans. The researchers hypothesized that North American mammals with certain traits and life strategies are more likely to suffer outsized consequences from humans.
"Specifically, we hypothesized that larger, more carnivorous species and those with slower life history strategies (i.e., longer maturation periods, slower reproductive rates) are more negatively affected by both human presence and human footprint, given that these species are typically more likely to come into conflict with humans."
Human development vs. human presence
To find out, the researchers used data from "camera traps" to monitor the behavior of 24 mammal species. These motion-triggered cameras were set up at 61 locations across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and they captured photos of animals representing three trophic guilds: herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. A few of the species analyzed in the study included black bears, white-tailed deer, wolves, coyotes, grizzly bears, and raccoons.
The goal was to see how animal populations responded to two different types of human disturbance: human development (buildings, roads, agricultural fields) and human presence (hunting, hiking, other recreation).
The results showed that one-third of mammal species were less likely to appear in areas with high human presence or development. Specifically, the results supported one part of the original hypothesis, which stated that larger, more carnivorous, and slower reproducing species (like wolves and grizzly bears) are more negatively affected by human development and its accompanying threats, like noise and light pollution and vehicle strikes.
However, these animals weren't significantly affected by human presence, a finding that highlights "the importance of considering these two forms of human disturbance separately when estimating anthropogenic impacts on wildlife," the researchers wrote.
Raccoons love you...
Smaller mammals and those that reproduce quickly responded more positively to human disturbance. Raccoons and white-tailed deer, for example, tended to appear more frequently in areas with both higher human presence and development. Meanwhile, mammals like elk, bobcats, coyotes, and pumas appeared more frequently in areas with only higher human presence.
Why do smaller, quickly reproducing animals fare better among us and our infrastructure? The researchers suggested it may be that they are better able to tolerate threats like sensory pollution and vehicle strikes or have a more generalist diet. Alternatively, areas near humans tend to have fewer predators.
...up to a point
But the results might be a bit misleading. For example, the cameras might have captured a certain species showing up frequently near human disturbances not because the animals prefer it there but because humans are destroying their natural habitat.
The study noted another caveat: Once human disturbances become too intense, even once-tolerant mammals start responding negatively. In other words, there seems to be a threshold of human disturbances beyond which co-existence with other mammals becomes difficult or impossible.
"We suggest that such thresholds are critical to consider when attempting to promote 'landscapes of coexistence' (i.e., ecological conditions that allow the long-term persistence of sensitive mammal species in human-dominated landscapes) and functional connectivity between populations, particularly as several large mammal species continue recolonizing modified landscapes in North America and globally," the researchers wrote.
Humans may have evolved to be tribalistic. Is that a bad thing?
- From politics to every day life, humans have a tendency to form social groups that are defined in part by how they differ from other groups.
- Neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, author Dan Shapiro, and others explore the ways that tribalism functions in society, and discuss how—as social creatures—humans have evolved for bias.
- But bias is not inherently bad. The key to seeing things differently, according to Beau Lotto, is to "embody the fact" that everything is grounded in assumptions, to identify those assumptions, and then to question them.
Many people believe that in the face of profound evil, they would have the courage to speak up. It might be harder than we think.
- After World War II, many psychologists wanted to address the question of how it was that people could go along with the evil deeds of fascist regimes.
- Solomon Asch's experiment alarmingly showed just how easily we conform and how susceptible we are to group influence.
- People often will not only sacrifice truth and reason to conformity but also their own health and sense of right and wrong.
It's the last question of the quiz, and Chloë knows the answer: it's Bolivia. Yes, it's definitely Bolivia. She went there last year, so she ought to know.
But then Shaun says it's Panama, and all the others agree with him. Chloë's sure it's Bolivia, but Shaun's so confident, the others now are nodding furiously along with him.
"What do you think, Chloë?" she's asked. She pauses for a moment.
"Yeah... Shaun's probably right. Put Panama," she mumbles.
The question of conformity
We've all been Chloë. Humans are social animals with families, tribes, and workplaces. So, it's no wonder that we try to fit in or conform. Social rejection is devastating, and we're biologically wired to avoid it. A sense of belonging and cooperation is essential to dealing with the world. Sometimes, though, this instinct can take us to ridiculous or dark places.
In the decades after World War II, politicians and academics were curious to know how it was that a country like Germany — so steeped in tradition, culture, and education — could fall into such a terrible regime within such a short time. Psychologists Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo conducted experiments to answer a question many everyday people were asking: "Could it happen here?"
Would you tell a laughing group of people that a joke was sexist or racist or bigoted? In your heart of hearts, do you think that you — surely a loving and kind person — would have had the courage to resist Nazism?
While the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments are pretty famous, one of the lesser known experiments was done in the early 1950s by Solomon Asch. They demonstrated just how far humans are willing to go for the sake of "fitting in" and conforming to the rules.
The Asch experiment
Asch had his volunteers perform a simple task: they were all given a series of lines drawn on a card and asked to choose which line was longest out of three options. The right answer was laughably obvious; for instance, line A was clearly the longest. When they were alone, people chose correctly nearly every time.
Asch then put his subjects in a group with actors who had been instructed to deliberately choose the wrong answer. Under these conditions, 75 percent of subjects agreed with the group consensus at least once, even though they were blatantly wrong.
What makes us conform?
A little surprised by this, Asch went on to do a series of related experiments and documented the factors that made it more or less likely that people will "conform" with the group consensus. Here are some of them:
The difficulty of the task. When there's a higher degree of ambiguity or uncertainty about the answer (for instance, the lines in the experiment weren't so obviously different), we're more likely to agree with others.
Reliability of the source. If someone within the group seems more reliable or knowledgeable about a topic — like a doctor about a disease — then we are more likely to go along with that person's view.
Publicity. People are much more likely to conform if they have to declare their judgment publicly rather than privately.
Degree of unanimity. The presence of merely one or two dissenting voices in a group of any size greatly increases the chances that others will not conform. Even one rebellious response is enough to make others follow suit.
The implications of conformity
Of course, conformity has implications far beyond quizzes with your friends or measuring lines.
A similar but more alarming study was conducted by John Darley and Bibb Latané in the 1970s. In this study, they had subjects appear for an apparent "job interview." As the subjects were waiting, smoke was slowly pumped into the room. If people were alone, they always would check to see what was wrong, or they would get up and leave.
But when subjects were in a room with actors pretending as if nothing was wrong, the majority made no move whatsoever. This happened despite people coughing and rubbing their eyes from all the smoke. Amazingly, people were willing to risk their own health rather than break with group behavior. (No wonder many of us are hesitant to interrupt a meeting at work to open a window because it's far too hot in the room.)
What do these experiments suggest about conformity? Well, as Asch said, we learned "that intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black." He concluded that it was "concerning." Indeed.
Would you tell a laughing group of people that a joke was sexist or racist or bigoted? In your heart of hearts, do you think that you — surely a loving and kind person — would have had the courage to resist Nazism? Psychology experiments strongly suggest you would not.
Undoubtedly, there are huge evolutionary, social, and emotional benefits to conformity. Many times, it has done great good. But equally true is that conformity can also bring out the darkest and worst in us.
Why are rapture ideologies exploding?
- The speed at which civilization is progressing has become overwhelming for modern humans and has caused what Jamie Wheal (author of Recapture the Rapture, founder of the Flow Genome Project, and host of the Collective Insights Podcast) calls a "collapse of meaning."
- For many, Meaning 1.0 (organized religion) and Meaning 2.0 (modern liberalism) no longer provide the structure and guidance that they used to. "It does feel like the handrails, the things we used to look to for stability and security, have evaporated," says Wheal. "If we've experienced a collapse of meaning, how do we go about restoring it?"
- In order to reach Meaning 3.0—which Wheal says is a blend of traditional religion and modern liberalism without the promise of an escape—we need to focus on mending trauma, reconnecting with inspiration, and connecting better with one another.