In 1916, New York became the first city in America to implement a comprehensive zoning resolution. Now, exactly 100 years later, the Museum of the City of New York shines the spotlight on the century-old zoning laws through an exhibit that explores the changing face of one of the world’s most dynamic cities.
Titled “Mastering the Metropolis: New York and Zoning, 1916-2016,” the show attempts to explain the city’s zoning laws in relation to the various debates those laws have spawned over the years. The zoning laws’ impact across the five boroughs has been powerful and everlasting, whether in the form of Manhattan’s iconic skyscrapers and its theater district, supermarkets in the Bronx or single-family homes in Queens. In fact, some of New York’s most recognizable landmarks – notably the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building – were built as a direct result of the zoning laws.
Visitors to the museum can gain a better understanding of New York’s zoning laws via architectural renderings and models, info-graphics, rare maps and archival photographs and film. There are over 150 objects and artifacts on display, including architectural models of famed skyscrapers like the Equitable Building, the Woolworth Building and the McGraw-Hill Building, as well as contemporary photographs of city neighborhoods that have been affected by the zoning codes.
“Museumgoers will leave ‘Mastering the Metropolis’ with a full understanding of how invisible forces like zoning policy affect our daily lives, and a deeper appreciation of how our unparalleled skyline and neighborhoods, from the Bronx to Staten Island, came to look and feel as they do today,” says Whitney Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York.
“Mastering the Metropolis: New York and Zoning, 1916-2016” is on view until April 23 at the Museum of the City of New York.