The Hidden History of Hudson Yards

hudson yards

Once a forlorn industrial district on the edge of Manhattan, Hudson Yards has emerged as a trendy place to live, work and visit in recent years. A veritable city within a city, the development sprawls across 28 acres of open railyard just west of Penn Station, posing a unique engineering challenge but also a prime opportunity for the city. After years of failed attempts to redevelop the declining industrial district, construction is now in full swing and the general area has seen a boom in new residences, hotels, office buildings and retail. Although the area I destined to be a major commercial, residential and cultural center in the near future, few people understand the history of it. Here’s a quick look at the hidden history of Hudson Yards.

The area’s history dates back generations to the arrival of railroads in the middle of the 19th century. The area developed into a thriving industrial district, crisscrossed by various railroads and adjacent to the bustling Hudson River docks. The area fell into decline after World War II and despite several redevelopment initiatives like the opening of the Javits Center in 1986 and the West Side Yard for Long Island Rail Road trains in 1987, the neighborhood remained to isolated and lacking in amenities for success.

All of this changed dramatically when New York City began its bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics in the early 2000s. The Olympics, in the eyes of the Bloomberg Administration, offered a prime opportunity to finally redevelop the declining and isolated industrial district into a world-class urban showpiece. A $3.7 billion plan announced in February 2004 included an extension of the 7 train to a new stop in the area, an expansion of the Javits Center, a new sports stadium for the Olympics and a massive, mixed-use rezoning.

The city officially rezoned the Hudson Yards district for new development in January 2005, though the defeat of the stadium plans in Albany and the loss of the Summer Olympics to London put a hitch in the grand redevelopment plan. Nevertheless, the city decided to forge ahead with the new development over the railyards, opting for new residences in lieu of a sports venue.

The extension of the 7 train began in late 2007 and the contract awarded to redevelop the railyards in March 2008, though the financial crisis and Great Recession threw another serious complication into the plan. In December 2009, a new developer was brought aboard and the western railyard was officially rezoned. The luring of Coach to a new office tower at the railyards in late 2011 proved to be a major milestone and construction began officially in December 2012. Another key milestone occurred in September 2015 as the new subway station finally opened at Hudson Yards, providing direct access to the rest of the city and metropolitan area.

Today, Hudson Yards is booming with construction. Although not set to be fully completed until the mid-2020s, the development has already reshaped the city’s landscape and provided a blueprint for modern urban redevelopment projects.