Rocket Powered Vehicles and Monorails in NYC. Mayor Wagner’s Vision

Back in 1962, former Mayor Robert Wagner had a vision for New York’s future. He wrote about it in the New York Times Magazine in October of 1962. He made predictions for what the city would be like 50 years into the future – in 2012. My, how time flies when you’re having fun in Fun City! Oh, that was a different mayor.

NYC apartments

New Yorkers move from their NYC apartments to and from work on giant helicopters.

The brings us this look back in time. Here are some of the highlights…

Rocket-powered cars, monorail and affordable apartments: New York of 2012… predicted by the city’s mayor 50 years ago

  • As well as super-fast transport, Mayor Robert F Wagner believed era would see end to racial and social division
  • Predicted most people would own their homes and all residents would get free university education
  • Believed skyscrapers would soar ever upward with public parks in the air
Of course, the prediction of affordable apartments by 2012 jumped off the page for me. Was he referring to apartments in Manhattan, or did he mean in all boroughs? Did he have anything to say about Brooklyn apartments? Queens apartments? Who knows. But his predictions have been way off the mark.
Some of his other predictions – He hoped the era would see an end to the social and racial divisions that had allowed many districts to be exclusively populated by one class or ethnic group. He also predicted that New Yorkers could all enjoy free access to university. He expected all neighborhoods would be completely mixed and the majority of the city’s residents owned their own comfortable and

manhattan apartments

Manhattan Apartments were expected to be towering skyscrapers with large outdoor areas for recreation and greenery.

affordable homes.

Yet many of his words also contain more than a grain of truth of the modern reality and some predictions are surprisingly prescient.

‘Starting from this point, we may safely say that in 2012 New York City will be a  city where all races and nations meet and mingle – a city of many cultures, each of which will be respected and prized,’ he wrote 29 years before his death in 1991.

‘As for slums, they will be just a memory of a rot that afflicted the city long ago.

Optimist: Robert F Wagner Jr served as New York City mayor between 1954 and 1965. He died in 1991Optimist: Robert F Wagner Jr served as New York City mayor between 1954 and 1965. He died in 1991

‘We may fervently hope that racial discrimination will be ply a legend, referred to as an illustrations of a past shame and injustice based on widespread public ignorance and prejudice.

There will be a series of cultural enclaves, but no racial, national, or even economic segregation.

‘There will still be a Harlem, a Yorkville, a Chelsea, a Riverdale, a Williamsburg, a Lower East Side, a Greenwich Village – but they will be open neighbourhoods of people who will live there and not because there is no place else for them to live.’

This prediction, although wildly optimistic, was at least correct to assume racially segregation in these neighbourhoods would no longer be quite so racially segregated.

The Lower East side has perhaps changed the most – from a packed ghetto for Jewish and eastern European families to a bohemian centre favoured by young professionals.

And he was not wrong when he wrote that ‘the charm and character of neighbourhoods will be foremost among the values to be preserved.

‘The emphasis will be on “difference” rather than conformity.’

Although economic division remains rife and nowhere better illustrates this than the housing market, where many residents who characterised neighbourhoods have been priced out.

In 1962, Mr Wagner predicted: ‘Many if not most apartments will be owned by the people living in them.

‘Rental housing will be generally for the very young, for newcomers and for transients.

‘To a greater and greater extent, housing will be built to promote the values of individual, family and community life rather than laid out with the sole object of renting  or selling to a particular economic group or class.’

The former mayor also believed that free facilities such as schools and museums would ‘have so multiplied that the most concentrated community in the world may also be the most cultured, the most creative, and the most varied – a free and open community of free minds and free spirits.

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Written by Lorenzo

Lorenzo has been hanging around the office for the past 24 years, and, in the process, has become the president of,, and His mission is to build into New York's largest no fee apartment rental service. Before, Lorenzo was a Regional Sales Manager for Time Equities, Inc., one of New York's largest converters of rental buildings to coops and condos. Lorenzo was once a part owner of Swift & Watson Real Estate in NYC's Greenwich Village.

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