Manhattan Evacuation Plan Reveals Island’s Old Contours

As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the Atlantic Coast in October, 2012, many residents are becoming familiar with the emergency evacuation map, a part of which is shown above (taken from Google and the New York Times Online.) In the evacuation map, the area in red is Zone A, the lowest-lying areas of the city that are the first to be evacuated in case of expected flooding. The orange area is Zone B and the yellow Zone C.

It is interesting to compare the evacuation map to a 1776 map of the island before much of the coastline was augmented by landfill. The eastern line of Zone A along the Hudson River runs along Greenwich Street, which was at the waterfront in 1776. The old slips on the East River extend inland to Queen Street, now Pearl Street, which is near where Zone A runs along the East River.

Also notable on the 1776 map is Bayard’s Mount, the high land rising in the area marked “Marshy Ground”  north and northwest of the old Collect Pond. The pond was drained in the early 19th Century and Bayard’s Mount was leveled to fill it in, but as can be seen in the evacuation plan, the pond and the marsh left their mark on modern Manhattan in the form of a hook-shaped low area delineated by the border of Zone B.

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