When we think of New York City, we tend to honor the big financiers and the Broadway babies who’ve made it here—the Rockefeller
and so on. But, apart perhaps from the very mixed blessing of Robert Moses
, the engineers, laborers, and others who built the subways, bridges, and tunnels that made it possible for eight million people to come to and from work and generate wealth don’t get their due.
That was the lesson I drew from taking the Circle Line
(finally!) on a semi-circular tour of the island of Manhattan. I’d never realized that that Holland
tunnels were named after their designers, and that those towers sticking out of the Hudson and East Rivers were ventilation shafts. I’d never paid much attention to them: more shame me. I’d also never considered how much New York is still a working harbor and an industrialized center, full of decrepit, but apparently still functioning factories and derricks, and piles of shale and containers. Apparently, the port of New York is experiencing something of a revival, which nicely offsets the idea of New York as only about the moving of money and trading in abstractions.