NYC Dramatically Transformed Into A Self-Sustaining City

NYC Dramatically Transformed Into A Self-Sustaining City

The result of a six year long project envisions supplying food, energy and everything else within the five boroughs.

Dave Pinter, PSFK
  • 27 february 2014

We’ve all heard New York described as the city that never sleeps. Spend just a short amount of time in NYC and the perpetual activity occurring throughout the city is obvious. What isn’t so apparent is how much energy it takes to keep NYC going and exactly where that energy comes from. If you remember the Northeast blackout of 2003, NYC was crippled by some sagging wires in Ohio that shorted out on tree branches. The 2013/2014 California drought is likely to mean higher costs for produce and dairy items clear across the US, all the way to the east coast. The supply chain feeding NYC extends far beyond the borders of the five boroughs, making the city dependent on a widely distributed array of resources, for better or worse.

Farming towers (above image) could be constructed at reclaimed spaces like above existing elevated rail lines. Each of these buildings has the estimated capacity to grow food for approximately 12,000 people.


Amsterdam Ave. in Manhattan could be recuperated for public transportation, agriculture, waste management, bikes and pedestrians with the decline or rerouting of private car traffic.

Terreform Research Group, a New York-based research center have revealed a vision of how NYC would look if it underwent a transformation to become self-sustaining. ‘New York City (Steady) State’ is their project which explores how autonomous NYC could become with food, waste, water, mobility, construction, air quality, manufacturing, and local climate regulation. The six year research project aimed to offer ideas and propose a scale of change required to successfully unhook the city from outside resources.

If the narrative sounds a bit utopian, Michael Sorkin, founder of Terreform is aware of the realities:

The energy required to light, heat, and build all of this is, we’ve calculated, approximately equivalent to the output of 25 nuclear power plants, an eventuality that is, to put it mildly, somewhat at odds with our larger intentions.

While the goal of the project was to look at transforming Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island as a whole, Terraform hope that the encyclopedia of ideas the project represents will have future value to cities looking at ways to have more efficient and ecological footprints.


New York City masterplan illustrating surface and rooftop green space and farming opportunities.


Proposed green rooftop food hubs in Midtown Manhattan.


147th St transformed into an urban farming block.


Prototype redeveloped city block courtyard where green space and urban farming opportunities are considered.


Vertical farming structure built over an existing elevated subway line.


Vertical tower designed to raise chickens features outdoor free roaming terraces.


Redesigned Fulton Street intersection with enclosed bus terminal.


Vacant lot transformed into a urban agriculture education center with modular food growing cells.


Source: ArchDaily, Aeon Magazine

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