We all know that, as far as man is concerned, the face of the world has undergone more change during the 19th century than it has in all preceding centuries combined. Yet it is probably that if any child born today lives to become 100 years old, he will witness even greater changes than those of which the present day centenarian may boast. It is only necessary to take the various avenues of civic development and follow them to what must be their natural conclusions to appreciate this.
In the mere matter of the city’s growth, based on prevailing ideas, you may figure that if New York has multiplied in area and population over 50 times during the last 100 years, there will be in the year 2001 a metropolis extending half way down Long Island and up the state so far that cities like Poughkeepsie will be lost within its confines, much as old Greenwich village was lost within the spreading confines of Manhattan — in short, a city bigger than the combined 20 largest cities of the present day.
The possibilities of such a condition, judged by 19th century standards, truly may be said to be grim. Supplying such a city with food and drink, clothes and heat, transportation and amusement will be a task which, if suddenly put upon the nation, would tax its resources to the utmost, and even as an accretion of time it will invoke the cumulative ingenuity of the century’s economists to come. It is quite possible that the perfection of the flying machine and other inventions now merely hinted at will before suggesting what these radical changes could be, let us first see what a wonderful place New York will be a century hence in the natural course of events.
Strange New Motive Power
Mechanical power, easily produced, widely distributed and readily available for man, woman and child, will be perhaps the great distinguishing feature of future New York. It may be merely electrical power as we know it now, in which case it will be furnished probably by the tides harnessed to gigantic generators. It may be power generated directly from sunlight; or the gases of the air may be utilized. It may even be some form of energy as yet not understood — the kind Keely said he had harnessed — but, at any rate, it will be a universal agent. It will be used on the aerial and the underground railways, for the moving stairways of private houses, for cooking and for lighting the buildings, the miles of streets, the innumerable crossways and the subterranean passages under the thoroughfares.
This power problem must surely be solved by 2001, else the congestion in places will be truly terrific. The millions hurrying to and fro could not be handled according to nineteenth century ideas. The suburbanite hurrying at night to his home near Albany or to Block Island, or the man living on the outskirts of the city, in what once was Peekskill, would not get home in time for dinner if he were compelled to be one of fifty thousand waiting in line to buy a ticket at some ancient “L” ticket window. Many ways of egress from town will be provided for him. He will need aerial railways and underground roads, with trains running at terrific speed.