On the morning of March 27, 1962, thousands of families learned that the State of New York had appropriated their homes and businesses in downtown Albany via eminent domain. In their place would be built a massive modern office complex, the Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, named for the man who envisioned transforming “historic but shabby” Albany into a “brilliant, beautiful, efficient and electrifying capital.”
Within the 98 acres seized by the state lived a diverse population of roughly 7,000 people, old and young, black and white, immigrant and native-born. Among them were renters, roomers, and homeowners. They were served by more than 400 businesses, most of them small—neighborhood groceries, grills, taverns, tailors, and shoemakers. Over the course of two-and-a-half years, as the State demolished 1,150 structures to clear 40 city blocks, residents and businesses were forced to move out. In their wake, an army of architects, contractors, and construction workers moved in.
Drawing on government documents, oral histories, and local reporting, this blog tells the stories of the 98 acres seized by the State, before demolition and during redevelopment. It is the rough draft for a book and part of a larger project, exploring how urban renewal changed one American city.
In combination with the book, we plan to use GIS software to digitally reconstruct and repopulate Albany’s lost 98 acres. A preview of this work will soon be available. Stay tuned!
David Hochfelder, University at Albany
Stacy Sewell, St. Thomas Aquinas College
Christopher Rees, University at Albany
Note: Header image of Albany in the spring of 1965 used by permission of the Times Union.