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Racial harmony and rocket-powered monorails: New York's 1962 mayor predicts 2012

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Robert Wagner, the mayor of New York City in 1962, forecasts what he believes will exist in the New York of 2012.

New York City stock 1020
New York City stock 1020

In 1962, the city of New York had just opened the Philharmonic Hall, the first part of Manhattan's Lincoln Center. Mayor Roger F. Wagner, Jr. saw the Hall as the first step towards a glorious future New York, writing a "forecast" of 2012's city in The New York Times Magazine. Although his optimism is sometimes almost unbearable, it's gratifying to see parts of Wagner's predictions come true. Some of the city's slums have indeed developed into thriving neighborhoods despite economic problems in the 1970s and '80s, and as he hoped, the Lincoln Center became home to dozens more venues. Racial discrimination is hardly a "legend," but in many ways New York is still a "city where all races and nations meet and mingle."

For better or worse, other predictions remain unfulfilled. Wagner was probably right to say "the air will be far less poisoned with soot and fumes," but the factories he hoped would "have moved from the hinterlands of America into the great super-city of metropolitan New York" are now less likely to be in America at all. His vision of public transit — involving "rocket-powered vehicles suspended from monorails" or "huge vertical-rising helicopters" for moving between boroughs — also remains sadly unimplemented, although even he stopped short of suggesting a train through the Statue of Liberty's mouth. As he predicted, newspapers are more consolidated, but their future is uncertain, and we're not sure he would agree that we now make "more adult and responsible use of our increased number of television channels." You can read the whole thing over at Retronaut, and we'll spare you our analysis of whether New Yorkers remain "the most sophisticated, the most particular, the most concerned, and the best-informed people in any city in the world."