1969, again

What a find. Picked up at the Strand. This is the New York City Planning Commission’s “1969 Plan for New York City,” published under Mayor Lindsay, all six volumes (one for each borough, plus one titled “Critical Issues”). These are oversized (17 in. sq.), and packed with incredible information graphics, photography and design. Famous Magnum photographers (Helen Levitt, Andre Kertesz, Robert Frank) were commissioned to produce images of the city. Beautiful satellite photographs and giant pull-out maps in fantastic colors. It’s a fascinating portrait of NYC in decline, on the eve of its crisis. More images after the jump.



  1. I covet your find. The Plan for New York 1969 is famous for its info graphics. A work of art.

  2. Jennifer Wallick

    My dad, Philip Wallick, was the Director! I have a perfect set and only wish there was some way to have a digital rendition of it.

    • Deborah Schulze

      Hi there!

      I also have a set, however, I am missing volume 2. Any thoughts on where I may find it? And also, does anyone know how many of these were printed??

      Thanks a bunch!!!


  3. Jennifer Wallick

    I asked my father who is now 87 and he told me that 10,000 sets were printed. I then responded with why so few existed now and he sighed and said that any people after years thought it was too large to keep and simply threw them away but to the chagrin of many an urban planner, architect, and historian. he said that of the 10,000, 2,000 were sold/given to MIT Press which had their own imprint on their sets. MIT has an open source library and I could see [but did not do a thorough look] that the Critical Issues and Bronx volumes are on online. My dad, Philip Wallick, presumes the rest are too so take a look. Also, 2 years ago my dad donated the second set he had to the NYC Planning Commission as they were also going to digitzed it. I just found this out yesterday. They could also be contacted. Interested to know who you are Debbie and your interest. It warmed my dad’s heart that there are still people out there that appreciate the extraordinary work this was on so many fronts. The incredible group of photographers [some neighbors of our in Brooklyn Heights], the extraordinary array of maps, etc. Thank you for taking interest in what some have called “a gem in the rough”. Be well, Jenny

  4. Jennifer Wallick

    So wish you all would get the word out. I think that it is something of historical significance and I am curious what you paid for it at Strand. I bet it was a great deal. There are those [like Beverly Spatt who is named in the Plan] who put theirs up for auction for the price” “Priceless” Hmmm…

  5. Jennifer Wallick

    Sorry about the typos in the above posts by me but there is no spell check here. Lo siento.

  6. Hello all —

    it’s so nice to see this thread developing after my original post (gulp) 6.5 years ago! I think these publications are extraordinary and I know there is interest in having them be more accessible online. Not just from urban planners, but the design world, too. I’m starting to think about how I could do that…I would love to create an online home for this beautiful project.

    I don’t remember what I paid for the set at the Strand. I think it was between $100 and $200. The books are in good (not perfect) condition, as you can see from the photos. I think there may have been a special case or box that they came in? I don’t have that.

    Thanks for all of your comments…

  7. Wow. Brings back memories of finding an enormous book, not one of these, I don’t think, at NYU’s library. It was done by the Landmark Commission. It told the history of every single building in Greenwich Village (perhaps other areas of the city had their own volumes. I don’t remember.) I got it from the library because my grandmother was born before the turn of the century on Houston street. I wanted to see how many of the buildings I walked by were ones that she had walked by, too, so long ago. At that time, the vast majority still stood.

    Yes, yes, yes, these books you’ve shown us should be online. God, I’m glad you, in particular, have them in your hands.

  8. I also have two of these truly marvellous books. #1 and #5. They aren’t in best shape and where quite expensive, especially with shipping and customs to get them to Germany. But when I opended the pack after I hauled it home from the customs office I was awe-struck. I couldn’t really imagine the size from photos. Absolutely worth getting them, especially for someone interested in books, design, typography, infographics, architecture and urban planning like me.

  9. I meant to mention but forgot in my above comment — as much as I am for putting the books online, that just wouldn’t at all compare to browsing these vast volumes in person.

  10. I just finished going through a lot of atlases I purchased at a university surplus sale. It includes the 6 volume set in very good condition, most likely attributable to their hardcover bindings. I, too, view them as works of art, but I confess … I can’t help imagining them incorporated into a larger and creative displays, e.g. wall or floor tiles.

    Of course, I wouldn’t do that, but each book contains so many hidden gems that are begging to be “unbound” and set free ….

  11. In 1999 I was exiting on the service side of an elevator in an early, and iconic, condo conversion in DUMBO. The elevator door opened to a pile of trash on the floor that the porter had collected from the garbage rooms on the upper floors. As I walked over/through it, vibrant colors that I had seen on wrappers at a used book sale in Forest Hills a couple of weeks before caught my eye. It was, complete, in cloth bound slipcase and as close to mint as you can imagine, this set. It includes the unbound maps and the ruler. Yes, the set includes a plastic ruler! I suspect I know who discarded it–the Commissioner of Buildings for NYC, now deceased, lived there. But so did several architects. Who would keep this set for decades, clearly never as much as open it–none of the bindings are bent at the score–and then throw it away? Whoever it was…thank you. It has given me many hours of pleasure.

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