It was controversial then: John Randel, the surveyor and engineer who drafted and executed the grid plan, and associates were "pelted with artichokes and cabbages; arrested by the sheriff for trespassing (and often bailed out by Richard Varick, a former mayor); sued for damages after pruning trees; and attacked by dogs sicced on them by property owners irate at the prospect of streets’ being plowed through their properties," Roberts wrote in a sidebar. And the plan remains controversial to this day.
What everyone can agree on is that the grid laid the groundwork, somewhat literally, for the development that would consume Manhattan over the subsequent decades, which outpaced even the commissioners' expectations: in 1811, they imagined that in 50 years the population could rise as high as 400,000. By 1860, it was double that. From 1842 to 1860, the value of Manhattan real estate doubled. The grid also proved resilient, Roberts writes: "It accommodated motor vehicles (after sidewalks and stoops were pruned). It allowed planners to superimpose Central Park in the 19th century"—because planners incorporated almost no parks in their design, figuring residents would seek recreation on the riverfronts—"and superblocks like those of Stuyvesant Town and Lincoln Center in the 20th."
But not everyone is convinced that Manhattan turned out for the best. Consider, for example, the psychic toll it took. “I still think it distances us from our natural surroundings, and it has given us a slightly spurious and diminished mental geometry,” an author told Roberts. “We think more in terms of linear blocks than neighborhoods.”