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The BookBrowse Review

Published May 21, 2014

ISSN: 1930-0018

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The BookBrowse Review

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Book Jacket

Gotham Unbound
The Ecological History of Greater New York
by Ted Steinberg
3 Jun 2014
544 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN-13: 9781476741246
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This is the story of the monumental struggle between New York and the natural world. From Henry Hudson's discovery of Mannahatta to Hurricane Sandy, Gotham Unbound is Ted Steinberg's sweeping ecological history of one of the most man-made spots on earth.

Here is a tale of "the world with us" - lots of us - a groundbreaking book that recounts the four-century history of how hundreds of square miles of open marshlands became home to six percent of the nation's population.

Steinberg vividly brings a vanished New York back to life. You will see the metropolitan area anew, not just as a dense urban goliath but as an estuary once home to miles of oyster reefs, wolves, whales, and blueberry bog thickets. That world gave way to an onslaught managed by thousands, from Governor John Montgomerie, who turned water into land, and John Randel, who imposed a grid on Manhattan, to Robert Moses, Charles Urstadt, Donald Trump, and Michael Bloomberg.

This book is a powerful account of the relentless development that New Yorkers wrought as they plunged headfirst into the floodplain and transformed untold amounts of salt marsh and shellfish beds into a land jam-packed with people, asphalt and steel, and the reeds and gulls that thrive among them.

With metropolitan areas across the globe on a collision course with rising seas, Gotham Unbound is a penetrating history that helps explain how one of the most important cities in the world wound up in such a perilous situation.

"Starred Review. Describing an island estuary that became one of the world's most densely populated cities, this fascinating, encyclopedic history views three centuries of continuous transformation of greater New York City through an ecological lens. - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Richly researched and illustrated - a wholly edifying account." - Kirkus

"This is environmental history at its best, and a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered what lies ahead for New York City." - Edwin Burrows, coauthor of the Pulitzer Prize winning Gotham

"Magnificently demonstrated in this unique, highly revealing history of Greater New York, prize-winning author Ted Steinberg is a pioneer in the field of ecological history ...Every page about this eastern landed frontier reveals the world's leading city from a fresh, crucially important perspective." - Walter LaFeber, winner of the Bancroft Prize and Tisch University Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, and author of The American Age

"This is the best history of an American city I have read - stunningly original, brilliant in research and argument, delightful to read, and vital for our urban future." - Donald Worster, winner of the Bancroft Prize, University of Kansas and Renmin University of China, author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir

"Steinberg shows how the development of Manhattan's waterways and lands - often out of sight - shaped the creation of today's New York City. He reminds us that unnatural cities stubbornly remain part of the natural world - and that world has a history. To really understand New York City, leave Wall Street behind, put on your hip-waders, and jump in the bog." - Louis Hyman, Cornell University

"Lively, deeply researched, and well told, a pleasure to read and cogitate upon." - Eric Rauchway, University of California, Davis

Ted Steinberg is the Adeline Barry Davee Distinguished Professor of History and Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1961, Steinberg has held fellowships from the Michigan Society of Fellows, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and Yale University. He has worked as an environmental historian for twenty-five years and is the author of five other books.

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