American Metropolis: A History of New York City

George L. Lankevich, Author
George L. Lankevich, Author New York University Press $55 (273p) ISBN 978-0-8147-5148-0
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Paperback - 273 pages - 978-0-8147-5149-7
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There is no city in the world more colorful than New York, and Lankevich, a retired history professor and contributor to The Encyclopedia of New York City, offers a detailed, absorbing narrative of the city that starts in 1524 with its initial discovery by Giovanni da Verrazano. The early history of New York is that of the country, as it was a hotbed of action during the Revolutionary War and the nation's first capital. During the 19th century many dramatic events made their impression on the city: mass immigration; the building of the Erie Canal; and the advent of the city's massive aqueduct and reservoir system. But the thing that Lankevich does so well is to link the city's politicians to their epoch. We have Boss Tweed, a man of mass corruption, who also made major contributions in the areas of fire prevention, education and the arts. The early part of the century is defined here by Mayor George B. McClellan Jr.'s organizational muscle, while the '30s are not called (as they so often are) the Depression Era, but rather ""The La Guardia Era,"" after the enormously popular mayor. These mayors were followed by rogues (William O'Dwyer), bunglers (John Lindsay, Abe Beame, David Dinkins) and showmen (Ed Koch). Plenty of information on New York's infrastructure, and on its international importance--both as a cultural/financial center and as a home for immigrants--make this a terrific primer on the Big Apple. 20 photos not seen by PW. (July)
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