Waterfront Manhattan: From Henry Hudson to the High Line

Kurt C. Schlichting. Johns Hopkins Univ., $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4214-2523-8
Sociology professor Schlichting provides a useful addition to the growing number of accessible history books that examine the Big Apple through a narrow lens. While the city is no longer a central hub of maritime industry, Manhattan became a global power partly because of New York Harbor. Schlichting, who uses primary sources such as bills of entry and passenger lists, traces the results of the city government’s strategy, beginning in the 1730s and extending into the late 19th century, of funding waterfront infrastructure by selling underwater land to private developers who were to build the necessary wharves and piers. That choice not only affected the number of ships that could dock, but also enabled the development of ships that operated on set schedules, which facilitated significant immigration and altered the physical structure of the waterfront. In clearly labeled short sections chock-full of facts and figures, Schlichting carries the story through to the present, when private capital has again been used to develop the waterfront, this time for mostly residential use, and ends with the open question of whether the current “complex arrangement of private/public control will meet the environmental challenges to come,” such as rising water levels and hurricanes. Schlichting effectively employs his expertise and diligent research to produce a valuable and easy-to-follow reference highlighting the essential role of the waterfront in New York City’s development. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/19/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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