cover image City on a Grid: How New York Became New York

City on a Grid: How New York Became New York

Gerard Koeppel. Da Capo, $29.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-306-82284-1

Historian Koeppel (Bond of Union) continues his examinations of New York–centric infrastructure with a look at the story behind the development of New York City’s extraordinary 1811 street grid plan, which “defined the urbanism of a rising city and nation.” Devastated by the 9/11 attacks, Koeppel launched his expert investigation into what made the city special, using a photo from the early 1880s of early Manhattan that showed the grid—“a rectilinear plane of many parallel streets crossed at right angles”—in the midst of the newly developing Upper East Side neighborhood now known as Carnegie Hill. Koeppel is fascinated by the history of old New York; Manhattan’s grid, conceived by city planner Casimir Goerck and French designer Joseph François Mangin, came to make it both a “congested place” and an “orderly place of energy and industry.” Mangin’s plan met stout resistance from city commissioners and faced several challenges, but without any political alternative, it survived, sparking an influx of population and commerce. Koeppel’s bold commentary on the constant evolution of Gotham may stir controversy in some quarters, but he unabashedly celebrates the metropolis that has never learned what it means to grow old or stale. Maps and b&w photos. [em](Nov.) [/em]