Gotham Unbound:
The Ecological History of Greater New York

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Gotham Unbound Ecological HistoryGotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York (Simon & Schuster, June 2014) is Ted Steinberg’s sweeping ecological history of one of the most man-made spots on earth, from Mannahatta to Hurricane Sandy.

This is a heavily researched and well-written 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 – that’s 64,464 people per square mile.

Steinberg brings a unique view of the metropolitan area, not just one of a dense urban goliath but as an estuary once home to miles of oyster reefs, wolves, whales and blueberry thickets. That world gave way to an onslaught of humanity managed by thousands of ecological actors 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 reeds and gulls that thrive among them.

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

Author Ted Steinberg is Adeline Barry Davee Distinguished Professor of History and Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University. Born in Brooklyn, Steinberg received his PhD at Brandeis University in 1989. His publications have focused on the intersection of environmental, social, and legal history. His books include American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn; Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History, a National Outdoor Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize Nominee in History; Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America, a Pulitzer Prize Nominee in General Non-Fiction; and Nature Incorporated: Industrialization and the Waters of New England which won the Willard Hurst Prize in American Legal History and the Old Sturbridge Village E. Harold Hugo Memorial Book Prize.

Note: Books noticed on The New York History Blog have been provided by their publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

One thought on “Gotham Unbound:
The Ecological History of Greater New York

  1. Dave Reitman

    Question-After reading Gotham Unbound, what would happen if a dam was built between Brooklyn & Manhattan, cutting off The East River? Would that flood B’klyn & Manhattan, or would that just stop the tidal flow?


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