An interdisciplinary account of the environmental history and changing landscape of New York City.
New York has attempted to balance progress with health, safety and aesthetics during the course of its development, argues Gandy, a scholar in geography and urban studies at the University College of London. Gandy has pieced together a fascinating environmental history of New York along five specific axes: the creation of a workable system of water supply, the developing concept of public space, the establishment of landscaped highways, the profound changes that environmentalism had on the Latino barrio in the 1960s and '70s, and environmentalism as a political movement. The facts accumulate somewhat haphazardly: Aaron Burr's 1799 Manhattan Water company never delivered on its promise to bring clean water to the city, but did become a major banking concern; Olmstead's Anglophile vision of Central Park "was anathema to Irish political and intellectual opinion"; the post-WWII "spread of car ownership" spawned trips similar to the 19th-century railroad's "nature tourism," leading to landscaped parkways. But by the end, Gandy ties them all convincingly and neatly to issues in contemporary environmentalism. By examining, for example, how health issues embraced by such militant community groups as the Black Panthers and the Young Lords translated into environmental activism in the 1970s, and how an unlikely coalition between Latino and Hasidic activists against a proposed Brooklyn Navy Yard waste incinerator challenged and changed New York's community politics, Gandy deftly and provocatively connects issues of health, politics, economics and urbanology in a compulsively readable (for the more wonkily inclined) and illuminating cultural analysis. (Apr.) Forecast: As pundits, developers, administrators and activists enter the debate over what to do with the World Trade Center site and how to do it, this history of the city's politico-environmental nexus should find its way into many of their hands, particularly those concerned about the site's toxicity. Heightened New York interest continues outside the city; expect solid sales from campus and issue-oriented shops. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.