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Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York
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Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  85 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Winner of the 2015 PROSE Award for US History

A “fascinating, encyclopedic history…of greater New York City through an ecological lens” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)—the sweeping story of one of the most man-made spots on earth.

Gotham Unbound recounts the four-century history of how hundreds of square miles of open marshlands became home to six percent of the nation’s
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Simon & Schuster (first published June 1st 2014)
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Peter Mcloughlin
Ecology, Wildlife and conservation and the history of NYC are usually kept in between the covers of the same book. NYC is not someones idea of a wildlife refuge. Instead it is called rightly the most engineered environment on earth. 400 years ago the area that would become NYC was woodlands and marshes surrounding a river estuary where timber wolves roamed. The history of New York city is one of humans and machines filling in wetlands, dividing Manhattan into a gridded metropolis of rising skys ...more
Juliana Rose
Gotham Unbound is by turns heartbreaking and fascinating, an absolute must read for anyone interested in the greatest city on earth and how it came to be. It's a fitting title, as the author literally unbinds the city from the strictures of today to show us its past.

As a child born in Queens, raised on Long Island, and living in Manhattan, I would presume this book means more to me than it might to those who aren't intimately acquainted with the places the author discusses. It's exciting to read
Wils Cain
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was just great! The full history of greater New York from wooded hilly terrain to the metropolis we know today. Didn't realize how much man-made extension into the rivers/harbor there is and how much original swamp / marsh land was destroyed for expansion and construction. And who knew in the 19th Century they would sink older boats to start foundation of building out into the river.
Randall Wallace
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Prior arrival to the Dutch, Manhattan was under the collective stewardship of the native population. And so, a sustainable socialist society was removed to make way for modern Manhattan. Whites like to think of the $24 price for Manhattan as a great bargain but few were taught the indigenous were generous in hopes of establishing a reciprocal relationship. Manhattan Island in white hands then became a capitalist tool for generating wealth. Next came the “burying streams, glistening ponds and gre ...more
Michael Shaw
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it
The book told the ecological story of NYC. It is essentially a history of New York, focused more on the earlier years, told from the standpoint of the natural environment. its a good idea, but not always well executed. The book is sometimes quite dull—going on and on about particular details without providing the context. Further, the author’s anti-development bias comes out in a few places, and it doesn’t seem very rationalized.
Tom Burke
Jun 27, 2015 rated it liked it
I have always wondered what the New York City landscape looked like before the concrete came. Well this book sure answers that question.

It begins with Henry Hudson's discovering of the North River and ends with Hurricane Sandy pounding the entire metropolitan area. Steinberg knows his science and, at times, this is his classroom. We hear about a smaller Manhattan Island overrun by foxes, forests, fauna and flora of all kinds. My personal favorite, mountain lions!

The history here is pretty stark
Paul Pessolano
Apr 27, 2014 rated it liked it
“Gotham Unbound” by Ted Steinberg, published by Simon and Schuster.

Category – History/Ecology Publication Date – June 03, 2014

If you are a New Yorker, or if you want to know about the history and ecology of New York this will be an excellent read. I am neither but I must admit that there are parts of this book that amazed me and kept me reading it until the end. The book is very detailed and contains too much information for a reader that has little interest in New York history and specifically
Aug 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
He calls it the ecological history of greater New York. It will help any reader understand the relationships between nature and man and his works. For four centuries New York and New Jersey have been filling in meadows and marshlands. He focuses on the relationships between the land and water and the effects on humans and animal life. I didn't realize how much of New York was built on garbage and how much water under the land there still is. I have a better understanding of the impact from Hurri ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it liked it
This book outlines in great detail everything that New York has done to change the physical environment of the city. Mostly this means altering shorelines and filling in marshes -- turning water to land. It's interesting stuff, and goes far beyond what I knew had happened. But the writing is dry (boom!) and the tone is a bit sanctimonious. It's clear that the author disapproves of everything that has ever happened to change New York at all, and there are parts where this really wears on the read ...more
Lawrence A
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent ecological history of the New York City metro area, and what we've done to our rivers, estuaries, wetlands, harbors, and forests in the name of growth, the long-term price of living on landfill, and how densely populated urban living has made us more energy efficient while increasing the risks of storms, sea rise, and flooding. It also makes one understand why our official city birds are the seagull and the pigeon, rather than the osprey, heron, or plover.
Cary Kostka
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: environment
The book was very well written and covers a ton of material in a short amount of time. The amount of references and data that the author presents is second to none. He captures the readers attention and imagination when going into the details surrounding ecological events in NYC; I had no problem "seeing" things as they were or how the events unfolded.
Jun 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a really cool book for anyone who lives or spends a lot of time in NYC. Now when I walk around, I wonder about how the land beneath me has been changed. It's made me a little cynical towards parks.
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and thought-provoking book. I am not a New Yorker (as they say, it's a nice place to visit, but...) but this book gave me a much better sense of what Gotham is all about. Well-written and a pleasure to read, though it would have benefited from more pictures and maps.
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
A bit of a slog sometimes, but very interesting. A must read if you're a science teacher in the NY metro area.
Heather De armas
Jun 29, 2015 rated it liked it
A nice easy read about the ecology of Manhattan and how it changed. Worth it.
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