Archives For New York City


Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)


The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God

By Sarah Coakley

Read an excerpt from this book (via Google Books)


Continue Reading…


Walt Whitman
(Found in Walt Whitman: The Complete Poems )

WHAT hurrying human tides, or day or night?
What passions, winnings, losses, ardors, swim thy waters!
What whirls of evil, bliss and sorrow, stem thee!
What curious questioning glances–glints of love!
Leer, envy, scorn, contempt, hope, aspiration!
Thou portal–thou arena–thou of the myriad long-drawn lines and groups!
(Could but thy flagstones, curbs, facades, tell their inimitable tales;
Thy windows rich, and huge hotels–thy side-walks wide;)
Thou of the endless sliding, mincing, shuffling feet!
Thou, like the parti-colored world itself–like infinite, teeming, mocking life!
Thou visor’d, vast, unspeakable show and lesson!


“The Delight of Discovery

A Review of
Garden Guide: New York City.

By Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Garden Guide: New York City.
By Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry
Vinyl Flexicover : W.W. Norton, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

While the idea of a garden guide for New York City might seem unusual at first – this is, after all, the city that takes a beating for the size of the presumed ‘concrete jungle’ – the fact that just such a lengthy book exists is telling of an important aspect of urban places: namely, that gardens, parks, and green spaces are as integral to the fabric of healthy, diversified neighborhoods as anything; but also, as David Owen makes clear in Green Metropolis, the very density of NYC is one of the ‘greenest’ things it has going. New York’s gardens, scattered in-between buildings, along streets, on roofs, or in the occasional large park, become all the more valued because each plot of ground is precious, which is to say, each garden must do the most with the space given for it – none of this endless acreage of sprawling lawns and vacant lots such as are found in a city like Indianapolis, where I’m writing. Rather, creative uses are required for gardens in a city like New York, and so rooftops, the smallest vacant lots, and an old elevated train line all become valued green spaces alongside buildings, roadways, and the rest of city life.

A new revised edition of Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry’s Garden Guide: New York City documents over 80 gardens in New York’s five boroughs, and this number, it seems, is a relatively small selection, as the authors cite that there are over 400 community gardens alone in NYC. And within this guide, there is a full representation of many of these community gardens, along with city park-owned properties, private institutions with public green spaces, museums, churches, and municipal buildings, all with site-specific garden spaces in the midst of the city. Additionally, all of the gardens described in the book have visiting information, a ‘best season,’ and websites in most cases; through the bulk of the guide, these gardens are grouped geographically, but at the close, there are other classifications for gardens, such as ‘Best Vegetable Gardens,’ ‘Gardens With a View,’ or ‘Rooftop Gardens.’

Continue Reading…


“A Conversation With the History of a Place”

A Review of
A Natural History of New York City.
Eric Sanderson.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

A Natural History of New York City.
Eric Sanderson.
Hardback: Abrams, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

My observations and conclusions thus far sum up to this: In our American cities, we need all kinds of diversity, intricately mingled in mutual support. We need this so city life can work decently and constructively, and so the people of cities can sustain (and further develop) their society and civilization.
— Jane Jacobs,  Death and Life of Great American Cities, 137

Mannahatta - Eric SandersonJane Jacobs’ Manhattan in the 1960s was already a megalopolis with approximately the 1.6 million people that live there today. The marks of a healthy city community she identified – such as density, diversified uses of spaces, and neighborhoods –   turn out to be equally useful when describing natural ecologies, namely the pre-colonial island of Mannahatta, home to at least fifty-five distinct “ecological communities” of old-growth forests, salt marshes, swamps and the like, several hundred plant and animal species, and a human population of between two- and six-hundred people, the Lenape. The monumental task of assembling a vision of Manhattan as Henry Hudson and company would have first seen it on September 12, 1609 has been the task of Eric Sanderson, a landscape ecologist based out of the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo. Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City is the resulting book chronicling years of research and map-making, and filled out with extensive illustrations of the verdant green of Mannahatta (that’s right) by Markley Boyer, which are a striking contrast when acting as diptychs with bird’s-eye photographs of present-day Manhattan.

Continue Reading…


Here is a fabulous video which serves both as an excellent introduction to Eric Sanderson’s new book Mannahatta (to be reviewed by Brent Aldrich in next week’s issue of the ERB), and as an overview of social artist Fritz Haeg’s Lenape Edible Estate project in Manhattan (Fritz Haeg’s book Edible Estates was named as one of our Best Books of 2008.)  You won’t want to miss this captivating video.
(~15 minutes long)

Mannahatta: A Natural History of NYC.
Eric Sanderson.

Hardback: Abrams, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn.
Fritz Haeg.

Paperback: Metropolis Books, 2008.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

The Story of Mannahatta and the Lenape Edible Estate from fritz haeg on Vimeo.


“The Transformative Love
of a Place”

A Review of
Wrestling with Moses:
How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s
Master Builder and Transformed the American City

By Anthony Flint.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Wrestling with Moses:
How Jane Jacobs Took on NewYork’s
Master Builder and Transformed the American City

Anthony Flint.
Hardcover: Random House, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Wrestling with Moses - Anthony FlintWriting in 1980, Michel de Certeau characterizes two uses of the space of the city; one is the “panoramic-city” of the “space planner urbanist, city planner or cartographer” who have views of the city afforded by high places, where the details of life are no longer visible. Conversely, “the ordinary practitioners of the city live ‘down below’…they walk – an elementary form of this experience of the city.” These two images are useful when thinking about two influential figures who have come to represent contrasting ends of city planning in recent history, Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. Just a glimpse at the cover of Anthony Flint’s new book Wrestling With Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City show Jacobs on the sidewalk, and there is Moses, looming large above a table-sized model of Manhattan, new highways bisecting it.

That both Jacobs and Moses made significant contributions to urban redevelopment while living in New York City in the 1930s – 1970s brings into focus their opposing approaches to neighborhoods in two large projects proposed by Moses and blocked by Jacobs. Wrestling With Moses centers around Washington Square Park and Jacob’s home in Greenwich Village, and the later proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway (Lomex) in what is now Soho. First narrating biographies of Jacobs and Moses, Flint characterizes the two visions for city development as practiced by Jacobs and Moses best when they come up directly against each other.

Continue Reading…


Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Walt Whitman


Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west–sun there half an hour high–I see you also face
to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious
you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning
home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more
to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.


The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme, myself disintegrated, every
one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on
the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others.

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the
heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half
an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others
will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the
falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.
Continue Reading…


A Brief Review of
The Bird Catcher, A novel by Laura Jacobs.

Hardback: St. Martins, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Brittany Sanders.

After reading the synopsis on The Bird Catcher’s dustjacket, I presumed that Laura Jacobs’ promised story of a New York City window dresser with a penchant for bird-watching would portray a woman who was either pretentiously cosmopolitan, refined yet boring, or both. I was pleasantly disappointed when the title character turned out to be an intriguing introvert named Margaret Snow, who is neither unabashedly urban nor an erudite snob. A true lover of natural beauty, Margaret’s passion for birding somehow coexists (and perhaps delicately offsets) her career as a designer of department store windows, leaving her equal parts artist and biologist.

    Told with understated compassion and painful realism, Margaret’s story of purpose, loss, and self re-discovery catches one off guard. It is well-paced, well-written, and fearless – sometimes a bit too much so. The several intimate sex scenes, though not irrelevant to the plot, provide an unnecessary amount of detail, distracting from and tarnishing what is otherwise an impressive display of narrative control. But what works against Jacobs also works for her, as this same fearlessness lends an appealing authenticity to her fictional heroine’s thoughts and actions. Margaret admits, “She felt tricked by ego, tricked by sex, and tricked by her own inexperience, which led her to believe that her body’s hunger was also her heart’s.” Lines like this reveals Jacobs’ wisdom, even when her narrative tact might be in question.

    Lest one think the title is some clever metaphor, be prepared for several chapters devoted to Margaret’s graphic, step-by-step taxidermy projects, as her fascination with birds morphs from lifelong hobby to consuming obsession to a remarkable (and illegal) artistic zenith. Within this progressive mania, as the details of her personal life slip out in poignant vignette-like moments, one realizes just how much Margaret has lost. As she recalls a friend saying, “I’m not sure that’s true . . . that you can only destroy something once.” But this dark truth is countered with the words of Margaret’s husband, Charles: “Poets never stop singing . . . no matter what you take from them.”

    It becomes clear that Jacobs is not afraid of the ugliness of grief, maybe because she believes in the end it will not win; its reign will be usurped by hope and song. Almost akin to skinning birds, she seems to accept—even revel—in the messy process required to create a beautiful mount. In that way, perhaps The Bird Catcher is both metaphorical and literal. Either way, Jacobs’ novel trudges through the emotional spectrum with brave, deliberate steps. If you can handle meticulous details of eviscerated birds and broken human hearts, The Bird Catcher delivers a memorable, authentic story.


New York at Night
Amy Lowell

A near horizon whose sharp jags
Cut brutally into a sky
Of leaden heaviness, and crags
Of houses lift their masonry
Ugly and foul, and chimneys lie
And snort, outlined against the gray
Of lowhung cloud. I hear the sigh
The goaded city gives, not day
Nor night can ease her heart, her anguished labours stay.
Below, straight streets, monotonous,
From north and south, from east and west,
Stretch glittering; and luminous
Above, one tower tops the rest
And holds aloft man’s constant quest:
Time! Joyless emblem of the greed
Of millions, robber of the best
Which earth can give, the vulgar creed
Has seared upon the night its flaming ruthless screed.
O Night! Whose soothing presence brings
The quiet shining of the stars.
O Night! Whose cloak of darkness clings
So intimately close that scars
Are hid from our own eyes. Beggars
By day, our wealth is having night
To burn our souls before altars
Dim and tree-shadowed, where the light
Is shed from a young moon, mysteriously bright.
Where art thou hiding, where thy peace?
This is the hour, but thou art not.
Will waking tumult never cease?
Hast thou thy votary forgot?
Nature forsakes this man-begot
And festering wilderness, and now
The long still hours are here, no jot
Of dear communing do I know;
Instead the glaring, man-filled city groans below!