TAMING MANHATTAN

From 1815 to 1865, as city blocks encroached on farmland to accommodate Manhattan's exploding population, prosperous New Yorkers developed new ideas about what an urban environment should contain--ideas that poorer immigrants resisted. As Catherine McNeur shows, taming Manhattan came at the cost of amplifying environmental and economic disparities

…a scholarly history that tells an odd story in lively prose. This book implicitly alludes to the urban revival now stretching from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Me., but whatever your thoughts on brewpubs and bike lanes, you probably haven’t read a municipal history that has a mayor “ready to tackle the hog problem”…[Taming Manhattan] is a smart book that engages in the old-fashioned business of trying to harvest lessons for the present from the past. Best of all, a quiet rage animates Ms. McNeur’s writing, a dismay at the inequalities of the past that, she clearly believes, have survived into the present.
— Alexander Nazaryan, New York Times Book Review
Nearly two centuries before the Occupy Movement, New Yorkers rich and poor clashed over what shape their young city should take. In this superb history, McNeur recovers the bitter battles over feral hogs and untamed dogs, public parks, safe and pure food, effective sanitation, and the fate of the underclass. Making a safer and cleaner city for some, she concludes, also created a shadow city of poverty and filth for others. Taming Manhattan is a thrilling, vivid expedition into Gotham’s wild and often violent past.
— Matthew Klingle, author of Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle
In the decades before the Civil War, New York was rapidly becoming the largest and most important city in the western hemisphere. But mad dogs and wild pigs roamed its streets; garbage heaps, squatters, and shantytowns were commonplace; parks and public open spaces were practically non-existent; and epidemic disease was a constant threat. Catherine McNeur’s Taming Manhattan tells us how New York was literally cleaned up and transformed from a health hazard to an emerging world city. And she does it with beautiful prose, careful research, and persuasive argument. Altogether an excellent book.
— Kenneth T. Jackson, editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City
Many of the underlying conflicts in McNeur’s riveting, meticulously researched account resonate strongly in the New York of today, where deepening economic inequality is fraying the ideal of a prosperous city that can be shared by all its residents: where the churning real estate market is constantly displacing the less wealthy; where rich neighborhoods get pristine parks and poor ones get cracked asphalt; where investment bankers live in lofty Manhattan glass towers and fast-food workers struggle to hang on to vermin-infested rooms on the fringes of the outer boroughs.
— Sarah Goodyear, The Atlantic City Lab