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New York Recentered

Building the Metropolis from the Shore

Publication supported by the Bevington Fund

The history of New York City’s urban development often centers on titanic municipal figures like Robert Moses and on prominent inner Manhattan sites like Central Park. New York Recentered boldly shifts the focus to the city’s geographic edges—the coastlines and waterways—and to the small-time unelected locals who quietly shaped the modern city. Kara Murphy Schlichting details how the vernacular planning done by small businessmen and real estate operators, performed independently of large scale governmental efforts, refigured marginal locales like Flushing Meadows and the shores of Long Island Sound and the East River in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The result is a synthesis of planning history, environmental history, and urban history that recasts the story of New York as we know it.

328 pages | 38 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Historical Studies of Urban America

Geography: Urban Geography

History: Environmental History, Urban History


“In this perceptive addition to literature on the history of urban planning and development, Schlichting shifts attention from the downtown core of New York City to show that the urban periphery was not so peripheral after all. . . . Highly recommended.”


New York Recentered takes into account the twin dynamic of New York as an island city and as a regional entity. This is a welcomed change in perspective that allows the author to examine metropolitan growth and development from the relatively unstudied, but important, vantage point of the periphery. Goodbye to center city–heavy perspectives on Gotham!”

Martin V. Melosi | author of The Sanitary City: Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present

New York Recentered is an important work in urban history because it will force us all to look beyond Manhattan and take in New York as a regional city united by water. I don’t know of another book that attempts to look at the regional city in this way, and I commend Schlichting for the originality of her approach, the thoroughness of her argument, and the success she has achieved.”

David Schuyler | author of Embattled River: The Hudson and Modern American Environmentalism

"While New York Recentered is a multifaceted revisionist work, the book never loses focus and does not get bogged down in arcane jargon. This is a credit to the author’s skills as a writer and instincts as a historian. Theoretical terms are defined clearly and deployed seamlessly, and the writing is graceful and lively. Notwithstanding the analytical profundity of her work, Schlichting always elevates the human element—systematically demonstrating that generations of diverse local interests exacted a 'cumulative influence' (9) that 'made possible the realization of a modern regional city by the mid-twentieth century' (14). In telling those stories, as much as in her critical interventions, Schlichting makes significant contributions to New York history. Indeed, like the author’s conceptualization of the regional metropolis itself, her monograph’s powerful totality is the worthy sum of its fascinating parts."

New York History

Table of Contents


1 Benefactor Planning: Barnum’s Bridgeport and Steinway’s Queens
2 Laying Out the Trans-Harlem City
3 Working-Class Leisure on the Upper East River and Sound
4 Designing a Coastal Playland around Long Island Sound
5 “They Shall Not Pass”: Opposition to Public Leisure and State Park Planning
6 “From Dumps to Glory”: Flushing Meadows and the New York World’s Fair of 1939–1940
Epilogue: The Limits of the World of Tomorrow

Selected Bibliography

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