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Tunneling to the Future: The Story of the Great Subway Expansion That Saved New York

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Overview

"In 1910, New York City was bursting at the seams as more and more people crowded into a limited supply of housing in the tenement districts of Manhattan and the older areas of Brooklyn. Traffic could scarcely move on the narrow streets and passengers jammed into the subways like sardines. The Lower East Side of Manhattan had the highest population density in the world. Conditions in the tenements were horrendous, as documented by the photography of Jacob Riis. Crime rates were on the rise, and the effects of overcrowding posed a serious threat to public health." "With no outlet for its exploding population, and the burgeoning social problems created by the overwhelming congestion, New York faced a serious crisis which city and state leaders addressed with dramatic measures. In March 1913, public officials and officers of the two existing rapid transit networks shook hands to seal a deal for a greatly expanded subway system which would more than double the size of the two existing transit networks. Funded by both the public and private sectors, with almost all of the new lines owned by the City of New York, the Dual System of Rapid Transit would serve as a catalyst for the development of large areas of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn, permanently transforming the city's physical infrastructure and composition. The new subways also fostered the growth of Midtown Manhattan as the nation's largest business center." "At the time the largest and most expensive single municipal project ever attempted, the Dual System of Rapid Transit set the pattern of growth in New York City for decades to come, helped provide millions of families a better quality of life, and, in the words of Manhattan borough president George McAneny (1910-1913), "proved the city's physical salvation." It stands as that rare success story, an enormously complicated project undertaken against great odds which proved successful beyond all measure." "Published in conjunction with the History of the C
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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American History
As the most detailed and thorough account available of the dual system, Derrick's book has improved our understanding of rapid transit politics and urban planning.
Choice
Reveals not only the details of the subway movement's slow progress in the political arena, but the process of coming to terms with the private subway companies and their financial backers in 1913.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1913, more than two-thirds of New York City's residents lived in tenements and the Lower East Side had the highest population density in the world, housing approximately 600,000 people in less then two square miles. Contagious diseases such as TB were rampant, and the infant mortality rate in the Italian community had grown to 71%. In response to these dangerous conditions, city officials decided to double the mileage of New York's subway lines (which first opened in 1904) and triple their capacity, to encourage people to move uptown and into the outer boroughs. Derrick, the archivist for the Bronx County Historical Society, has produced a rousing history of the myriad struggles to build these lifesaving additions to the city's rapid transit system. Charting the fights between the city and privately owned transit companies (the two were sharing the cost of the subway system's expansion), he shows how the popular Hearst press and other media attacked the private companies for greed, while the companies themselves discovered that the new subway lines would not be as immediately profitable as they had planned. Derrick carefully explicates the impact of these rapid transit extensions on the city's economy, housing, jobs, neighborhood development and human interactions. Writing in a clear, compelling style, he constructs his history within the framework of several disciplines. Though the level of detail may overwhelm general readers, those already knowledgeable about New York political and social history will welcome this excellent addition to the literature of the city's planning, development and economics. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Set in America's centum transportare, the century that saw the ascendancy of a national highway system and commercial flight, this is an exceptional history of the development of the unglamorous underground transportation system critical to the expansion of New York City. Bronx County Historical Society Archivist Derrick complements Clifton Hood's 722 Miles (S. & S., 1993) with a precise recounting of this little-known story, exploring the political and economic indecision that preceded the subway's building at a time when the very survival of the nation's largest city its teeming tenements a catalyst for poverty, disease, and crime seemed threatened. He depicts ego-driven decision makers unable to meet the most crucial needs of New Yorkers, until finally someone who understood the purpose of government emerged from the faceless crowd to guide the project. Derrick's well-written narrative is packed with thoroughly researched facts and reasoning. Occasional digressions into details of proposed tunnel locations slow down the narrative, but in the end, Derrick boldly describes this extraordinarily complex project as "the most important decision made by New York's government in the twentieth century." An excellent addition to any large collection of American history. John E. Hodgkins, Yarmouth, ME Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Derrick (archivist, Bronx County Historical Society) tells the story of what was, at the time, the largest and most expensive single municipal project ever attempted<-->the 1913 expansion of the New York City Dual System of Rapid Transit. He considers the factors motivating the expansion, the process of its design, the controversies surrounding financing it, and its impact on New York then and today. Appendixes summarize the contracts and related certificates and list the opening dates of Dual System lines. Twenty-four pages of photographs are also included. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The Connecticut Post
Derrick's insights-particularly in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center-are useful in reflecting on New York City's history and its resilient sense of building and moving forward.
Bronx County Historical Society Journal
No other historian has identified so important a piece of the city's history, on which so little is known, and written so lucidly about it. This is not just enjoyable history. You cannot understand New York today without reading this book.
From the Publisher

"As the most detailed and thorough account available of the dual system, Derrick's book has improved out understanding of rapid transit politics and urban planning."

-The Journal of American History,June 2002

"An exceptional history . . . Derrick's well-written narrative is packed with thoroughly researched facts and reasoning."

-Library Journal,

"Reveals not only the details of the subway movement's slow progress in the political arena, but the process of coming to terms with the private subway companies and their financial backers in 1913.”

-Choice,

"...a valuable case study in the micropolitics of one of the Progressive era's signature projects."

-The Wall Street Journal,

"[An] excellent addition to the literature of the city's planning, development and economics."

-Publishers Weekly,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814719107
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2001
  • Pages: 442
  • Product dimensions: 6.27 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Derrick is Archivist for the Bronx County Historical Society.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps and Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Never Enough: The Beginnings of Rapid Transit in New York 9
2 The Deadlock over More Subways, 1902-1909 47
3 Rapid Transit to Save New York 90
4 Stumbling toward a Solution 123
5 The Dual System of Rapid Transit 153
6 The Battle over Financing the Dual System 186
7 Impact of the Dual System 231
Conclusion 263
App. 1 Summary of the Dual System Contracts and Related Certificates 269
App. 2 Opening Dates of the Dual System Lines 284
Notes 287
Bibliography 401
Index 423
About the Author 442
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