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Water for Gotham : a history by Gerard T.…

Water for Gotham : a history (edition 2000)

by Gerard T. Koeppel

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Title:Water for Gotham : a history
Authors:Gerard T. Koeppel
Info:Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2000.
Collections:All Books, Available, Nevin Cohen Collection

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Water for Gotham: A History by Gerard T. Koeppel



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New York City has always struggled to meet the demands of it's citizens and visitors and few challenges have been as controversial and contentious as the search for adequate water. In Water for Gotham Koeppel related the story of the high minded idealists and the low down scoundrels (including a Vice President of the United States!) who alternated between working together and fighting among themselves to establish a permanent solution to this most vexing of the Big Apple's problems. While he does delve a bit into the engineering of the many solutions, this is more a book about the people and the stories of the many projects from precolonial times to the end of the nineteenth century when a steady supply was finally assured, at least for the moment.

This is a fairly fun book to read with it's many characters and story lines. It does at time slow down in the discussion of the political battles for that most important element of any construction project (money!) but most of the time it keeps up a good pace for the reader. There are adequate maps and illustrations to view. And it does have a happy ending... so far. ( )
  jztemple | Jul 22, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0691089760, Paperback)

"The chief disadvantage of New York," observed the Swedish botanist Peter Kalm in the mid-18th century, "is the want of good water." The Dutch farmers who settled on Manhattan in the 1600s found the island, which is fronted by a salty inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, to have only small quantities of surface water. Hampered by the hard rock that underlay the island, subsequent generations of Manhattanites had difficulty sinking wells, and many had to make do with polluted, dangerous sources of drinking water.

In Water for Gotham, Gerard T. Koeppel relates the complex history of how the metropolis came to acquire dependable sources of water for an ever-expanding population. Those sources lay far from the city, but engineering problems were much less difficult to overcome than was the political opposition to this reliance on the world beyond Manhattan Island. Even after a cholera outbreak killed scores of New Yorkers in 1832, some of the city's leading financiers insisted that the old wells would do just fine. Finally, Koeppel writes, through the efforts of DeWitt Clinton and other farsighted civic leaders, New York raised money to build a system of canals and aqueducts leading up the Hudson and Croton river valleys into the water-rich Catskill Mountains, getting the funds for the construction from European banks and private bondholders. Nearly a century later, all five boroughs were finally well served by pipes that brought in nearly 400 million gallons of fresh water a day--scarcely a third of the present metropolis's demands.

Water for Gotham is, well, dry at times, but it does a fine job overall of making sense of an overlooked aspect of New York's history. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:21 -0400)

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