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At Sea in the City: New York from the Water's Edge Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 3, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (May 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565122658
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565122659
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #744,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The glorious anachronisms of sailing stand out in high relief against the backdrop of New York City in these vignettes of sailing around Manhattan. Kornblum's Tradition is a 24-foot-long shallow-draft workboat based on an American catboat design, which he found and adapted from a classified ad. But Kornblum, a professor at the City University of New York, minimizes the nostalgic restoration story and takes readers right on board for refreshing views of an island city that was built on the economic foundations of great natural harbors and fertile inland waterways. Kornblum knows the remaining "urban archipelago" and cruises Jamaica Bay, the tidal Hudson, the Rockaways and the inshore Atlantic coast. He sails under the city's modern bridges, through disused canals, into still wild wetlands, and pauses for nautical history lessons at sites like the wreck of the General Slocum in 1904, a catastrophe in the narrows of Hell Gate. The eight essays glide along nicely, even as Kornblum approaches the unromantic waters around the East Coast's largest airport and the churning oil-sheen tides of the Arthur Kills. Kornblum and his wife, Susan, are wonderful guides to the city, with its often uninviting waterline. Illus. and charts.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Kornblum (sociology, CUNY), a native New Yorker, has spent much of his life touring New York's waters. Part urban sociology, part erudite Circle Line tour, Kornblum's charming book recounts the history of New York's waterfront and maritime culture even as he sails along beside it in his old sailboat, Tradition. Kornblum sees the city as an urban archipelago with only one-eighth lying on the mainland; the rest is comprised of larger and smaller islands, many virtually unknown to most New Yorkers. Kornblum hopes that more people will take to the waters of the city to see it from sea level, where it remains a place within nature's domain. Although forever changed by September 11, 2001, for Kornblum the city's waters still exert a magical pull; and for much of the rest of the world, he believes New York remains a place of infinite human possibility. With a fine introduction by onetime waterfront reporter Pete Hamill, this appealing work is suitable for New York City collections. Harry Frumerman, formerly with Hunter Coll., New York
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By David J. Loftus on June 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The author, a sociology professor at City University of New York, was raised in the Big Apple and has lived most of his life in the area. In 1979 he bought a 24-foot New England catboat, built on Cape Cod in 1910, and proceeded to fix it and sail it around the New York area.
With this book he presents a portrait -- and sketchy history -- of the city from an angle few people know it. Structuring the story as a fairly continuous though interrupted sail from his home in Long Beach, around the southern tip of Rockaway and into Jamaica Bay, then into Upper New York Bay and the East River, and ultimately to Long Island Sound, Kornblum offers both close-up looks at the water and shoreline, and their past history.
The approach is light and pleasant: Few stories -- whether of the freezing disaster of the privateer "Castel Del Rey" in New York harbor in 1704, knowledgeable black sailors impressed by the British Navy in the War of 1812 and jailed in England for refusing to serve against the US, various ferry disasters, or the vagaries of Robert Moses -- last more than a page or three. The only sections where Kornblum lingers are in Jamaica Bay (its environmental degradation and return), and the dockside concrete industry that built New York's towers and for which the author worked as a kid. Manhattan itself is quickly bypassed though given a loving nod, and there is no venturing into the Hudson side.
In the typo sweepstakes, the book does all right, although it says "mechanical break" on p. 156 when "brake" was meant, and I believe I saw an unintended sentence fragment on p. 143. Most egregious, the great A.J. Liebling is identified on p. 103 as "Libeling" (though the name is correct in the bibliography)!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
City University of New York Professor Kornblum pays homage to what he describes as the New York archipelago. The full city consists mostly of three large islands, a bunch of small islands, and a peninsular. Professor Kornblum takes readers on a tour of the various waterways that tie the city together. Readers visit City Island off the Bronx Peninsular, Ellis and Liberty islands off lower Manhattan Island, and the Rikers Island Prison as well as several much smaller and less known rocks within the waterways. The author provides historical references and a crystal ball look into the future where nature in the present is fighting to regain a foothold from the vast urbanization. AT SEA IN THE CITY is an engaging look at the Big Apple from a different lens as the highways cross waters connecting the city such as the "byway" from Fulton St. in lower Manhattan to Fulton St. Brooklyn. Not just for natives, this is a wonderfully different perspective on New York that makes for a leisurely yet educational and enjoyable reading.

Harriet Klausner
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joe McMahon on July 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a delightful view of some of the Big Apple's waterfront. William Kornblum writes well, and I am pleased to meet the family, friends, and acquaintances of his journey. Having explored much of our city, and having studied many of the coasts from opposite shorelines, I nevertheless learned much from Kornblum's views from his catboat. I also enjoyed his flash-backs, particularly his days as a youth working at the Transit Mix dock. As another reader noted, the book has a few errors that should have been caught. The A train travels neither through The Bronx nor over Williamsburg Bridge (p. 91). In Red Hook, the parish school is within the Brooklyn diocese, not archdiocese (p. 122). When I find errors on topics I know well, I begin to worry that the publishing industry has a problem with fact-checking in non-fiction. Yet, I must say that this book is a thoroughly enjoyable meeting of humans, views, and story. I recommend this book as a gift.
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