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on November 19, 1999
This book is so complete in its description of events from New York City's very beginnings, through its infancy, its growing pains, and its present status as possibly the greatest city in the world.
The detailed explanation of events is awe-inspiring, fascinating, and makes one feel as if they were there to witness it all.
Being a New York State resident, this book makes me feel proud to be a New Yorker! Thanks to the authors, and all associated with this work for a wonderful piece of history.
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Every history book has a slant. This one has several, but the most dramatic one is the portrayal of the vast gulf between rich and poor that has long been part of New York City's uniqueness. Each side gets a lot of attention. A secondary slant is the theme of the city's change from a rural area into a metropolis with manufacturing to the modern city mostly of financial markets, stores, entertainment, and residents.
To keep it interesting, the book also goes out of its way to provide little known factoids. For example, Manhattan was probably purchased for cash rather than trinkets and the value of the cash was closer to $600 than the famed $24 we all have heard so much about (someone used the wrong currency exchange rate in the past). There's a nice story about the origins of Typhoid Mary, who inadvertently poisoned those she cooked for. You will also learn that disease was once so rampant that 1 in 25 adults died each year. Without immigrants, the city would not have grown.
Those who are descended from those who immigrated through Ellis Island into one of the ethnic neighborhoods will find many photos to remind them of their heritage. There are also excellent photographic perspectives on the development of the African American community beginning from the Dutch slaveholding days.
The development of the major bridges is one of the visual pleasures of the book. The building of Central Park is a close second. The water piping pictures are quite remarkable, as well.
The book will delight those who do not know much about New York City, but would like to know more. Coming from California, New York City did not get much attention in the history books after the Revolutionary War except when financial markets crumbled. So much of this was new to me.
The book will probably be even more of a delight to those who are from New York City. This is almost like a family album.
I got a lot of pleasure from seeing how areas in the city that I know well have changed over the years. In many cases, you get to see an intersection as a farm, then as a tenement, then as a skyscraper, and sometimes even as a second (more famous) skyscraper.
There is also a lot that is missing. You will find little about higher education (except the building of Columbia in Morningside Heights), museums, libraries, and the magnificent interior art in New York. Performing arts are almost excluded except for Vaudeville and Broadway. The development of air transportation and television are also little developed. But one volume cannot do everything.
When you are done, ask yourself, "What are the irresistible forces about a great city that must be taken advantage of?" That can be a useful guide to ordinary citizens as well as those who provide services in such metropolises.
Have a great visit to New York City!
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on October 22, 2003
This is a huge book with plenty of text and hundreds of relevant, beautiful illustrations and photos. Just about the entire transcript of the multi-award winning PBS documentary, Ric Burns' NEW YORK is here, along with previously unpublished essays by the documentary's featured commentators. This alone makes the book worth the price and worth the time reading. And, if you don't feel like reading, just browse through the incredible photographs and graphics. That is why this is one of the best illustrated books on New York history out there.
And please pay no mind to the critics and reviewers who whine that there is no reference to the New York Yankees or "Why isn't this building discussed?" or "How can they have left out this museum and that park and those guys?" People, PLEASE! This is not a book about the history of West Orange, New Jersey. For Pete's sake, it's New York City! To have included everything would require volumes and volumes... and that still wouldn't cover everything. As I said, this book is one of the best of its kind. Buy it, read it, stare at the pictures, enjoy!
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points Concluded
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on January 5, 2004
I remember glancing at this book for the first time last spring, at the bookstore in Jersey Gardens...I must have been in there for over an hour, and even made myself comfortable sitting on the floor. This book is just great; and although it's next to impossible to squeeze every detail about NYC into one book (Try 'Gotham' if that's what you're going for), this book is definately one of the finest out there. I knew within the first 5 minutes that I wanted this book. The pictures and drawings featured are simply amazing, and would fascinate any NYC history buff for sure. Point in case- Get this book!
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on November 2, 2005
This is the story of New York City, elegantly written and generously illustrated. Of all of the various books about New York's history -- this is the one to have.
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on March 25, 2004
I read this textbook-like coffee table book from corner to corner and since I lap up New York history I loved it. Burns could have included so much more on Moses but didn't though. Still, and outstanding compilation of information. Plus, a beautiful book.
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on April 7, 2000
Any fan of New York City history and culture will quickly come to consider this a 'must': it provides both a companion volume to the PBS series and a stand-alone title which will grace coffee tables for generations to come. This isn't to say this is a coffee table volume of slim photos - it's packed with history as lavish as it is in photography and it embraces near four centuries of change in the city from past to present in a sweeping panoramic story. Highly recommended.
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on March 24, 2005
Pros: very well organized, interesting to read.

Cons: page 117 says that A. Lincoln was the "twelfth president of the United States". All my other references claim that he was sixteenth. How many errors like that does this book contain?
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on December 2, 2001
Great book for anyone interested in the history of New York City or in "The City" in general. This book offers quite an extensive history lesson from the 17th century until today and plenty of great images of the city. I have a greater appreciation for all that New York is and has been and for its role in shaping the USA. Its fun to look at pictures of how things were many years ago and to compare those pictures to how New York looks today.
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on March 25, 2002
New York is the world's greatest city. How many cities in the world merit the sort of treatment Ric Burns give New York in a book that is easily twice the size of a typical text that might cover, say, all of American History. I must have re-read sections of this book a dozen times or more. This is truly a book that measures up to New York's grandeur.
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