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on February 16, 2016
Excellent telling of a brief history of downtown Manhattan. Hamill has spent most of his life here and is so convincing in this telling that you would think he was actually here in previous centuries. For those who do not know, downtown Manhattan is usually not the Manhattan you see in movies and TV. That would be midtown Manhattan. An exception was the "Law and Order" shows which were usually filmed in downtown Manhattan. I worked there for over 30 years and it was especially enjoyable for me.
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on August 24, 2016
A great book! PH knows NY and its' history and how it has evolved over the years. PH loves NY, and especially Manhattan - warts and all, and all its' stories of the people who have lived there from the earliest days until now.

Even so, it is not a love song to NY at all. No sweet sentiments or longing for what used to be. It's much more than that. This book is a story that takes place over time: good times, bad times, ups and downs.
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on January 6, 2005
Downtown

New York is such a remarkable city with such a great history. Perhaps, therefore, its history can only be chronicled by a native with Big Apple blood running through his veins. Pete Hamill is such a man. Born and raised in Brooklyn, journalist/writer Hamill, in his simple yet poetic style chronicles the life and times of Manhattan, the city he loves and in which he has spent his life.

Hamill begins by explaining that this book will be about "his" Manhattan, which consists of "downtown." He explains that by "downtown" he means not just the section that New Yorkers today call "downtown" but all those parts of the city that have a historical resonance to him. Thus, Times Square is downtown although today we refer to it as "mid-town." Harlem is downtown although it is far uptown (and Hamill does not feel competent to write about it in detail not having neither lived in it nor absorbed its essence as the rest of the city)

New York's history is as old as the history of the New World. But Hamill's narrative is not strictly chronological. Rather it is geographical. He begins with the oldest part of the City, the battery and writes of the Dutch and the British and Colonial times. He moves on to describe the Wall Street area as it existed in Colonial times. Although unrecognizable today, obviously, important structures from the period exist. He spends much time discussing the Trinity Church, where Alexander Hamilton is buried, a mere block from where the World Trade Center once stood. As the City expanded northward with the passage of time, so Hamill expands his narrative northward, explaining how the "Knickerbockers", the offspring of the unions of old Dutch and English, moved northwards into elegant houses on fifth avenue outside the increasingly teeming streets of downtown. As early as the early 19th Century, old New Yorkers were already pining for the good old days. And this is the ongoing theme of the book as Hamill describes the growth of the dangerous neighborhoods of the Five Points and later the Tenderloin, precursors of the Forty Second street/times square district that would threaten the city in the seventies and eighties and the other neighborhoods that developed, Greenwich Village, The Flat Iron district, the lower west side that is today called Tribeca. That theme is constant change coupled with nostalgic longing for a vanished past. Sometimes the nostalgia is warranted, sometimes as in the case of the old Times Square, it is not.

Hamill's writing is at its finest when he describes the Manhattan of his own youth, in the late fifties, early sixties. He writes of the great jazz musicians he saw, of the writers he drank with at the Lion's Head tavern. He brings the period to life but he never seems to imply that the future is not something to look forward to as well. Indeed, Hamill does not shy away from the squalor that overtook the City in the seventies and eighties, when rampant crime and drug abuse threatened to take New York down permanently. He marvels at the revival that has made New York one of the safest most pleasant large cities in the world today.

The reader of this book will learn many interesting facts about New York's past, about its architecture and about its street life. Revealed are the buried layers of the past, still visible among the skyscrapers to those willing to take the time to look. This is a marvelous book and a great companion to "Forever", Hamill's fantasy novel about New York's history.
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on March 19, 2017
Mr. Hamill's "Downtown: My Manhattan" makes me want to make another trip to this great city. It will be a big help to me as I write novels that take place in NYC. Thanks, Pete!
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on April 12, 2014
The history of New York City, particularly downtown is fascinating. The transfer of "ownership" of neighborhoods from one arriving ethnic group to another and the cultural contributions of each, makes you understand the "melting pot" was so important in the development of such an amazing city. The author's own experience and his love for New York is key in this wonderful tribute to a small section of New York
City. that was almost destroyed by ruthless marauders in 2001.
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on January 31, 2017
Good book. However, it was more like thorough travel guide to NYC.
I have loved all his books though. He is one of my favorite writers.
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on May 14, 2014
As a fan of NYC, I read this first on my Kindle. Now I have the hardback to add to my collection of Hamill books. Also it is great history, and giving me the info I need for my next trip to NYC.
I enjoy visiting the not so popular tourist attractions.....
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on December 24, 2016
Pete is the New York New Yorker. Bland enough?
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on February 6, 2015
Listening to Pete Hamill is pure joy. I have played it in the car more than once and given as gifts.
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on February 22, 2014
Pete brings 'his' downtown NYC to life as he strolls the streets and describes the beauty & history of the city. For anyone who wants an insight into lower Manhattan as seen from one of her native sons you'll find this is a book you'll want to read many times!
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