722 MILES by Clifton Hood


The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York
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 As crammed with facts and figures as a rush-hour express is with passengers, this history of the New York subway system stalls time and again. Hood (American History/Hobart and William Smith Colleges) has researched his subject thoroughly: He comments knowledgeably on the geological composition of Manhattan and the surrounding terrain, and demonstrates how subterranean peculiarities affected the construction of the subway. He also shows how, from its beginning, New York's rapid transit was a pawn in the struggle to dominate the financial and political life of the metropolis--a struggle that included August Belmont's monopolization of municipal transportation as well as the Tweed Gang's corrupt control of licensing and labor, control that resulted in tunnel cave-ins and other misfortunes. But when Hood examines how the construction of the subways influenced the expansion of the city, he falters: It's no surprise that the establishment of a rapid and reliable mode of transportation between the city's workplaces and its outlying boroughs fostered the settlement of these previously inaccessible areas. Hood provides a few fresh insights, however, as when he analyzes the discriminatory practices that shaped the original development of the Jackson Heights section of Queens. And though he generally fails to leaven his statistics-heavy text (miles of track laid, number of passengers carried, amount of budget money allocated, etc.) with pertinent anecdotes, his story of class- conscious Vogue editor Edna Woodman Chase is winsome: Chase, upon learning that a member of her staff had flung himself in front of a subway train, said, ``[At Vogue], if we must kill [ourselves], we take sleeping pills.'' Of some interest to urban historians, but slow-going for general readers. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-67756-X
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993


NonfictionSTRAPHANGER by Taras Grescoe
by Taras Grescoe