New York City stands as the first expression of the modern city, a mosaic of disparate neighborhoods born in 1898 with the amalgamation of the five boroughs and shaped by the passions of developers and regulators, architects and engineers, politicians and reformers, immigrant entrepreneurs and corporate builders. Through their labor, their ideals, and their often fierce battles, the physical and social dimensions—the landscape—of the modern city were forged. The original essays in The Landscape of Modernity tell the compelling story of the growth of New York City from 1900 to 1940, from the beginnings of its skyscraper skyline to the expanding reaches of suburbanization.
At the beginning of the century, New York City was already one of the world's leading corporate and commercial centers. The Zoning Ordinance of 1916, initially proposed by Fifth Avenue merchants as a means of halting the uptown spread of the garment industry, became the nation's first comprehensive zoning law and the proving ground for a new occupation—the urban planner. During the 1920s, frenzied development created a vertical metamorphosis in Manhattan's booming business district, culminating in its most spectacularly modern icon, the Empire State Building. The city also spread laterally, with the controversial development of subway systems and the creation of the powerful Port of New York Authority, whose new bridges and tunnels decentralized the population and industry of New York. New York's older ethnic enclaves were irrevocably altered by this new urban landscape: the Lower East Side's Jewish community was nearly dismantled by the flight of the garment industry and the attractiveness of new suburbs, while Little Italy fought government forces eager to homogenize commercial use of the streets by eliminating the traditional pushcart peddlers.
Illustrated with striking photographs and maps, The Landscape of Modernity links important scenes of growth and development to the larger political, economic, social, and cultural processes of the early twentieth century.