BOOK REVIEW: Guide to New York City Urban Landscapes

Urban%2520Landscapes_thumb%255B2%255DNEW YORK HAS BEEN CHANGING FAST, in large part due to the soon-to-end 12-year reign of the not-entirely-beloved but undeniably greenery-conscious Mayor Bloomberg. Under his tenure, 750,000 trees have been planted and there have been innumerable improvements to the city’s public spaces, especially along the long-neglected waterfront. So the appearance this month of the 288-page Guide to New York City Urban Landscapes by Robin Lynn and Francis Morrone (W.W. Norton) is well-timed.

The book highlights 38 masterpieces of old and new landscape architecture, including such venerable favorites as Greenwood Cemetery, Washington Square Park, Union Square Park, the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, and so on. There are midtown plazas and atriums, and newer sites that have quickly become high-profile tourist draws, like the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park. But what pleases me most is the book’s inclusion of many unusual suspects.


Concrete Plant Park, the Bronx

For instance: Brooklyn’s leafy Eastern and Ocean Parkways, two of the most attractive and civilized boulevards in New York City (or anywhere), which rarely get their due. There are detailed descriptions of such obscure sites as the Newtown Creek Nature Walk in Greenpoint, along a formerly waste-strewn industrial waterway; Erie Basin Park in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where IKEA built a 7-acre waterfront access facility on the site of a historic dry dock, and did it so well the critics were silenced; as well as new parks and sites in all five boroughs and on Roosevelt, Governor’s and Randall’s Islands.


Paley Park, Manhattan

I found the photography disappointing, a lost opportunity to romance some strikingly beautiful places. Edward A Toran’s photos are mostly overalls, lacking in intimacy, and often shot with harsh shadows or in dappled light. But the writing, including a stirring, nostalgic foreword by Pete Hamill and a reprint of a very funny 1914 New York Times article by critic James Huneker about Manhattan’s parks, which he called our “lungs,” help make up for it.


Columbus Circle, Manhattan

Quirky suggestions for eating and drinking near the featured landscapes include the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria, Queens (NYC’s last remaining outdoor beer garden) and the café at Fairway in Red Hook, whose dramatic harbor view is surely unique among supermarkets.

Going forward, a blog will keep the book’s info up-to-date.


Bryant Park, Manhattan

3 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Guide to New York City Urban Landscapes

  1. This books looks fantastic, we are planning a trip for a couple weeks to NYC and would love to see some things out of the city! I have found another great guide for eating and drinking in and around the city, Guide 365 New York City by Monica DiNatale ( Maybe I can find some great eats around some of these beautiful landscapes, that would make for a great day!

  2. Just a quick note about that book Donna Suggested. Her link is wrong, not wrong but not directly to the book. It should be The other takes you to the author site and you have to nav from there. This one is much easier!

  3. Wow. I have both of these books. I use the Urban Landscape book to wander all over the city. I got that deals book as a gift from a friend for my birthday. I hate paying full price for anything. This is the site…

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