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Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, the woman who launched the restoration of Central Park in the 1980s, now introduces us to seven remarkable green spaces in and around New York City, giving us the history both natural and human of how they have been transformed over time.
Here we find: The greenbelt and nature refuge that runs along the spine of Staten Island on land once intended for a highway, where mushrooms can be gathered and, at the right moment, seventeen-year locusts viewed. Jamaica Bay, near John F. Kennedy International Airport, whose mosaic of fragile, endangered marshes has been preserved as a bird sanctuary on the Atlantic Flyway, full of egrets, terns, and horseshoe crabs. Inwood Hill, in upper Manhattan, whose forest once sheltered Native Americans and Revolutionary soldiers before it became a site for wealthy estates and subsequently a public park. The Central Park Ramble, an artfully designed wilderness in the middle of the city, with native and imported flora, magnificent rock outcrops, and numerous species of resident and migrating birds. Roosevelt Island, formerly Welfare Island, in the East River, where urban planners built a new town in town in the 1970s and whose southern tip is the dramatic setting for the Louis Kahn designed memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Freshkills, the unusual twenty-two-hundred-acre park on Staten Island that is being created out of what was once the world's largest landfill. The High Line, in Manhattan's Chelsea and West Village neighborhoods, an aerial promenade built on an abandoned elevated rail spur with its native grasses and panoramic views of the Hudson River and the downtown cityscape.
Full of the natural history of the parks along with interesting historical facts and interviews with caretakers, guides, local residents, guardians, and visitors, this beautifully illustrated book is a treasure trove of information about the varied and pleasurable green spaces that grace New York City.
Elizabeth Barlow Rogers is the president of the Foundation for Landscape Studies and the author of eight previous books about the design of cities, parks, and gardens as expressions of place. She has long been involved in historic landscape preservation and was the first person to hold the title of Central Park administrator, a position created in 1979. In 1980, she was instrumental in founding the Central Park Conservancy, a public-private partnership supporting the restoration and management of the park. She served in both positions until 1996. A native of San Antonio, Texas, she has made New York her home since 1964.
"Easy and enjoyable to read [...] One of the aspects of Green Metropolis is how the author integrates so many interesting details from so many different fields of study in each green space discussed [...] I recommend it highly for anyone interested in New York City or in the natural environment of urban areas."
– Richard Weigel, Bowling Green Daily News
"Whether mushroom-hunting on Staten Island or admiring outcrops of schist in Manhattan, Elizabeth Barlow Rogers turns her knowing and loving eye on what she calls the "palimpsest" of the city [...] Wherever she visits, she brings her particular point of view toward urban environments, seeing them not as alternatives to nature's story but as new texts traced over the older natural narrative, which remains visible to those who know how to read it."
– Gerard Helferich, The Wall Street Journal
"New York may seem the archetypal cityscape, but nature thrums through this concrete jungle. So reports landscape preservationist Elizabeth Barlow Rogers in her erudite study of seven of the city's green spaces. Summoning geology, biology and history, Barlow witnesses stridulating 17-year cicadas at Staten Island's High Rock Nature Center, walks through the 14.5-hectare of 'self-generating wildwood' of Central Park's Ramble, strolls the evocative garden promenade of reclaimed rail spur the High Line, and more."
"A gem [...] Distilling a lifetime s worth of knowledge and insight, Rogers describes the history and development of seven landscapes, including the High Line, the F.D.R. memorial on Roosevelt Island, the woodlands of Inwood Hill Park, the capped garbage mountain in Freshkills, Staten Island, and her beloved Ramble area inCentral Park."
– Phillip Lopate, Vanity Fair