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A major new history of Brooklyn through its buildings and landscapes, and the people who made them, from its origins in the early 17th century through to today

Campanella, Thomas


The Once and Future City


    57,95 € / $65.75 / £51.00*

    eBook (PDF)
    Publication Date:
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    To be published:
    September 2019
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    Aims and Scope

    A major new history of Brooklyn, told through its landscapes, buildings, and the people who made them, from the early seventeenth century to today

    Brooklyn is a global brand both celebrated and scorned as the hippest place in America. Yet few know the back story of this extraordinary place. In Brooklyn: The Once and Future City, Thomas Campanella unearths long-lost threads of the urban past and weaves them into a narrative about the rise, fall, and reinvention of this most American city.

    From Vinegar Hill to Sheepshead Bay, and Bay Ridge to Brownsville, Campanella recounts the making of places familiar and long forgotten, bringing to life the individuals whose dreams, visions, rackets, and schemes forged the city we know today. He takes us through Brooklyn’s early days as homeland of the Leni Lenape and its transformation by Dutch colonists into a dense slaveholding region. We learn about English émigré Deborah Moody, whose town of Gravesend was the first founded by a woman in America. We see how wanderlust Yale dropout Frederick Law Olmsted used Prospect Park to anchor an open space system that was to reach back to Manhattan. And we witness Brooklyn’s emergence as a playland of racetracks and amusement parks celebrated around the world.

    From the teddy bear to transcontinental flight, Brooklyn has launched countless dreams. It was also a place of outsized failure, from Sam Friede’s bid to erect the world’s tallest building, to the long struggle to make Jamaica Bay the world’s largest deep-water seaport, and the star-crossed urban renewal, public housing, and highway projects that battered the borough. Campanella reveals how this immigrant Promised Land drew millions, fell tragic victim to its own social anxieties, and yet proved resilient enough to reawaken as a multicultural powerhouse and symbol for all things woke, fresh, and vital.


    432 pages
    258 b/w illus. 1 map.

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    Thomas J. Campanella is associate professor of urban studies and city planning at Cornell University and historian-in-residence of the New York City Parks Department. His books include Republic of Shade and The Concrete Dragon, and his writing has appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. He divides his time between Ithaca and the Marine Park neighborhood of Brooklyn where he grew up. Twitter @builtbrooklyn


    "This impressive, fresh, and stimulating book investigates the social, economic, and cultural history of Brooklyn. Its use of images is excellent and a point of true distinction. Brooklyn adds to our understanding of the city’s ethnicity, urban development, and planning."—Clifton Hood, author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York

    "Thomas Campanella’s Brooklyn is a sheer delight. A cornucopia of mysteries, secrets, meticulous research, and fun facts, it will prove essential reading for anyone with an appetite for New York history."—Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

    "Thomas Campanella provides a superb and comprehensive antidote to the perennial plague of Brooklynmnesia."—Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn

    "This lucid and thorough history of Brooklyn's origins and progress is just the work we need to understand this sprawling and complex place, long in the shadow of glamorous Manhattan."—Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

    "A marvelous book that finally does justice to its majestic subject. Nevermore can it be said, as Thomas Wolfe wrote,‘only the dead know Brooklyn.’ Thomas Campanella knows Brooklyn, inside and out."—Phillip Lopate, editor of Writing New York

    "An exceptional and detailed history of Brooklyn. From ancient geology to tungsten-filament lamps, Thomas Campanella’s insights are virtuosic. Never hoodwinked by nostalgia nor satisfied with conventional explanations, he gives Brooklyn the clear-eyed narrative it deserves."—Mark Chiusano, author of Marine Park: Stories

    "Brooklyn is brilliantly written and uncovers the anatomy and soul of this gritty and charming place. If you grew up in Brooklyn, you will cherish this book. If you didn’t grow up in Brooklyn, you will wish you had."—Mitchell Silver, former president of the American Planning Association

    "Brooklyn is a terrific piece of work, easily the best book on the history of Brooklyn. The tales are winningly told, the writing is vivid, and the authorial presence engaging. Brooklyn has long been historically underserved, but no longer."—Mike Wallace, author of Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919 and coauthor of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898

    "In this rich book, Thomas Campanella masterfully uncovers and tells fascinating stories and moments from Brooklyn’s history. Brooklyn is riveting, carefully crafted, and wonderfully written. It will be cited for years to come."—Owen Gutfreund, author of Twentieth-Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape

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