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City at the Water’s Edge: A Natural History of New York


Throughout the book readers will discover a mix of environmental losses and ecological achievements: a continuing battle between nature's degradation and preservation. Enhancing the text are excellent notes to references and other readings. Recommended.



City at the Water’s Edge: A Natural History of New York is a top pick for two audiences: any collection strong in New York City representation, and both college and specialty holdings strong in urban natural history and ecology topics... From an early New York region before Ellis Island immigrants to Manhattan’s geological riches, City at the Water’s Edge makes for lively, involving reading.
The Midwest Book Review


McCully knows her subject – or subjects: natural history, ecology, history, and conservation. Her ultimate interest is to awaken us, as she says, to the fact that we are “dwellers in the land,” a different paradigm from the traditional choice of nature versus city, and must live in a sustainable way. Her book, blending a grim history, some fine description and fascinating information, and a leavening of hope, is a good place for a New Yorker to start.
–Peter Joost, Urban Audubon


In Betsy McCully’s City at the Water’s Edge you’ll find enough information about the Big Apple to last your lifetime. I was able to gain an appreciation of New York City’s natural history, a history that is often overshadowed by the city’s legacy as one of our world’s greatest metropolitan hubs. It is very easy to pass the day in New York City gazing up at skyscrapers, peering into store windows, and tantalizing your tastebuds with the plethora of ethnic food the city offers. It is no wonder that people tend to connect more with this manmade infrastructure rather than see themselves as part of the natural landscape. This book reminds us that the city did not always look as it does now, and that many different people have called it home.

McCully reviews how both the Lenapes and the incoming colonists managed the land in order to provide for their people and discusses the way in which they perceived property (private vs. communal). This alone is an interesting ponderance, and raises questions of its own.

The book also enables the reader to see that there were times of great environmental degradation in New York City. Far from negligent in taking an honest look at this issue, the book sheds light on the ways man has recognized his errors. It contends that general public awareness has been capable of taking these environmental problems and turning them around for the better.

City at the Water’s Edge may seem like an overwhelming read due to the huge amounts of information it contains – but the author does a great job providing the reader with interesting information, personal anecdotes, and supporting maps and photographs. McCully also provides the reader with examples of where to see evidence of past glacial episodes and seismic activity, where to spot the annual mating of horseshoe crabs, and much more...

I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about one of the greatest cities on Earth.
–Angie Eddy, New York State Conservationist