Kara Murphy Schlichting’s new book, New York Recentered, examines the development of modern New York, including its New Deal history. New York Recentered offers a new model for understanding the invention of metropolitan New York during the city’s unprecedented expansion between 1840 and 1940. By broadening the definition of planning and playing close attention to the levels of governance on which it occurred, this book tells a regional history, not just a history of the city’s influence on the periphery. This book demonstrates how regional actors directed much of greater New York’s formation through work on the urban edge.
In Chapter 6, Schlichting examines the environmental reclamation of Flushing Meadows for the 1939-1940 Queens world’s fair. In the 1930s, the infamous ash dump at Flushing Meadows stood as stark proof of the consequences of an unplanned periphery. On this wasteland, planners merged urban environmental and technological infrastructure to build the fair, the “World of Tomorrow.” While the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair is most often remembered in terms of its futurist theme, the creation of the fairsite was grounded in the contemporary forces of city planning and federally-funded public works during the New Deal. Fair officials declared the filling of Flushing Meadows a triumph of engineering and environmental reclamation. But the removal of decades of ashes and garbage dumped into the marshes as well as the dredging and filling required to establish a foundation for the fair had environmental consequences. Viewed comparatively, fair construction and the World of Tomorrow’s most important exhibits on utopian cities emerge as complementary narratives of planning and environmental change to build the modern metropolis.
The book can be purchased from the University of Chicago Press.