This introduction outlines the territory and thematic frameworks that serve to organize this history of New York City’s development as a metropolitan region between 1840 and 1950. Focusing on the coastal setting in which greater New York grew, it introduces this history’s geographic span, which includes the Bronx and Queens on the upper East River and the adjacent counties along Long Island Sound. This focus shifts the frame of reference of New York City from Manhattan to the regionally-situated actors across greater New York’s other boroughs and adjacent suburban counties. Reinterpreting spaces long considered peripheral as central to regional growth, this introduction explains the land-use issues of park, street, and bridge planning and suburbanization that came to link the coastal metropolis together. It also introduces the four themes that frame the book’s subsequent chapters: how regional development shaped environmental change, the role nonhuman nature played a formative role in shaping urban expansion, the nonprofessional city planning and city-building patterns that emerged in addition to professional channels of regional expansion, and the power of private property regimes to foster home-rule and shape development.
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