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Urban LowlandsA History of Neighborhoods, Poverty, and Planning$
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Steven T. Moga

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226710532

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226710679.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

Harlem Flats

Harlem Flats

New York, New York

(p.31) 2 Harlem Flats
Urban Lowlands

Steven T. Moga

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 2 examines Harlem Flats in New York City. A decade-long struggle over environmental problems arose from the speculative process of turning a salt marsh into an urban neighborhood. Once a quasi-rural area of farms, small homesteads, and shanties overlooking an estuary interlaced with small streams and popular with boaters, this lowland was filled with garbage to create real estate for Tammany Hall-affiliated property speculators. Landfilling was aided by public health concerns over cholera and other deadly diseases. Elected officials, waste haulers, speculators, sanitarians, and residents constructed a new neighborhood of tenements and factories. This chapter engages questions of political corruption, garbage, and sensory history. It calls attention to the physical processes of city building, the actors involved, and the role of odors and fear of disease in pejorative place labeling and city development. It also introduces nationally-known figures like Egbert Viele who engineered systems of drainage, sewerage, and parks. Landfilling erased the largest wetland complex in Manhattan, including Harlem Creek and Harlem Marsh, and slum clearance for public housing transformed the neighborhood a second time in the mid-twentieth century. Hurricane Sandy highlighted flood risk as a significant concern in the future of this urban lowland neighborhood.

Keywords:   wetland complex, landfilling, sewerage, Harlem Flats, Harlem Creek, Harlem Marsh, New York, shanties, Egbert Viele, drainage

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