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Reviewed by Paul Matus
It has often been remarked that New York City politics is not  quite like politics anywhere else.
That goes doubly for the politics behind New York City’s vast transportation system. Yet if you want more than a light treatment of the personalities behind the building, equiping and management of that system, you’re mostly on your own.
Clifton Hood has produced a political history of the subway which should be read by every student of New York history and every person who wants to understand better the workings of New York City politics today.
Hood's depiction of the growth of New York City transportation should alter the popular perception of rapid transit, particularly as it came to relate to modern New York City. In this age in which we talk of "greenfields" and  and "suburban sprawl" we may be forgiven if we believe that the purpose of rapid transit was to concentrate the population along its routes, perhaps preserving the sylvan rural landscape elsewhere.
In fact, quite the opposite is true. The building of New York's subway and elevated system was to have been the ultimate step in dispersing New York's population.
Until the coming of the horsecar and public stage lines, working people
basically had to live within walking distance of work. Public surface transportation helped this situation somewhat, but merely made it possible for even more people to make their livings in the dense core of the City. Even after tenement buildings replaced smaller structures, the piling of humanity on humanity didn't slacken--tenements were built in the backyards of existing tenements, depriving the original tenants the solace of a bit of grass or a tree or two, or some open playspace for their children.
When the elevated trains and then the subways came along, people were able to move to the suburbs and still work in the City--the suburbs that were then the little villages and farming communities of northern Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
Needless to say, there was money to be made in the development of such a vast territory. The original revolution creating New York City's transit
722 Miles
The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York
Author:  Clifton Hood
Date Published:  September 1995
Format:  Trade Paper
ISBN:  0801852447
Keywords: History; New York; Rapid Transit; Interborough Rapid Transit Company; Subways; Development; Urban Planning; Clifton Hood
Reviewer: Paul Matus
Available: amazon.com
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A Political
History of
New York’s
Subway System
722 Miles Cover
system was originally a merchant's revolution, and it may not be surprising that such an opportunity attracted some of the genuine robber barons of the time, men such as Jay Gould and August Belmont, men who involved themselves in the building of the IRT then conspired, in a classic attempt at monopoly, to keep the Golden Goose to themselves.
The understandable public outrage at these manipulations of the public good might have been assuaged by the entrance of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company into the picture and the signing of the Dual Contracts of 1913, which greatly expanded rapid transit under the management of two competitive systems, if not for the intervention of another colorful and powerful American figure, newspaperman William Randolph Hearst. Using his media power, Hearst helped elevate John F. Hylan, a man whom the builder Robert Moses called "a decent political hack," to the office of Mayor.
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