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722 Miles
by Clifton Hood
     Also, there are some curious lapses in description or historical accuracy that seem more the result of bad editing than bad research.
     These issues do not, however, dim Hood's achievement in producing the only modern work of its kind, a compelling and perceptive look at the way New York City politics have interacted with perhaps its most significant public work.
In 722 Miles, Hood places Hylan in his proper place as the man who politicized the NYC transit system and, in so doing, set the stage for the long deterioration of the system which is only now being reversed.
Not only was Hylan the man who raised the five-cent fare (and by extension, the subway fare of any amount) to the status of holy grail, he also set in motion the building of the IND system and the destruction of the IRT and BMT as private companies.
There is more than politics in this book -- Hood gives us an interesting rendition of the physical tribulations of the building of the first subway, as well as a description of the way the modern-day IRT Flushing Line transformed a large part of the borouigh of Queens from open meadow to urban landscape in one short leap.
     Still, this is not a book for everyone. It is much more tuned for the serious scholar than the average reader: if the idea of reading what would have made an outstanding PhD thesis turns you off, perhaps you might look for a more popular but less important work.
     I could quibble with some parts of Hood's work--perhaps he spends too much time on some peripheral issues while paying less attention to others of greater moment. I would have preferred that he give the formation of the BRT system, eventual competitor of Belmont's IRT, more attention than he did.
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Cliton Hood is assistant professor of history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. A native of Beavers Falls, PA, he was formerly a curator of teh LaGuardia Archives at LaGuardian College, City University of New York.
Paul Matus is editor of The Third Rail and webmaster of rapidtransit.net
Read more about this book or purchase it at amazon.com.
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The Dyckman Street station in northern Manhattan is under construction in this 1905 view. Largely undeveloped at the time, the advent of the subway line would permit development and disbursion of denser urban populations. Photo from 722 Miles, courtesy New York Transit Museum.
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