Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: "The Works: Anatomy of a City"

A city is not only a collection of buildings, streets, parks, and people, it really is a body – a network of interrelated functions that keep it alive. Hence, the subtitle of Kate Ascher’s wonderful book about New York City infrastructure The Works: Anatomy of a City.

Anatomy is right. If you could dissect NYC with a scalpel, you’d find a whole other city pulsating within it. Right inside our streets and structures, there are literally thousands and thousands and thousands of miles of tubes, tunnels, sewers, electrical cords, pipes – and so much more! We all know that our city’s infrastructure “exists” (how could we not?) but few of us I’m sure know how it actually works. So The Works give us the inside scoop on how our infrastructure affects New Yorkers lives everyday.

After all, we New Yorkers could not literally live unless we got our electricity and drinking water everyday, got our garbage and waste removed, were able to go to the supermarket and find food in the friggin’ thing, use the phone, use the Internet, turn on the TV and radio, communicate with the outside world, and be protected from criminals and the world’s natural elements. It’s easy to assume that these things just … happen … that they exist in nature … that all of the city’s vital functions and services are magically supplied to us. But they’re not – oh no, it’s an exact and complex science, and The Works gives you all the dirty details on how NYC survives and thrives.

Reading this book you’ll learn, amongst many other things:

• How the city manages the flow of street and pedestrian traffic – and if any of those darn buttons you still see at some crosswalks still work.
• How the postal system in this city functions - do you know how many of our more notable buildings have their own zip codes?
• What types of trees you’ll find in NYC parks.
• How freight moves in and out of the city – did you know that the ocean floor below New York Harbor is still being dredged and lowered to this day?
• Where our electricity comes from.
• How cell phones have transformed NYC communications.
• Why are our drinking water stays so clean.
• Stuff about our airports – did you know that JFK is the same size as Manhattan from below Central Park to the South Ferry?
• What does the future of NYC infrastructure hold?

I won’t give away anything more but, needless to say, this book educates you about NYC as few can. It also has lots of beautiful pictures and graphics so reading this book is not only informative but also a visual delight for the eyes. If you love NYC and want to unlock more of its mysteries, The Works is a must read.

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