Healing Gotham: New York City’s Public Health Policies for the Twenty-First Century
By Bruce F. Berg
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015
Reviewed by Erin Wuebker
The goal of Bruce F. Berg’s Healing Gotham is to explain why particular public policy tools have been used by the city’s government to deal with five different public health problems in the late 20th and early 21st century: lead poisoning, asthma, HIV/AIDS, obesity, and West Nile virus. Berg selected these particular issues not to be comprehensive, but rather to show health concerns that have different etiologies and affect different groups in order to analyze how these factors might impact the city’s approach to dealing with each illness.
Having written previously about New York politics, it makes sense that the city would be his focus for this book as well. But he also makes a compelling argument for his selection. As the largest urban area and an incredibly diverse city, New York has had to deal with a wide variety of public health issues. It has also often been at the forefront of public health historically, leading the nation in terms of developing infrastructure and support for government intervention. As such, New York has often been a model for other cities, demonstrating which “tools” are the most effective or challenging (30).
“Does the United States Need a Medical Revolution?” Communism, Birth Control, and National Health Insurance in 1940s New York
By Richard Howe
By the end of the 19th century most of the streets and avenues laid out on the island of Manhattan by the 1811 Commissioners Plan and its 1870 northern extension by the Central Park Commissioners had been opened to traffic and as much as two-thirds or more of them had been paved. The island’s rural estates had been broken up and sold after having been subdivided into building lots conforming to the blocks in the street plan. Most of the island up to about 168th Street had been densely built up, with nearly 100,000 buildings —- over 80,000 of them residential -— carpeting the built-up area. At least 90% of all the buildings on the island -— and 99% of the residential buildings -— were no more than six stories tall; the average height was about five stories: 60 feet at a nominal 12 feet per story. And at least 75% of the buildings were 20–25 feet wide and 60–80 feet deep. But why? Why so many buildings, and why so many in just this range of sizes?
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