Gray Brechin, The Living New Deal
New Deal agencies radically transformed New York City as they worked to end the Great Depression. They did so by putting legions of unemployed New Yorkers back to work, and in the process they saved millions from destitution and despair while improving the lives of unwitting generations to follow. Few today realize the ubiquity of New Deal public works or how indispensable they are to the functioning of the city.
The Living New Deal is a crowdsourced online project which is conducting the first comprehensive inventory of New Deal public works in the United States and its territories. Its website—livingnewdeal.org—has become an essential resource for researchers of this fascinating period, when those whom President Franklin Roosevelt recruited for his administration envisioned government as a means of helping all citizens, not just those who could afford to buy it.
New York City not only made the Roosevelt family fortune but was also a vital voting block for the Democratic Party. Despite a mutual antipathy between Robert Moses and President Roosevelt, New Deal agencies bestowed a wealth of public works on the five boroughs, including bridges, tunnels, sewers, airports, landmarks restored, schools, colleges, art works, public housing, and a magnificent park system. The Living New Deal’s new map showcases a sampling of over a thousand projects in the city. Like a lost civilization rediscovered, thousands more remain to be found.
Dr. Gray Brechin is an award-winning writer and historical geographer whose book Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin spent sixteen weeks on the San Francisco Chronicle’s bestseller list. He is the founder and Project Scholar of the Living New Deal and is proud to be working with a nationwide team of research associates directed by Professor Emeritus Richard Walker.
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This event is co-sponsored with the Museum of the City of New York.