In northern Manhattan in 1841, the naturalist John James Audubon bought 14 acres of farmland on the banks of the Hudson River and built his family a home far from the crowded downtown streets. Audubon’s country homestead is long gone, but his story launches Matthew Spady’s The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot: Audubon Park and the Families Who Shaped It (Fordham UP, 2020). The book traces the complex path by which woodlands became a multi-ethnic big-city neighborhood. Framing his narrative in the lives of two families—the Audubons and the Grinnells—Spady tells how family dysfunctions, economic crises, and technological change created a Manhattan neighborhood that no one could have predicted at its birth.
This interview was produced with the collaboration of the Gotham Center for New York City History.
Robert W. Snyder, Manhattan Borough Historian and professor emeritus of American Studies and Journalism at Rutgers University, is the author of Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York and co-author of All the Nations Under Heaven: Immigrants, Migrants and the Making of New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.