8 episodes (total running time 1040 minutes)
Source: PBS Video
These episodes are available below for streaming or (for qualifying educators in our network) as DVDs to borrow from our library.
The Country and the City, 1609-1825
The series begins by identifying the key themes that shaped New York’s history: commerce and capitalism, diversity and democracy, transformation and creativity. The episode charts the development of the city founded by the Dutch as a purely commercial enterprise, first as New Amsterdam—a freewheeling enclave of trade and opportunity—then as the British New York—a colony fueled by slavery, bestowed as a birthday gift upon the Duke of York by his brother, King Charles. Soon after, it became a strategically pivotal locale in the American Revolution, and ultimately became known as the city of New York: the nation’s first capital and the place destined to define urban life in America—and American ideals.
Order and Disorder, 1825-1865
Already established as America’s premier port, New York City swelled into the nation’s greatest industrial metropolis as a massive wave of German and Irish immigration turned the city into one of the world’s most complex urban environments, bringing with it a host of new social problems. Episode two reveals how the city’s artists, innovators, and leaders—from poet Walt Whitman to Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (the designers of Central Park)—grappled with the city’s growing conflicts. These conflicts culminated in the catastrophic Civil War Draft Riots of 1863.
Sunshine and Shadow, 1865-1898
The spotlight shone on the growth, glamour, and grief of New York during America’s giddy postwar “Gilded Age.” Exploring the incomparable wealth of the robber barons and the unabashed corruption of political leaders, such as Tammany Hall boss William M. Tweed, this episode examines the era when the expansion of wealth and poverty—and the schism between them—built to a crescendo. The program ends as the city itself dramatically expands its boundaries, annexing Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island into a single massive metropolis—greater New York.
The Power and the People, 1898-1914
As New York spilled into the new century, the extraordinary interplay of capitalism, democracy, and transformation surged to a climax. During a single generation, over ten million immigrants arrived in New York. The city itself became an even more dramatic lure with the construction of the first subways and skyscrapers. And arising from the plight of New York’s most exploited citizens came landmark legislation that would eventually transform the lives of all Americans.
In this short but dazzling period, New York became the focal point of an extraordinary array of human and cultural energies, reaching its highest levels of urban excitement and glamour. In just over a decade, New York gave birth to its signature skyscrapers—the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings—and to artistic creations like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” and the jazz compositions of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Along the way, Harlem emerged as the undisputed capital of the African American experience. At the same time, the new media industries of advertising, radio networks, public relations, and magazines found their homes in midtown Manhattan.
The City of Tomorrow, 1931-1940
In little more than ten years, immense new forces were unleashed in New York, from the Depression itself to the New Deal, which permanently altered the city and the country. Along the way, two of the most remarkable New Yorkers of all time came to the fore: Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and master builder Robert Moses, both of whom attempted to create—in the darkest of times—a bold new city of the future. This episode examines their careers in detail, as well as the immense public works that transformed the city in the ‘30s. Also explored are the demise of Mayor Jimmy Walker, the coming of the New Deal, the fate of Harlem during the Depression, and the increasingly complex impact of the automobile on the city.
The City and The World, 1945-present
In exploring the social, economic, and physical forces that swept through the city in the post-war period, episode seven examines the great African American migration and Puerto Rican immigration of the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, the beginnings of white flight and suburbanization, and the massive physical changes wrought by highways and urban renewal—all of which were directed, to a surprising degree, by one man: Robert Moses. The film comes to a climax with the destruction of Penn Station, the battle over the Lower Manhattan Expressway, the social and fiscal crises of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and New York’s miraculous revival in the last quarter-century.
The Center of the World, 1946-2003
This episode chronicles the rise and fall of the World Trade Center. Propelled forward in the 1960s by the immense power of David and Nelson Rockefeller and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the world's two tallest buildings would rise despite political controversy, daunting engineering challenges, withering critical scorn, and the threat of financial disaster. The episode comes to a climax with the harrowing events of September 11, 2001, and the extraordinary response of the city's people to the worst crisis in their history.