Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City

11 Nov

Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City

Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City

Anthony Flint

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0812981367

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The rivalry of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, a struggle for the soul of a city, is one of the most dramatic and consequential in modern American history. To a young Jane Jacobs, Greenwich Village, with its winding cobblestone streets and diverse makeup, was everything a city neighborhood should be. But consummate power broker Robert Moses, the father of many of New York’s most monumental development projects, thought neighborhoods like Greenwich Village were badly in need of “urban renewal.” Standing up against government plans for the city, Jacobs marshaled popular support and political power against Moses, whether to block traffic through her beloved Washington Square Park or to prevent the construction of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, an elevated superhighway that would have destroyed centuries-old streetscapes and displaced thousands of families. By confronting Moses and his vision, Jacobs forever changed the way Americans understood the city. Her story reminds us of the power we have as individuals to confront and defy reckless authority.



















fellow Democratic state senator: Douglas Dales, “Bill Attacks Plans for Expressway,” New York Times, Jan. 15, 1960. 149 He encouraged the editorial writers: Editorial, New York Times, Nov. 7, 1960. 149 It would be pure folly: Joseph C. Ingraham, “Moses Warns City on Expressway,” New York Times, Aug. 24, 1960, p. 31. 149 “There is no point”: Charles G. Bennett, “Expressway Plea by Moses Ignored,” New York Times, Aug. 25, 1960, p. 31. 150 “No hasty action”: Charles G. Bennett, “Crosstown Road

with housing towers and commercial centers replacing the dilapidated buildings and scattered vacant lots. Haskell wanted someone to travel to Philadelphia and gauge the success of his grand re-vitalization plans. Largely because the staff was shorthanded, he chose Jacobs. Going to meet the great Ed Bacon, Jacobs confessed she was “not what you would call a city-planning expert.” But she knew Philadelphia was a grand experiment at the time, and Ed Bacon was very fashionable. She took the train

People,” published in Fortune in 1958, Jacobs laid out her critique: downtown redevelopment efforts across the United States were completely misguided, and showed no understanding of how people actually behaved in cities. “These projects will not revitalize downtown; they will deaden it,” she wrote. “They will be stable and symmetrical and orderly. They will be clean, impressive, and monumental. They will have all the attributes of a well-kept, dignified cemetery.” The reader response was

round wire-rimmed glasses and that lock of hair tumbling down his forehead. He looked like one of the dashing World War I–era poets, like Yeats. Bob told her that he’d been an art teacher at City College, and even dabbled in acting, performing minor roles in amateur productions. But that was all in the past. Now he was a full-time architect and designer. Like Jane, Bob had gone to Columbia, but had attended the architecture school. He was excited about the profession, and the way he talked about

pamphlet, wrote her name on the sign-up sheet for speakers, and took a seat at the front of the hall. It was then she noticed that the microphone had been set up so the speakers addressed the crowd, and not the transportation agency officials seated at a table on the stage. The residents and small-business owners went up one by one, saying the highway would devastate their lives and their homes. As a stenotypist moved her hands rhythmically over the key tabs of her machine off to the side, the

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