Jane Jacobs v Robert Moses, battle of New York’s urban titans

Jane jacobs

When city planning supremo Robert Moses proposed a road through Greenwich Village in 1955, he met opposition from one particularly feisty local resident: Jane Jacobs. It was the start of a decades-long struggle for swaths of New York

n 1961, Bennett Cerf, one of the founders of the publishing firm Random House, sent a copy of a new book by Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of American Cities, to the legendary city planner Robert Moses. Moses’s reply was curt:

“Dear Bennett,

I am returning the book you sent me. Aside from the fact that it is intemperate and inaccurate, it is also libelous. I call your attention, for example, to page 131. Sell this junk to someone else.

Cordially, Robert Moses”

This was no ordinary demurral over a book’s merits. It was a salvo in a struggle between a man who had amassed vast bureaucratic powers and remade New York with expressways, parks and housing towers, and the woman who assembled neighbours and public opinion to stop him when he set his sights on the evisceration of a swath of lower Manhattan.

Moses was an avatar of the early 20th-century vision that the only salvation of cities was the large-scale destruction of their existing features, and Jacobs an exemplar of another, which maintained that the future of cities rested on preserving exactly those qualities. Jacobs’ book was the most powerful retort to Moses’s mode of thinking, and her actions a resounding retort to his mode of operating.

The struggles between Jacobs and Moses loom large in the popular consciousness. The subject of books by Roberta Brandes-Gratz and Anthony Flint, they now feature in what is surely the world’s first opera about an urban planning dispute, A Marvelous Order, which premiered last month. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
TITLE | Founder of Architecture Lab
About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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