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"Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind"

"Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind": Contemporary Planning in New York City

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    "Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind"
    Book Description:

    The antagonism between urbanist and writer Jane Jacobs and master builder Robert Moses may frame debates over urban form, but in"Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind,"Scott Larson aims to use the Moses-Jacobs rivalry as a means for examining and understanding the New York City administration's redevelopment strategies and actions. By showing how the Bloomberg administration's plans borrow selectively from Moses' and Jacobs' writing, Larson lays bare the contradictions buried in such rhetoric and argues that there can be no equitable solution to the social and economic goals for redevelopment in New York City with such a strategy.

    "Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind"offers a lively critique that shows how the legacies of these two planners have been interpreted-and reinterpreted-over time and with the evolution of urban space. Ultimately, he makes the case that neither figure offers a meaningful model for addressing stubborn problems-poverty, lack of affordable housing, and segregation along class and racial lines-that continue to vex today's cities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0971-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Architecture and Architectural History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Jacobs versus Moses: A Fight for the City’s Soul
    (pp. 1-14)

    In October 2006 the Gotham Center for New York City History at the City University of New York hosted a public forum. Engaged in a spirited conversation was a select group of historians, architects, planners, community activists, developers, and political appointees. The group debated which of two urban visions dominates New York City’s approach to city building today—that of Jane Jacobs, the legendary urbanist and writer who penned the now-classic attack on planning,The Death and Life of Great American Cities,¹ or her frequent antagonist, Robert Moses, the master builder of the mid-twentieth century.² Pointing to promotional posters that...

  5. 2 The “Patron Saint” and the “Git’r Done Man”
    (pp. 15-32)

    When Jane Jacobs died on April 25, 2006, she was widely viewed as the patron saint of urban dynamism, an irascible but venerable champion of street-level vitality and neighborhood diversity whose views “changed the way we think about livable cities” (Dreier 2006, 227). A mother and housewife, a sometime writer, and an activist, without any formal training in urban theory or design, Jacobs stood the planning world on its ear in 1961 by crafting what to many remains the seminal critique of mid-twentieth-century city planning orthodoxy,The Death and Life of Great American Cities.¹ In this book she challenged the...

  6. 3 The Bloomberg Practice
    (pp. 33-44)

    From the moment Michael Bloomberg assumed the Mayor’s Office in 2002, his administration sought to reshape New York City’s built environment on a scale not seen since Robert Moses’s build-big era. While some hailed the administration’s ambitious plans as a rebirth of big ideas and a throwback to an age when leaders got things done (Ballon 2008; Goldberger 2007a), others questioned the redevelopment agenda’s underlying long-term vision and economic rationale, and lamented the potential negative impacts of particular projects on neighboring communities as well as the autocratic means by which they were pursued (Lander 2006; Wells 2007). No sooner were...

  7. 4 Calls for a New Moses
    (pp. 45-58)

    While revisionist readings of Robert Moses were under way long before Jane Jacobs’s death (Jackson 1989; Schwartz 1993), the resurgence of such thinking just months after her passing underscored the degree to which the two figures had become conjoined in the public imagination and further fanned the debates over their lasting legacies. But to Kent Barwick and others familiar with the politics behind the revisionist effort, “the whole Moses/Jacobs revisiting” was “provoked” by the Bloomberg administration, which came into office with a clear physical agenda and “conscious strategies” for how to implement it but was fully unprepared to contend with...

  8. 5 Planning and the Narrative of Threat
    (pp. 59-76)

    Planning, it has been suggested, is the creation of a master narrative about the future, “the construction of stories that describe the pattern of a desired world” (Mandelbaum 1991, 210) as a means of normalizing and rationalizing the logic behind proposed projects and redevelopment schemes (Dear 1989; Throgmorton 1992). From this position, planners become “authors who actively construct views of events” that others “read (construct and interpret),” though at times in “diverse and often conflicting ways” (Mandelbaum 1991, 211). As planning regularly confronts contested terrain in which a variety of counternarratives are forced to compete for legitimacy and support, a...

  9. 6 The Armature for Development
    (pp. 77-96)

    For a Bloomberg administration bent on a neoliberal building spree and needing citizen buy-in to see it through, one of the essential challenges had been how to make the case for building on a scale not seen since the Moses era in a city still enamored of Jacobs. To be sure, by asserting, as New York City Planning Director Amanda Burden had, that the battle between Moses and Jacobs was over and Jacobs had won (Burden 2006a), the Bloomberg administration acknowledged a very important truth, one that no city agency or public entity claiming to represent the greater good could...

  10. 7 Ideas That Converge
    (pp. 97-114)

    As we have seen thus far, in various ways and at multiple levels, Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses continue to resonate in debates over urban form and redevelopment. At particular moments and in specific places, each has emerged as a foundational figure, an urban icon whose ideas inform the work of planning theorists and practitioners, and serve as cornerstones in ideological arguments over how best to plan and build cities. That in the New York City of the early twenty-first century, the Bloomberg administration would appeal to both at the same time attests to the lasting resonance of each figure’s...

  11. 8 Ideas That Travel
    (pp. 115-132)

    Of course, New York City is not the only metropolis grappling with questions of urban transformation to have turned to Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses in search of ideas and inspiration. Indeed, many of the social, political, and economic forces that made New York a crucible of urban policy were at work in cities across the United States and Canada in the postwar years. So while the legacies of the two figures were cemented in New York, and their ideas about how best to build successful cities continue to resonate loudly in debates about redevelopment there, Jacobs and Moses have...

  12. 9 Design as Civic Virtue
    (pp. 133-144)

    In New York City, the “Great Synthesis” that some in Toronto pined for in 2010 already had been under way for the better part of a decade. With Dan Doctoroff, Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for economic development, providing the vision for a slate of ambitious projects designed to reshape New York City on a Moses-like scale—and engendering comparisons, both positive and negative, to the power broker as a consequence (Wells 2007; Brash 2006)—the task of infusing the Bloomberg redevelopment agenda with just enough human scope to make it amenable to a city still enamored of Jane Jacobs fell to...

  13. 10 Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind
    (pp. 145-154)

    For as long as the New York City economy boomed, powered by a raging real estate market and easy access to credit, the Bloomberg camp enthusiastically charged ahead with plans for building a global capital and creative city amenable to the expansion of the financial sector and its ancillary services. But by the fall of 2007 the administration’s narrative of a city ascendant had begun to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions and a looming worldwide financial crisis.

    The same debt explosion and speculative housing bubble that generated huge profits, as well as enormous salaries and bonuses, within...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 155-166)
  15. References
    (pp. 167-180)
  16. Index
    (pp. 181-187)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 188-188)