Jane Jacobs “Rightly Condemned the ­Arrogance and Elitism of Urban Planners”


Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.

(A15) In her day, she was a tenacious activist and an ­opponent of powerful interests, courting disfavor in high places. But today everyone loves Jane ­Jacobs, and understandably so. The author of the now-classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” (1961) is widely regarded as a common-sense visionary who ­reminded people about what makes ­cities livable.

According to Anthony Flint, the author of ­”Wrestling With Moses,” Jacobs’s most important ­contribution was the idea that “cities and city ­neighborhoods had an ­organic structure of their own that couldn’t be ­produced at the drafting table.” Mr. Flint, a former journalist who now works at the ­Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, clearly counts himself as a ­Jacobs fan. His book is a lively and informative ­valentine to her, aimed at showing us especially how she “took on New York’s master builder and ­transformed the American city.”
The villain of the story is Robert Moses, the ­”master builder” who for four decades–from the 1930s into the 1960s–led several well-funded, quasi-governmental agencies and radically transformed the landscape of New York, ­building roads, bridges, tunnels, parks, ­playgrounds, beaches and ­public housing. Though he never held elective ­office, he was ­powerful indeed, establishing a ­formidable base in the city and state bureaucracies. He might have fallen into obscurity after his death if it were not for Robert Caro, who immortalized ­Moses in “The Power ­Broker” (1974), a massive ­biography that portrays Moses as a despot whose creations helped to destroy the city.
. . .
One roots for Jacobs every step of the way, not least because she rightly condemned the ­arrogance and elitism of urban planners. And Moses was, in fact, a bully who had acquired too much power and disregarded the concerns of local residents. Slum clearance too often targeted functioning working-class neighborhoods, and urban renewal went far beyond what its utopian aims could possibly deliver.

For the full review, see:
VINCENT J. CANNATO. “Not Here, She Said; How Jane Jacobs fought the ‘power broker’ to save the Village–and a city.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., July 29, 2009): A15.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

The source of the book being reviewed, is:
Flint, Anthony. Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City. New York, NY: Random House, Inc., 2009.

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