“This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding.” – so reads the opening salvo from Jane Jacob’s powerfully influential book ‘The Death And Life Of Great American Cities’
A Brief Tribute from Doug Draper
Posted May 6th on Niagara At Large
She was small in stature but mighty.
Jane Jacobs was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on May 4th, 1916 and died in Toronto, Ontario on April 25th, 2006.
And in between, the “housewife” and self-taught urban planner, whose 1961 book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ was as groundbreaking Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ was to environmental protection and Marshall McLuhan’s ‘Understanding Media’ was to comprehending all forms of media and their mpact on our lives, did more to advance the cause of preserving and building healthy living communities than most of the planners out there with a wall full of professional credentials.
During her years in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s, Jane Jacobs and a small group of citizen leaders stood up to Robert Moses, then one of the most powerful bureaucrats and builders of highways and bridges in North America, and stopped his plans to cut an expressway system through the heart of Manhattan – a scheme that would have gone a long way toward destroying iconic neighbhourhoods in and around the Lower East Side like Soho, Little Italy and the bohemian mecca of Greenwich Village where she lived at the time.
The courageous battle Jacobs led against Moses is wonderfully portrayed in Ric Burns’ crtically acclaimed PBS documentary series ‘New York’ and serves as a lasting inspiration for anyone engaged in David vs. Goliath s battles against forces that might do harm to the communities where we live.
Jane Jacobs’ work should be required teaching in our high schools and should be a centre piece of every municipal planners’ education.
Indeed, we are certainly in need of more Jane Jacobs today, especially in this Niagara, Ontario region where the record shows we have far too few planners, evelopers and municipal politicians with the will and intelligence to move beyond paving over ever more of what is left of green spaces to make way for car-dependent, low density sprawl.
Honour the legacy of Jane Jacobs by putting her great book ‘The Death And Life Of Great American Cities’ on your must read list. What the book has to say about what makes for an urban environment worth living in is just as vital today as it was when it was first published more than five decades ago.
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