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Posts from the "Jane Jacobs" Category

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Planetizen Unveils Its Top 100 Urban Thinkers

0433_12innova.jpgJane Jacobs. Photo: BusinessWeek

She may be experiencing an intellectual reconsideration in some corners, but Jane Jacobs is still a beloved figure for the urban planners and designers of Planetizen.

After a month-long online poll that saw more than 14,000 votes cast, the site released its list of the "Top 100 Urban Thinkers" today -- and Jane was at the top. Her longtime antagonist Robert Moses came in at No. 23, nine spots ahead of current New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Other notables singled out by Planetizen readers include Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York's Central Park (No. 4), Enrique Penalosa, Bogota's former mayor and a dedicated proponent of bus rapid transit (No. 14), and Kaid Benfield, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's smart growth program (No. 42).

Check out the complete top 100 right here. Is anyone missing, or should anyone be ranked higher than they are?

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What Should We Learn From Moses and Jacobs?

There is probably no more beloved figure in urbanism than Jane Jacobs, who fought to preserve some of New York City's most treasured neighborhoods and who gave urbanists some of the field's fundamental texts. As Ed Glaeser notes in the New Republic this week, Jacobs died in 2006 "a cherished, almost saintly figure," while her principal antagonist, Robert Moses, remains popularly reviled as a villain.

3227424_t346.jpgJane Jacobs (center, in light dress) demonstrates at New York City's old Penn Station. Photo: Metropolis
But as American cities have outgrown their infrastructure in recent decades, and as political institutions have proven unable to muster the energy necessary to construct great projects, Moses' reputation has enjoyed something of a recovery. Increasingly, he is being actively rehabilitated in new histories and essays, of which Glaeser's review is an example.

These efforts are interesting because they manage to earn a degree of sympathy from urbanists themselves, who have grown increasingly tired of the decades required to navigate a transit line from planning stages to operation.

There is something very attractive about an individual who can drive the stakes and get the project built -- damn the politicians, and damn the NIMBYs.

But this is dangerous territory. In rehabilitating Moses and reconsidering Jacobs, it's important to be clear about where each was right, and where each went wrong.

There are many ways to interpret the clash between Moses and Jacobs: development versus preservation, city versus suburb, design for people versus design for automobiles, power versus powerlessness, and so on. To acknowledge that the balance has swung too far in one direction in one of these conflicts does not at all suggest that the balances are similarly out of whack on others.

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Still Time to Submit Jane Jacobs Medal Nominees

The deadline for submitting nominees for the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal has been extended to Monday, Feb. 4.

As we wrote a couple of weeks ago, the award recognizes "two living individuals whose creative vision for the urban environment has significantly contributed to the vibrancy and variety of New York City." The medal comes with $200,000 in prizes.

Recipients will be people who:

  • Make New York City a place of hope and expectation that attracts new people and new ideas
  • Challenge traditional assumptions and conventional thinking
  • Promote dynamism, density, diversity and equity
  • Generate new principles for the way we think about development and preservation in New York City
  • Take a common sense approach to complex problems
  • Provide leadership in solving common problems
  • Respect neighborhood knowledge
  • Generate creative use of the urban environment
  • Demonstrate activism and innovative cross-disciplinary thinking
  • Give us new ways of seeing and understanding our city
The Jane Jacobs Medal is awarded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Here is the nomination form.
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Who Are You Nominating for the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal?

jjmedal_small.jpgThe Rockefeller Foundation has opened up the nomination process for the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal. The deadline to submit a nomination is February 1.

The award, launched last year, recognizes "two living individuals whose creative vision for the urban environment has significantly contributed to the vibrancy and variety of New York City." Last year, Transportation Alternatives co-founder Barry Benepe received the Lifetime Leadership award and Omar Freilla of Green Worker Cooperatives won the Medal for New Ideas and Activism. The medal is accompanied by prizes totaling $200,000. Not too shabby!

Here is the award criteria:

The Jane Jacobs Medal will be given each year to two living individuals whose creative vision for the urban environment has greatly contributed to the vitality of New York City and who exemplify the following values and ideas:

  • Make New York City a place of hope and expectation that attracts new people and new ideas
  • Challenge traditional assumptions and conventional thinking
  • Promote dynamism, density, diversity and equity
  • Generate new principles for the way we think about development and preservation in New York City
  • Take a common sense approach to complex problems
  • Provide leadership in solving common problems
  • Respect neighborhood knowledge
  • Generate creative use of the urban environment
  • Demonstrate activism and innovative cross-disciplinary thinking
  • Give us new ways of seeing and understanding our city

And, again, here is where you can find the online nomination form. What names are people kicking around this year?

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Jane Jacobs: A Public Celebration

Jane Jacobs: A Public Celebration
Wednesday, June 28 at 5:00 pm, rain or shine.
Washington Square Park
Meet in front of the Arch, site of Jacobs' first victory over Robert Moses.

Speakers will represent different aspects of her life and work, journalism, environmentalism, economics, publishing, civic activism, the arts, and local business on Jane Jacobs' impact and legacy.

Co-sponsored by the Center for the Living City, the Greenwich Village Historical Society and hosted by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

For further information, call (212) 475-9585 or email.

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Jane Jacobs Tribute Tonight

jane_jacobs.jpgThere will be a public celebration for Jane Jacobs this evening, 5:00 pm, under the arch in Washington Square Park.

Lisa Chamerblain will be there and has a nice write-up on her blog, Polis:

It has become the contrarian fashion to say that Jane Jacobs' contribution to urban planning didn't address many of the problems we grapple with today, and that Robert Moses wasn't entirely destructive and wrong. I find this to be an intellectually lazy argument. No single person could simultaneously explode an entire profession AND anticipate every possible consequence of that (such as gentrification, which did not exist at the time that she wrote her seminal book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in 1961).

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555 Hudson Street

Jane Jacobs lived at 555 Hudson Street when she wrote "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." I happened to be in the neighborhood yesterday afternoon and I saw this bouquet of flowers and card on the front door. The card reads, "Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006. From this house, in 1961, a housewife changed the world."

A number of people had left flowers and notes...

Despite the fact that this section of Hudson Street is now, essentially, a three-lane highway, I'm sure Jane would have been pleased with the little bench, the tree, and all of the bikes parked in front of her building. Greenwich Village is still one of the world's great urban neighborhoods thanks to her work...

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Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006

One of the most influential urban thinkers, writers, and activists of the 20th century dies at age 89 in Toronto, Canada.

"I enthusiastically endorse the campaign to close Central Park's loop drive to regular automobile traffic. We had the same sort of fight in Washington Square Park in the late 1950s and in my neighborhood here in Toronto a couple of years ago: same prediction of traffic chaos, same result of no chaos, diminished traffic counts and no counts increased elsewhere in consequence. Isn't it curious that traffic engineers are so loath to learn something new even after repeated demonstrations?"

--Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, and Systems of Survival.