Friday, September 07, 2007

Coming: the Jane Jacobs exhibit and discussions; AY gets some notice

If earlier this year we encountered a reassessment of Robert Moses, soon we’ll have a chance to examine his one-time antagonist, author and activist Jane Jacobs, whose 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities took on an entire generation of urban planners.

The Municipal Art Society (MAS), with sponsorship from the Rockefeller Foundation—which funded Jacobs and now funds medals in her honor—will on Sept. 25 open the “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York” exhibit. MAS then will host several panels regarding Jacobs’s relevance today, three of which will touch on Atlantic Yards.

(A web site for the exhibit will go live on September 10.)

AY effect?

While there’s no clue yet what the exhibit might say about Atlantic Yards, the press release hints at potential criticism. “The project presents the principles and activism of Jane Jacobs and challenges New York City residents to study the use of their city, its streets and the built environment,” said Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. “The project inspires citizens to support and fight for the health of their own neighborhoods, and it encourages city officials, developers, planners and architects to embrace and implement Jane Jacobs’ teachings.”

The MAS itself has not joined the main Atlantic Yards opposition, steering clear of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and its lawsuits, but has spearheaded the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, which began last year and called for major changes in the project, hoping for some political and community leverage. Some of BrooklynSpeaks' criticisms, including the need for the project to "respect and integrate with the surrounding neighborhoods," reflect Jacobs' influence.

Panel discussions

Along with the exhibit, “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York” will include several programs “that apply Jane Jacobs’ principles to contemporary New York City while seeking to initiate a dialogue concerning the future of the city.” And three of the seven, including one in which I’ll participate, will touch on Atlantic Yards. (Cost for each is $12 non-members, $8 members & students.)

Below is the text as taken from the promotional material, with some footnotes added.

The press

NEW MEDIA, NEW POLITICS?: JANE JACOBS AND AN ACTIVIST PRESS
Tuesday, October 9, 7 pm, Housing Works Used Books Café, 126 Crosby at Houston

This panel will consider the lineage of activist journalism, from pamphletting and the early Village Voice to today’s online investigative journalism and community organizing.

Sewell Chan, The New York Times — moderator
Gay Talese, author
Norman Oder, Atlantic Yards Report
Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, El Diario
Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake.com

Civic activism

A CIVIC ACTIVIST BOOT CAMP: WORKING WITHIN AND WITHOUT THE SYSTEM
Tuesday, October 16, 7 pm, Municipal Art Society, 457 Madison Avenue at 51st Street

In the spirit of Jane Jacobs, this panel not only will explore ways to open up urban planning processes but will detail concrete ways that individuals can acquire the tools necessary to make their voices heard. Participants will outline ways to make stands, including basic organization, media relations, community relations, government relations, and the use of legal action.

Richard Kahan, Urban Assembly — moderator
Alexie Torres-Fleming, Southern Bronx Watershed River Alliance/Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice
Reverend Billy, Church of Stop Shopping
Joshua David, Friends of the High Line
Marshall Brown, Atlantic Yards Development Workshop

I'll note that Brown has helped develop the alternative UNITY plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard; an update is expected soon.

The "oversuccessful city"

THE OVERSUCCESSFUL CITY, Part 2: NEIGHBORHOOD CHARACTER IN THE FACE OF CHANGE
Tuesday, December 4, 7 pm, Municipal Art Society, 457 Madison at 51st Street

How can neighborhoods guard against the pitfalls of “oversuccess,” not least of which are gentrification and displacement? Who gets to say “Enough!” and when? This panel will look at recent controversies over specific large developments and tangle with the complexities of development’s benefits and its considerable perils and inequities.

Matt Schuerman, New York Observer — moderator
Rev. Calvin Butts, Abyssinian Development Corporation
Errol Louis, New York Daily News
Ron Shiffman, Pratt Center
Michelle de le Uz, Fifth Avenue Committee

I'll note that Shiffman is on the advisory board of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the main coalition opposing Atlantic Yards and de la Uz is a leader of BrooklynSpeaks. And columnist Louis has been a strong supporter of the project.

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