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Jane Jacobs, skepticism, and Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park

On today's rain-or-shine free Jane's Walk, starting 5:30 sharp outside the Barclays Center (get there early), I'll take people through the complex history of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, starting with the project announcement in 2003, and the many plans, twists, and turns.

But what of the great urbanist Jane Jacobs, whose 100th birthday is being celebrated? I'll sit out for now the various "What Would Jane Do?" speculations, but rely on a wise observation from architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who suggested, "So if there is any way to follow Jane Jacobs, it is to think of her as showing us not a physical model for city form but rather a perceptual model for skepticism."

Ah, there are many triggers for skepticism.

Modular and Jacobs

Forest City Ratner executive (now CEO) MaryAnne Gilmartin, in 2013, contended that the developer's cutting-edge plans for modular construction were Jacobsian:
To my mind, the modern redux of Jane Jacobs is to do this with well-designed, intelligent, mixed-use buildings--buildings that no only reach higher into the sky but deeper into our imaginations.
Hyperdense mixed-use places, if designed properly, with generous public spaces, proximities to parks, schools, and a wide range for retail and entertainment does not make for a Blade Runner city.
Writing 1/8/14, I suggested that "some continued Jacobsian skepticism is in order." Well, we now know how that turned out, with Forest City shelving ambitious plans for modular and that first tower suffering unexpected leaks and mold.

Moses and Jacobs

"It may surprise some here, given my developer DNA," Gilmartin once told real estate colleagues at a benefit dinner supporting Columbia University's Center for Urban Real Estate, "that I identify much more with Jane Jacobs than Robert Moses," calling Jacobs "the mother of mixed-use" while acknowledging they differed "significantly when it comes to scale."

Well, now. Simply having a mixed-use complex does not a Jacobsian project make, given the urbanist's warnings about single developers and "cataclysmic" money. 

"No developer can ever develop a large-scale project or so-called new community based on Jacobs' principles," Jacobs's friend and colleague Roberta Gratz once warned. "This is an oxymoron."

Welcome, Brooklyn Behemoth (aka the giant tower proposed for Site 5), to "the ideal New York neighborhood from scratch"!




Comments

  1. When I think about Jane Jacob's Greenwich Village neighborhood, I think Rent Regulations. Without Rent Control/Rent Stabilization, there is only transience, not neighborhood. Hurray for Jane, but hurray more for the rent laws that keep NYC affordable and intact. May they be expanded.

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