Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses: some (Doctoroff, Burden) say you can have it both ways, and some (Gratz) say you can't
Former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff is among the former groups. Asked July 8 if there was a simplistic either/or divide or a continuum, he replied, "“I don't think it is true any more, and I certainly think that the way we went about things, which was by no means perfect but we learned a lot along the way, is evidence that you can have it both ways."
CPC Chair Burden
Last night, at the third of the Architectural League's Conversations on New York, City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden sounded a similar note. Discussing the legacy of the Bloomberg administration, she observed, "I would say we've been able to have the city grow in place," able to accommodate new New Yorkers and access the waterfront.
She said it was her personal emphasis to "focus on the public realm... to end up with a vibrant street life." In that way," she continued, "We plan on a Robert Moses sort of scale, at least a number of these rezonings, but we judge ourselves by a Jane Jacobs scale."
In the age of Jacobs
Her interlocutor, critic and author Paul Goldberger, was too busy and/or polite to point out that, as he wrote in his 2004 book Up From Zero, about the contested process to rebuild the World Trade Center site, that it's never simple:
We may well be living in the age of Jane Jacobs, as opposed to the age of Robert Moses, but we also live in the age of marketing, and it is common today to see large projects presented as if they epitomized the small-scale, naturally occurring urban values Jacobs espoused.Or, as he wrote in Block By Block, the companion to a Jacobs exhibit at the Municipal Art Society:
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.A Jacobs ally
Then there's Roberta Brandes Gratz, author of the recently published book The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, who told the Times May 13:
The bottom line must be that Moses’ “public be damned” dictatorial methods are unacceptable in a democratic society. “If the ends don’t justify the means, what does?” Moses declared. Means are more important than ends; process is key. This is the fundamental contrast between Moses and Jacobs. She was about process, he about projects. They represent antithetical views. I use their clashing visions as a lens to look at and understand, perhaps differently, recent city history.Or, as Gratz wrote in City Limits 9/24/07:
Ironically, during the six months of Moses exhibitions and public focus on him, some people tried to give Moses all kinds of credit while saying how much they were also fans of Jane Jacobs. Amid all the exhibits, the desire for another Moses-type who “can get things done” also was expressed. To soften the blow of such an idea, commentators added that it should be a “gentler” Moses, a cross between Moses and Jane Jacobs. But this is an oxymoron – Moses and Jacobs represent polar opposites of urban thought.