Watching the movie Citizen Jane: Battle for the City in class gave me a more deepened understanding and fostered my belief about what makes a neighborhood a neighborhood.
Jane Jacobs was a Journalist who lived in the Soho area and was startled and disgusted to hear that Robert Moses proposed to run an expressway through Washington Square Park. Through her journalistic talent and apt for organization, Jane was able to get the attention of the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. With public outcry and the sarcastic, chauvinistic antics of Robert Moses, Washington Square Park was saved.
Throughout this film what resonated most to me was community organization and the power we have if we exercise it. It was the community that stopped the expressway from segregating Soho and destroying their park. This holds true today in the Gowanus area. So far the community has rallied together to not ban but slow down the process of development in the Gowanus. Their voice along with organizations like The Gowanus Conservancy gives them the power to have input in future developments along the Gowanus and access to the canal via pvt donation of public spaces.
Last week we went on a walking tour to speak to residents in the Gowanus to learn their views regarding development on the canal. My group and I was able to talk with a Sales Agent, Kristina Teiro, at the new luxury rental development. Interestingly, Kristina spoke about how the Developer and Architect was sensitive to the streescape of surrounding housing stock and the importance of continuing community involvement by opening up their studios to local artists within the Gowanus, having free breakfast every morning for their residents (in the building), as well as other activities that supports “getting to know your neighbor/community.”
Having a clearer understanding that a neighborhood is a “functional system of complex order not chaos”, Jane Jacobs…. I as a future Developer will continue to keep this motto within my business plan and take cues from the Gowanus Conservancy and Developers.