Author Archives: yuying

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

The movie, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, is focused on the two perspectives from Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. They are representing two social classes: new developers and residents. Robert Moses was a public officer known as the “Master Builder” in mid-20th century in New York. He believed that what important for the city were new buildings, constructions and transportations. As an urban planner, he looked at the city from the upper side. Therefore he never knew what the soul of a neighborhood was about, like many other developers. In his belief, making a better city is to construct many new projects. For example, he created many modernism housing projects that he thought it could solve low income residents and high-density residents’ problems. However, after old houses, shops, and groceries were torn down, people who used to live in the neighborhood never come back because of the high rent and lost relationship. His action is not improving the situation but made it worse. Moreover, the more they built in a neighborhood, the more they destroyed the spirt of it. I was shocked about how he wants to build a new highway go through Lower Manhattan. However, activists, like Jane Jacobs, stood up and took actions to against Robert Moses. Therefore, there are still many cast iron buildings in Soho Historic District, where people can shop and entertain. Moreover, it attracts many tourists from all over the world. I believe what makes a great city is not the physical buildings or new highways, but people who interact with each other in the neighborhood, which is Jane Jacobs’s philosophy. Jane Jacobs, known as a journalist and an activist, has a different vision of definition of a city from Robert Moses. She viewed the city from the street, like one of her sociological concepts “eyes on the street”. She believes what made the neighborhood great was the people in the street. The sidewalk and public space were more important than railways, because those are the places where the residents can entertain, get information, and communicate. On my perspective, as urban planners or building developers, they should not only viewed the city from the sky, but also from the street. Therefore, they can know the DNA of the neighborhood. Once people understand the neighborhood, they can build a better neighborhood. As we were doing research on Gowanus Canal, we did site visit to know more about the DNA of this neighborhood. The more we know about this place, the more we understand it.

My Brooklyn

My Brooklyn, filmed by Kelly Anderson, a movie about the facts of gentrification in Brooklyn. It is an interesting documentary that I will suggest to every New Yorker should watch it. From the film, I was disappointed what governor officers and developers did for the residents and local businesses. Most of the residents move to a new place since they cannot afford the rent. I am really sad that they have to leave Brooklyn Downtown where they were born and raised. Moreover, many small businesses are forced to move out of Brooklyn Downtown because the developers need space to build apartments and condos. These businesses have been there for ten years or more where they have great relationship with their customers. And it is a shame to see them leave the area. Even worse, the government department does not allow them to post an announcement of their relocation. The local neighborhood, like so many areas of New York, are being gentrified. On the other side, it brings new feature to Brooklyn Downtown, such as modern high-rise building, global business, and attractions, which create a new community. However, it loses its own characteristic especially its mixed-culture. Downtown Brooklyn is a multi-culture environment melting with Jamaican, African, Dominican and Asian atmosphere. After gentrification, government relocated these people, only encourage elite to move in. I agree that the city should be gentrified in certain degree, but human factor should be considered one of the most crucial factor, especially the local people. I believe gentrification is not only about the environment and economy, but also about human and society. And how to create a friendly neighborhood.

Blog 3: Gowanus Canal

After listening to Joseph Alexiou’s speaking, I get to know more about Gowanus Canal. Gowanus Canal is located in Brooklyn, and it is 1.8 miles. Joseph talks about the history of the canal: why it is here, how it is here, and how it is polluted. I am interested in why people built a canal, and who comes up to this idea. The main two person who contributed to this, are Daniel Richard and Edwin Litchfield. Daniel Richard is a developer and a business man, who came up with the idea of Gowanus Canal. However he is not the person who present the idea and design to public. Edwin Litchfield is an engineer and investor, he is the one who presented the canal and to the public.

During the 18 centuries, the City of Brooklyn was growing rapidly, many new people moved into Gowanus Greek, and it leads to many big problems. The first problem is people need more space to live. They need to build housing for those new people coming in, but the marshland that flood a lot does not help the situation. Therefore they had to figure out where to place these people. Another problem is other cities did not have sewage system. In Brooklyn, people get the trash in a bucket and then dumped them into the water. These problems came along when a city is still in development. Problems like how to build house when there is a marshland, and how to drain the water since they had no sewage system. Till now, these problems still exists. And government and people are trying to figure out the best solution.

Daniel Richard, who grow up in the upper state of New York, hired an engineer and came up with a plan of creating a canal in Brooklyn. He thought a canal can solve these problems, as the canal can bring commerce, have tugs and barges landed here. It can also drain rain water because they can build a sewage system with it, where the rain water will flow through. However, the engineering’s plan costs too much money that City of Brooklyn did not agree on. In 1849, Richard came up to his own design, which is the canal shape that we know today. He decided the canal follow the shape of it natural bank, hence, it save a lot of money from digging and filling up the holes. He also come up with the idea of basins so he can get private land owners to work on those basins which collects water. However, his great idea was never present and implement by himself. Because he was getting into trouble during his election, and he was unable to do it. That is why his well-designed idea was presented by Edwin C. Litchfield instead.

Edwin C. Litchfield bought all the land from Carroll Garden to Peak Hill, whereas the land are not well-developed and floods a lot. And he uses his own money to develop one side of this creek within his land, in the hope of getting the rest of the city and the private land owner follow his move. He built a road straight and not too slope so that cars can go up. He also uses Richard’s idea of having basin, and around his private basin, he wanted to have lots for shopping, buildings, and industrial factories. His plan was to have canal becoming a commercial district where it can allows business, groceries coming in, and all kind of industrials business. Everything people need, they can find it from this canal. Therefore, people can even buy all the materials to make up their house in this area. Moreover, the canal bring in all the important things the residents need, especially the energy, as coal was the only source of energy during that time. People burn coal to create energy. Therefore, shopping coal from the canal was the easiest way for people to generate energy for their houses.

Gowanus canal was built in a population growing time, the 18 centuries, whereas most of the people were moving in. People always need housing, food, and energy. Those demands pushes the development of cities, and the city development motivates population growth, it becomes a cycle of modern development. Which makes the canal become more and more important to both city development and people.