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.
On Tuesday we watched the movie Citizen Jane – Battle For The City, which was a documentary about developer Robert Moses vision for New York and how Jane Jacobs fought to stop these changes. One thing that really stood out to me was Robert Moses obsession with highways. He was willing and ready to literally destroy anything to build a highway thinking that was the future of New York City. An example of this was how Moses plowed through the Bronx to build the Cross Bronx expressway, leaving hundreds of people with nothing but an eviction notice. During the movie as we watch him in an an interview regarding this development he showed no remorse or compassion for these people. While when he tried to make a highway going through the Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village Jane Jacobs and a assemble of other mothers rallied together to stop these plans. These two circumstance are perfect example of race and class differences. While Jane Jacobs wasn’t an activist from the start but her journalism background, environment, and resources helped her be successful. The community in the Bronx were in the same predicament as the community in the “My Brooklyn” movie, where they weren’t aware of the situation or taken into consideration. At the end of the day, we have Jane Jacobs to thank for the the city we have today, because her role in Greenwich Village lead to her getting involved with other areas in the city that know and explore today. We also have Robert Moses to blame for the decay of South Bronx. Something Jane Jacobs said was “ the city is a problem of organized complexities…..it looks like chaos but when looking in closer there’s a balance”, Robert Moses never tried to look closer
Robert Moses, some may consider him as the legendary city planner while others such as Janes Jacobs the activist saw him differently. Robert Moses had many plans to make the city “better” by accommodating cars with more highways to alleviate highway congestion and to promote businesses for faster travels. Moses was known for holding great bureaucratic power which gave him the competence to make changes to the city’s geographical appearance. When building his ideas, Robert Moses took action without acknowledging the fact that masses of people will be needed to relocate which will devastate families that were originally living in the path of his construction. To prevent further changes from Robert Moses, activist and housewife Jane Jacobs stood up to take actions. By revolting against Robert Moses, Lower Manhattan was saved from destruction and shes probably the reason why we still have soho and other great places which people crowd to shop and commute.
Watching the movie, I would say that I have to agree with Jane Jacobs on how we need to design cities and buildings from the perspective of the streets instead of looking at design from up above like Robert Moses. If you don’t consider the people who already live there and what it looks like from their perspective, you can end up destroying neighborhoods and create cultural divides like what happened with the Cross Bronx Expressway. Doing so also risks needlessly destroying important local institutions like the Washington Square Park. Robert Moses’s blatant disregard for the people who lived in the locations, even with protests, seems almost unjustifiable. While it is true that sometimes you must consider the city as a whole, disregarding the existing structure causes needless problems that don’t need to exist. While there is nothing inherently wrong with trying to develop bigger and more advanced areas, careful consideration of how people will react to the developments, and its long term changes it will cause, before trying to implement them. The key is to develop without destroying what is already there, by listening to the community and figuring out what they want and what they wish to keep. This is why listening during group meetings is important: if people voice their opinion and people listen, then development can only be beneficial.
Yesterday we watched and discussed parts of the documentary Citizen Jane – Battle For The City. See Homework in the Syllabus.
The movie is available for rent from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Citizen-Jane-Battle-Marisa-Tomei/dp/B075H3QF41/ref=tmm_aiv_swatch_1?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
In the movie citizen Jane we are shown a common phenomenon that has been going on for years and still affects all low income american citizens and immigrants. In the movie, Jane Jacobs well known as a writer and then as an activist, this woman had a different idea about the real meaning of a city, what really matter in a city is its people ,powerful developers such as Robert Moses had a totally different concept/idea. Robert Moses had a lot of power when it came to the New York City housing authority, meaning that he could destroy and build whatever he wanted, to his like. In the other hand we have his opponent Jane Jacobs has this different vision about the real meaning of city. While Robert Moses believed that the real meaning of the city was it building/new construction and the physical look of it, Jane idea was different, her philosophy said that people is what really matters in the city. In the movie can be seen how Robert Moses wanted to build a road through the middle of Westchester square, Jane totally disagreed with this idea and fought against it until victory. This woman had a vision that nobody out there had, she thought that city planning was the future factor that was going to destroy neighborhood. If we stick to Robert Moses idea, although it’s illogical, we we begin to start the rebuilding of city all over again, as he wanted, will it still be the same in the general aspect of it. In the first place what really makes Yew York a good place is the fact that you can consider every building a mini neighborhood inside a neighborhood. Right at the moment that those building were torn down all that magic and spirit of the community. Once the renewal happens, old residents that used to live there wont come back because of the high rent or even because they don’t know anybody on that new renewed-building
The film that we saw on Tuesday was called “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City” by Matt Tyrnauer. The film informed us about the journalist and housewife: Jane Jacobs. She was one of the founding activists who organized against the destruction of neighborhoods to build highways. I reacted differently to the various ideals in the film. I agreed with Jacob’s views of the city. She believed that the chaos and the busy life in the streets are all part of the experience. It’s unpredictable and dreams come true here in the city. It’s a bit romanticised, which is how I view the city as well. It’s not perfect but, it’s an amazing place filled with an amazing plethora of culture. The busy blocks with an abundance of people tend to be more safer and more interesting than those that are quiet and empty. I was furious with the the views of Robert Moses, who was a public official. He wanted to build highways in the middle of communities. It’s wrong and immoral because the residents have been living there and contributing to the community for years and to have someone come in and take your home away and force you to move somewhere else. It’s even worse when your home and your community is being replaced with a highway. It’s absolutely absurd.