Jane Jacobs’ Fight to Save Greenwich Village


by Rose Cronin-Jackman, intern


Beginning this month, The Center for the Living City will present a yearlong series of lectures at the Museum honoring activist and urban ethnographer Jane Jacobs. In my urban history classes at the New School, Jacobs as been mentioned a number of times, specifically regarding her battle with urban planner and ‘power broker’ Robert Moses.

Moses, the all-powerful city planner, was responsible for the Cross Bronx Expressway, Lincoln Center, the United Nations Building and the Tri-Borough Bridge, among other projects. His idea of urban renewal called for the clearing of ‘slums’ to create a more productive urban space. For instance, the area where Lincoln Center stands today was once a populous neighborhood and community, until Moses ordered it cleared out and demolished. The residents of the neighborhood put up a fight and tried to halt the development, but no one could stop Moses and his vision of urban progress— until Jane Jacobs came along.

Jane Jacobs was a Canadian journalist and author who had called Greenwich Village her home for many years. As an urban ethnographer, Jacobs was concerned with the inhabitants of urban neighborhoods, and argued that the current form of urban renewal did not benefit them. Robert Moses had his eye on the Village as the site of a new expressway that would cut through Washington Square Park, and through the Village as far as Chinatown. When Jacobs heard of this plan, she mobilized the residents of Greenwich Village to stop it before development began. Jacobs chaired the “Joint Committee to Stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway” and lobbied the local government relentlessly. After support and protest from the community, the Committee succeeded in blocking the Expressway, and Washington Square Park was sealed from traffic.

Thanks to Jacobs, the beautiful and historic Greenwich Village was preserved and hundreds of local businesses and residences were not disturbed.

To learn more about Jacobs and how she continues to inspire new generations of activists, the The Center for the Living City will be hosting a series of talks Jane Jacobs and her legacy at the Museum at Eldridge Street. The first of these talks will be on Wednesday May 4th at 6:30 PM, hosted by Ray Suarez a broadcast journalist and author of The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration.

Other talks include:

Wednesday, June 15 at 6:30

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, landscape designer and preservationist

Wednesday, July 13 at 6:30
Mindy Fullilove
, psychiatrist interested in the links between the environment and mental health
Sanford Ikeda, Professor of economics at Purchase College
Ronald Shiffman, planner, architect and community development leader

Wednesday, September 14 at 6:30
Paul Goldberger
, Pulitzer Prize winning architecture critic and author

Wednesday, September 28 at 6:30 pm
Adam Gopnik
, author and staff writer for The New Yorker 

Thursday, October 6
Peter Laurence
, author of Becoming Jane Jacobs

Robert Kenigal, author of the upcoming book Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs 

Wednesday, November 9 at 6:30 pm
Darren Walker
, President of the Ford Foundation 

Wednesday, November 16 at 6:30 pm
Janette Sadik-Khan
, former NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner who introduced pedestrian plazas, bike lanes and bike sharing

Wednesday, November 30 at 7 pm
Gary Hattem
, president of the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, Managing Director of their Community Development Finance Group

Wednesday, December 7 at 6:30
Saskia Sassen
, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University,

Richard Sennett, Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Professor of Humanities at NYU


Categories: Historic Preservation, History

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