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August 1, 2009

Jane Jacobs Invocations

The proposed Atlantic Yards project is the polar opposite of the vision of cities espoused by activist Jane Jacobs. So, it's not surprising that both Jacobs and Atlantic Yards are invoked together in these items:

The Huffington Post, The Singing Manifesto (Dedicated to Joan Baez)
By Reverend Billy

Reverend Bill preaches against big-money interests hijacking the City:

We are all erotic politicians. We use our bodies to break into public space. Then we open our mouths. It's what people do who know how to control powerful institutions while standing on the ground outside. Here in the Apple, we are warming up our voices, growing the volume of our voices from the nature of our grand, funky bodies. Why? Our city is corrupted now. So we are preparing a singing revolution against it. We're getting back to the sensuality of our citizenship, Amen?

We hear a radical sing-a-thon that rattles the windows of the $100 million campaign in City Hall. We see the city's conscience rise like a crowd singing the First Amendment before the high-rise money has passed under the table. The mayor gets a worrying memo in his jet over the Atlantic. The clowns and poets and freaks of Coney Island are singing the luxury hotels into the ground. Hell's Kitchen is singing back the mayor's shopping-and-football mall and Brooklyn harmonizes behind the solo arias of Jane Jacobs, as the 16 high-rises of the Atlantic Yards are stuck in their blue-prints.

The corporations and their politicians are watching where we put our bodies and how we raise our voices. They come running with renta-cops at the slightest suggestion of freedom. Lots of bodies down at the town square, that's trouble. What's the distance between a citizen letting out a shout in a park... and the singing revolution? An intriguing question. We do believe that the greenery around City Hall will echo with our sampling of "New York, New York" with the radical lyrics it needs: "Start spreadin' the wealth..." We will sing it in public space, on streets and sidewalks and in the parks. If each of us gets down into our fiery bodies then public space will light up again!


City Journal, Jane Jacobs’s Legacy
By Howard Husock

This review of two Jane Jacobs biographies (Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City, by Anthony Flint and Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Glenna Lang and Marjory Wunsch) includes mention of Bruce Ratner's land grab:

Treating Jane Jacobs as a folk hero, as both Flint and Lang do to varying degrees, risks misinterpreting her work as uniformly favoring the preservation of charming older neighborhoods populated by David Brooks’s “bourgeois bohemians.” But it also risks overstating the extent to which her vision has prevailed. It’s difficult to imagine her having a kind word to say, for instance, about the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where eminent-domain power is to be used for massive clearance and the construction of subsidized high-rises and a sports arena. It’s classic old-style urban renewal, dressed up with plans to use a big-name architect. Sports stadia—the only significant public works to be built in New York recently—are particularly out of keeping with Jacobs’s view that major public facilities should attract people throughout the day and night, not just intermittently. Also not fully appreciated is Jacobs’s celebration of neighborhoods like Boston’s North End, which, when she wrote about it, was a collection of brick walk-ups from which residents of modest means could watch the streets. In other words, poor neighborhoods could be good neighborhoods. (Herbert Gans’s tour de force about Boston’s late West End, The Urban Villagers, makes this point even more effectively than Death and Life.) Today, elaborately subsidized apartments for the poor continue to be supported at all levels of government, in the process creating utterly nonorganic communities, in which income groups are mixed for ideological reasons.

Chelsea Now, Quinn a Jacobs-ean nightmare

This letter to the editor expresses dismay that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn should try to align herself with Jane Jacobs when the Speaker has apparently never met a mega-development she didn't like, including Atlantic Yards:

I was appalled to see the picture of Christine Quinn unveiling a street sign honoring Jane Jacobs in Chelsea Now. Christine Quinn is about as far from Jane Jacobs as you can get, and using Jacobs’s name and legacy to try to color her own awful track record is particularly sickening.

Is this not the same politician who has received record contributions from the real estate industry and developers, whose initiatives she almost always supports? Is this not the same politician who presided over the rezoning of West Chelsea and Hudson Yards to allow huge luxury residential development with the promise of affordable housing that never materialized? Is this not the same politician who has enabled mega-developer The Related Companies to get its hands on the West Side Railyards, where they plan to build a forest of huge new luxury high-rises, hotels and office buildings—which will bring huge traffic and pollution to our neighborhood and no benefits? Is this not the same politician who, as Speaker of the City Council, has supported huge development projects over community opposition all over the city—from Atlantic Yards and DUMBO to the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights?

And now she wants to claim she is “honoring” Jane Jacobs? The greatest honor she could pay Jane Jacobs would be to resign from office.

Meredith Handelman

Posted by steve at August 1, 2009 8:06 AM