May 31, 2011
Reconsidering Jane Jacobs: writers suggest that planners have become disempowered; shouldn't fealty to developers be part of the equation?
Atlantic Yards Report
The new book, Reconsidering Jane Jacobs (APA Planners Press), edited by Max Page and Timothy Mennel, serves as a bit of a bookend to Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York, the 2007 book (Princeton Architectural Press) also co-edited by Mennel, and some of the essays--criticizing Jacobs or the impact of her followers--have already provoked spirited discussion.
Page's introduction sets out the challenge:
Is there any other urbanist whose ideas more people profess to understand who is less understood? And is there another urbanist whose influence is so widely felt even where her name is not well known? We suggest in this volume that the answer is again “no”: Many who profess to understand Jacobs’s ideas don’t, and many more who profess not to know of her work have in fact been deeply influenced by it. Like Freud’s, her ideas are everywhere, named or unnamed.
...Jane Jacobs has had lasting power for many reasons, but one of them certainly is that she offers something for everyone. As Francis Morrone has noted, Jane Jacobs has drawn the praise of new urbanists and preservationists, free-market capitalists, and advocates of government regulation. She is a right-wing libertarian, and she is a left-wing antiwar protester. She cherishes the small-business owner and rails against bureaucrats who limit innovation, and she is also the symbol of one of the things conservatives in the 2008 presidential election scoffed at: “the community activist.”
Fifty years after the publication of Jacobs's classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, (1961), the editors sought writers who would "wrestle with her blind spots, her contradictory political impulses," observe "the unintended uses to which her writing has been put."
The AY angle
There's no explicit mention of Atlantic Yards in the new collection, but, as I suggest below, there are arguments that connect to it.
Posted by eric at May 31, 2011 1:29 PM