Jane Jacobs

Gandolfini as Robert Moses? The Dream Role He Never Got to Play

The actor hoped to direct and star in an adaption of my book

James Gandolfini acted in and considered many roles in his distinguished career, but there was one man who fascinated him, whom he never got to play: New York’s powerful master builder, Robert Moses.

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The Real Problem with Gentrification

A phenomenon that revived cities can also make them monotonous

Gentrification, which has helped revive so many cities, has a possibly self-defeating side-effect: Leaving monotonous neighborhoods in its wake. 

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Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. For any number of pundits, policymakers, and scholars, the new next hot thing, in countries developed and developing, is The City—or, more expansively and more precisely, the megalopolis and its little brother, the metropolis.

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Fifty years ago, liberals and radicals were eager and able to think big. Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961, sparked a campaign to defend and develop diverse urban neighborhoods. In 1962, Michael Harrington’s The Other America, with its startling revelations about the depth and extent of poverty, as well as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the first environmental best-seller, appeared.

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The New York Times’ profile of celebrated and embattled New York City Transportation Commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, shows how getting things done in a democracy can be bad for your political future. Sadik-Khan has increased the amount of bike lanes by over 60 percent, removed cars from congested places like Herald and Times squares enabling them to become highly popular pedestrian zones, and cut traffic deaths to the lowest point in over a hundred years due to an intense attention to detail by her and her staff.

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Park Here

The High Line New York City Millennium Park Chicago Citygarden St. Louis A common plaint of contemporary social criticism is that American society has become more an archipelago than a nation, increasingly balkanized into ethnic, class, faith, and interest groups whose members rarely interact meaningfully with people whose affiliations they do not in large measure share. The pervasiveness of this phenomenon of American selfaggregation can be debated, but its existence is pretty plain.

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Talk of bicycle infrastructure dominated last evening’s “Cities, Cycling, and the Future of Getting Around” forum last night at the Newseum. Heavily attended by members of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, the event, sponsored by the National Association of City Transportation Officials and Brookings, featured comments from avid cyclist/author/Talking Heads musician David Byrne, Congressional Bike Caucus Chair Rep.

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"Jane Jacobs not Marc Jacobs" reads a postcard making the rounds in New York City’s Greenwich Village, a plaint against the increasing "mall-ification" of that venerable neighborhood. But beyond her old stomping ground--where she famously stopped highway builder Robert Moses from building an expressway through Washington Square Park--Jane Jacobs’ ideas continue to resonate in the messy debates over how we move people and goods around our regional economies. Lately, that currency has been given a boost by Anthony Flint’s recent book, Wrestling with Moses, about the battles Jacobs fought with

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What A City Needs

Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City By Anthony Flint (Random House, 256 pp., $27)   For urbanists and others, the battle between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs was the great titanic struggle of the twentieth century. Like the bout between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, their conflict has magnified significance, as the two figures have become symbols. Jacobs is the secular saint of street life, representing a humane approach to urban planning grounded in the messy interactions of the neighborhood.

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Blaming the 'Burbs

The novel of suburban malaise has been in fashion for as long as people have been commuting from leafy pastures just beyond the city limits. Never mind that the majority of Americans actually live in suburbs (and have therefore voted with their feet in favor of suburbia), American readers are apparently hungry for books that seek to reveal how stultifying that life really is. Rick Moody made his career with The Ice Storm, an account of a Connecticut family’s expensively appointed but empty lives.

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