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Thursday, April 27, 2006


ivan swift

Jacobs obits remind me of what a fraud "urban renewal" or, at least, so much of it, was. clearing off rickety wooden shacks is one thing, but wholesale demolition of square block after square block (I'm thinking of downtown louisville, kentucky) of rehabitable substantial housing was a fraud. those blocks stood empty for years. red swift

Louis Soares

Jane Jacobs did indeed intuit a whole new city. She was ahead of her time in applying notions of sociology and biology to why cities worked the way they do. Organically building (and failing) from the interaction of social, civic, physical and economic structures.

I don't know how she would feel about many cities today, save them at all costs or if she would have turned her eyes elsewhere to edge cities or entirely different notions of what the boundaries of a neighborhood are.

While many urban neighborhoods have indeed remained stagnate across many of the core structures mentioned above social and civic structures have a way of forming around places we don't expect. For example, edge cities and extended suburbs and even agurbs. People and social and civic structures are now more mobile than they have ever been.

Public Policies that focus exclusively on trying to maintain the social and civic structures exclusively around existing physical structures are not necessarily organic and may be fighting the wrong battle.

Jacobs had a passion for the vitality of cities and a deep respect for their organic patterns of development. She left us a guide of sorts for what has become design thinking in city making. A Pioneer to be sure!

Would she always believe that Public Policies could or should change that, I don't know??

HiMY in The Annex in Toronto [www.JaneJacobs.TYO.ca]

We here in The Annex neighbourhood in downtown Toronto where Jane lived have started a book of condolence which will be forwarded to her family.

Because you can't sign the book in person, you may leave any messages or memories at our Jane Jacobs online memorial weblog:


Your messages will be collected and forwarded to her family.


~ HiMY! ~

Kip Bergstrom

I'm sure that Jacobs would find Greenwich Village to be a much less interesting place than the one she described in 1961...more affluent, but less diverse. SOHO and Tribeca have changed from industrial areas then to edgy, interesting neighborhoods for a time, and now to rather homegeneously upscale ones.

What happended and why? Jacobs felt there were four keys to the vitality of her 1961 Greenwich Village neighborhood: density, mixed use, short blocks and old buildings. By the latter she didn't mean historic or heritage buildings, but rather buildings whose inital construction cost had been paid off and were therefore cheap. This creates an opportunity for lower margin, one-of-a-kind businesses and lower income residents. Greenwich Village in 1961 was a heady mix of ethnicities, classes and education levels, with the main common denominator being a very high level of female labor force participation relative to the rest of the city and the nation, especially the suburbs in that time of Ozzie and Harriet. It was an entrepreneurial place as well. As Jacobs put it: "New ideas are born in old buildings."

Old buildings are one of the key missing elements of the tool kit which New Urbanism developed from Jacobs's ideas. Old buildings in New Urbanism are not a resource for diversity, but rather a design aesthetic. The result is upscale enclaves with "genric chic" chain stores, and little of the vitality of 1961 Greenwich Village. For that today in New York, you have to go to a place like Harlem. For now.

Jacobs was a bit of an environmental determinist and her New Urbanist imitators even more so. It was not just the physical elements that created the social viatlity she observed, but also the specific mix of people present in the neighborhood. Very high percentage of foreign born. Most women working. Broad range of income and education. This same mix of people can make a less than perfectly designed place pretty vital. And a different group of people can take a perfect place and make it pretty boring.

Jacobs was not so much about creating places as about protecting places that had evolved organically. In her day, the threat was urban renewal with its clear-cutting of the old buildings and replacement with lifeless super blocks. Today the threat may be much more subtle and come in the guise of preservation. An old building restored becomes a new building in an economic sense and crowds out the low margin businesses and low rent-paying people. Want to preserve the vitality of a neighborhood? Part of the solution is to not redevelop some of the building stock.

Leo Wong

Condolences to:

Barton Day

This is in response to your "review" of Al Gore's "The Assault on Reason". Its headline, "An Inconvenient Truth" accurately reflects the poisonous drift of your article.
How does one begin to respond to someone who, fundamentally, agrees with the arguments of the author, and yet still manages to describe him as "smug, self-centered", and "desperate to display his erudition..."? Please explain why one has to be a Nobel laureate to speculate on the exploitation of fear in our politics: if a political event is "simple", does it mean it's causes are?
If you are "annoyed" or have come to the conclusion that Gore is mainly concerned with drawing attention to himself, express those feelings as your own, pathetic response. Don't include me or anyone else.

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Just for today I will adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my "luck" as it comes.

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In America, we have freedom of speech. If a group or gang or mob of lawyers wish to be called something, something else, they are free to do so. But if I want to call them something unflattering, I may do so if it is a metaphor and appropriate. And so I prefer to tell the truth, as I see fit.

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