Essay on The Death And Life Of Great American Cities

Essay on The Death And Life Of Great American Cities

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At the time Jane Jacobs was writing The Death and Life of Great American Cities, city planning was not a process done by or for the people who lived in them. Residents were rarely consulted or involved in decision making, rather it be left to few elites who dictated their vision of the city for everybody else to conform to.
This is clearly illustrated in her conflicts with Robert Moses, an outspoken Yale educated city planner operating in New York, where Jacobs was living at the time. Moses had a clear and unshifting vision for the city and used his persuasive manner and connections to push forward his proposals at alarming rates. Urban renewal was the key process in his plans, this is the demolition of buildings and relocation of people to allow for new development on the brownfield sites left vacant, Robert was not dissimilar to most city planners of the time in this approach and he seemed unforgiving with regards to the citizens he displaced, even pushing forward laws to give the government more power to relocate unwilling homeowners.
“Instead of negotiating with wealthier residents Moses simply cited the enabling legislations for the parks agency, which he himself had written.” (A. Flint, 2009) [43]
From the 1930’s onwards Robert used these powers to have almost free reign over New York City, building highways, bridges and parks sprawling through the urban environment destroying thousands of homes in the process. It was not until his proposal to extend Fifth Avenue through the centre of Washington Square Park that Jane Jacobs became alerted to his actions, she was concerned that the park would become derelict if it was in such close proximity to a highway.

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This case provides an excellent base to evaluate Jacobs crit...


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...rough the city.
Following these principles would encourage pedestrian use of the streets, ensuring there would in turn be more eyes on the streets and through this Jacobs theorised they could become almost self-policing, as people unknowingly found themselves observing the street activity. This follows the same principle of neighbourhood watch groups you find in villages and suburbs but as part of a much more relaxed and natural process, suitable for a city of strangers.
This ideal of having services decentralised not only would help to make the streets safer, but would also help to discourage the car culture that has emerged as people would not have to travel long distances into a central area to access what they needed. Jane saw the rising use of automobiles as a symptom of poor planning, while it seemed for traditional planners they were an unfortunate necessity.

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