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Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American Cityby Anthony Flint
Synopses & Reviews
To a young Jane Jacobs, Greenwich Village, with its winding cobblestone streets and diverse makeup, was everything a city neighborhood should be. The activist, writer, and mother of three grew so fond of her bustling community that it became a touchstone for her landmark book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. But consummate power broker Robert Moses, the father of many of New York's most monumental development projects, saw things differently: neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village were badly in need of urban renewal. Notorious for exacting enormous human costs, Moses's plans had never before been halted — not by governors, mayors, or FDR himself, and certainly not by a housewife from Scranton.
The epic rivalry of Jacobs and Moses, played out amid the struggle for the soul of a city, is one of the most dramatic and consequential in modern American history. In Wrestling with Moses, acclaimed reporter and urban planning policy expert Anthony Flint recounts this thrilling David-and-Goliath story, the legacy of which echoes through our society today.
The first ordinary citizens to stand up to government plans for their city, Jacobs and her colleagues began a nationwide movement to reclaim cities for the benefit of their residents. Time and again, Jacobs marshaled popular support and political power against Moses, whether to block traffic through her beloved Washington Square Park or to prevent the construction of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a ten-lane elevated superhighway that would have destroyed centuries-old streetscapes and displaced thousands of families and businesses.
Like A Civil Action before it, Wrestling with Moses is the tale of a local battle with far-ranging significance. By confronting Moses and his vision, Jacobs forever changed the way Americans understood the city, and inspired citizens across the country to protest destructive projects in their own communities. Her story reminds us of the power we have as individuals to confront and defy reckless authority.
"Former Boston Globe reporter Flint recounts how activist and writer Jane Jacobs stopped the seemingly unstoppable master builder Robert Moses. Beginning in the 1930s, Moses consolidated his enormous power through the administrations of various mayors and governors, revamping the city parks network and constructing a mind-boggling array of projects including bridges, highways, Shea Stadium, Lincoln Center and 10 giant public swimming pools. Although highly skilled at crushing opponents, Moses was eventually outmaneuvered in the 1950s and '60s by Jacobs, whose landmark The Death and Life of Great American Cities was a war cry against urban renewal projects that destroyed existing neighborhoods. Jacobs derailed Moses's plans to run two highways through lower Manhattan (one in what would become trendy SoHo). But, says Flint (This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America), who is now at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Moses's tarnished reputation has been undergoing rehabilitation recently as cities realize the value of reliable infrastructure. Lucid and articulate, Flint's account will appeal more to urban planners, policy wonks and community organizers than the general reader. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Reporter Flint offers a fascinating history of the two combatants as well as an architectural history of New York City." Booklist
"Anthony Flint has written a riveting account of a struggle between opposites that forever redefined the American city." James L. Swanson, Edgar Award-winning author of Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer
"This is an indispensable read for anyone interested in the shaping of cities." Alex Krieger, professor of urban design, Harvard University
The David-and-Goliath story of legendary activist Jane Jacobs's clash with power broker Robert Moses, an urban planning battle that forever changed the way we look at cities.
In 1968, journalist, activist, and writer Jane Jacobs ripped up a stenographer's notes during a public hearing and was charged with inciting a riot. The hearing concerned the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway, a 350-foot wide, fifty-foot-high viaduct that would have linked the East and West sides of Manhattan. The expressway was the final puzzle piece in urban planning giant Robert Moses's vision of a New York City designed to accommodate traffic. But to Jacobs, it was a destructive force that would bruise vital neighborhoods and push out nearly 2,000 families and 800 businesses.
The battle between Jacobs and Moses had begun years earlier when Jacobs successfully thwarted Moses's plan to direct traffic through Washington Square Park in the West Village. As a result of these battles, Moses would lose most of the power and influence he had wielded for so long. By successfully confronting Moses, Jacobs forever changed the way Americans viewed the city — as a living, breathing organism rather than a threat that needed to be controlled — and inspired citizens across the country to protest destructive urban renewal projects.
Wrestling with Moses is a tale of a local battle with national significance, that reminds us of the power of the individual to confront and defy authority.
From the award-winning author of Wrestling with Moses comes a fascinating, accessible biography of the most important architect of theand#160;twentieth century.and#160;and#160; The Ravenand#160;is a riveting biography of Le Corbusierand#8212;a man who invented new ways of building and thinking.and#160;The Ravenand#160;(a translation of his invented name) is a penetrating psychological portrait of a true genius and constant self-inventor, as well as a sweeping tale filled with exotic locales, sex and celebrity (he was a lover of Josephine Baker), and high-stakes projects. In Flintand#8217;s telling, Corbusier isnand#8217;t just the grandfather of modern architecture but a man who sought to remake the world according to his vision, dispelling the Victorian style and replacing it with something never seen before. His legacy remains controversial today, as the world grapples with how to house its skyrocketing urban population and the cult of the and#8220;starchitectand#8221; continues to grow. The Ravenand#160;is for readers fascinated by the complex personal lives and outsized visions of both groundbreaking artists and dazzling, charismatic innovators like Steve Jobs.and#160;
About the Author
Anthony Flint is the director of public affairs at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a think-tank on land and development issues located in Cambridge, MA, and was a reporter at the Boston Globe for sixteen years. He is the author of This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America. He lives in Boston.
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