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The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobsby Roberta Brandes Gratz
Synopses & Reviews
In the 1970s, New York City hit rock bottom. Crime was at its highest, middleclass exodus was in high gear, and bankruptcy loomed. Many people credit New Yorks master builder,” Robert Moses, with turning Gotham around, despite his heavy-handed ways. Roberta Brandes Gratz contradicts this conventional view. She argues that New York City recovered precisely because of the waning power of Moses and the growing influence of Jane Jacobs, the pioneer of organic renewal projects.
As American cities face a new economic crisis, Jacobss philosophy is again vital for metropolitan life. Gratz gives an on-the-ground account of urban renewal and community success. Her writing—at once personal, political, and instructive—breaks down how the impossible was achieved.
"The mid-20th-century showdown between New York City planning czar Moses and legendary community urbanist Jacobs reverberates down the decades in this meandering polemic. A journalist and member of New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission, Gratz (The Living City) views 50 years of economic and real estate development as a duel between the legacies of Moses, whose pharaonic highway and urban renewal projects obliterated neighborhoods, and Jacobs, who extolled urban diversity and disorderly mixed uses, hated cars, and championed organic, human-scale development. Through this lens, Gratz rehashes Jacobs's defeat of Moses's Manhattan expressway schemes, examines New York's (anti-)industrial policies and historical preservation laws, and attacks what she sees as latter-day boondoggles like Brooklyn's proposed mammoth Atlantic Yards development and Columbia University's expansion. The avowedly partisan author despises Moses as 'arrogant' and 'racist,' and sometimes cedes the book to Jacobs with lengthy excerpts from interviews with the late urbanist. Gratz offers some cogent critiques of contemporary urban planning (while also embracing a few, like urban farming). Alas, her exposition of Jacobs's ideas is larded with unfocused autobiography, and far less tightly argued than Jacobs's own classic writings. B&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Journalist Gratz explores how the urban landscape of New York City was shaped through the 1960s and 1970s as a result of the clash between the urban visions of Robert Moses and his large urban renewal projects and the more localist vision of organic regeneration propounded by Jane Jacobs, the author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) and indefatigable opponent of Moses's proposed eight-lane elevated highway through lower Manhattan, which would have made the SoHo neighborhood unrecognizable today, among other projects. Gratz, unabashedly a supporter as well as personal friend of Jacobs, personalizes the discussion by discussing how the competing ideas of Moses and Jacobs impacted her own experience of living in New York, as well as by describing her relationship with Jacobs and including an interview with Jacobs, while also discussing how the competing visions of Moses and Jacobs continue to play out across the country. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The titanic clash of wills between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs in the 1960s and how their dueling perspectives helped to define contemporary urban life
About the Author
Roberta Brandes Gratz is an award-winning journalist, urban critic, and author whose articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times Magazine, Nation, and Daily News, among others. She lives in New York City.
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