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Book cover of Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City

Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City

by Anthony Flint

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Pages: 272
Paperback
ISBN: 9780812981360






Available to Buy

Overview of Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City

The rivalry of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, a struggle for the soul of a city, is one of the most dramatic and consequential in modern American history. To a young Jane Jacobs, Greenwich Village, with its winding cobblestone streets and diverse makeup, was everything a city neighborhood should be. But consummate power broker Robert Moses, the father of many of New York’s most monumental development projects, thought neighborhoods like Greenwich Village were badly in need of “urban renewal.” Standing up against government plans for the city, 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, an elevated superhighway that would have destroyed centuries-old streetscapes and displaced thousands of families. By confronting Moses and his vision, Jacobs forever changed the way Americans understood the city. Her story reminds us of the power we have as individuals to confront and defy reckless authority.

Synopsis of Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City

The rivalry of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, a struggle for the soul of a city, is one of the most dramatic and consequential in modern American history. To a young Jane Jacobs, Greenwich Village, with its winding cobblestone streets and diverse makeup, was everything a city neighborhood should be. But consummate power broker Robert Moses, the father of many of New York’s most monumental development projects, thought neighborhoods like Greenwich Village were badly in need of “urban renewal.” Standing up against government plans for the city, 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, an elevated superhighway that would have destroyed centuries-old streetscapes and displaced thousands of families. By confronting Moses and his vision, Jacobs forever changed the way Americans understood the city. Her story reminds us of the power we have as individuals to confront and defy reckless authority.

Publishers Weekly

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. (July 28)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author, Anthony Flint

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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Editorials

From Barnes & Noble

For numerous city planners and urban activists, Jane Jacobs' 1961 The Death & Life of American Cities and 1969 The Economy of Cities were life-changing manifestos. As Douglas Martin writes, "Ms. Jacobs's enormous achievement was to transcend her own withering critique of 20th century urban planning and propose radically new principles for rebuilding cities. At a time when both common and inspired wisdom called for bulldozing slums and opening up city space, Ms. Jacobs's' prescription was ever more diversity, density and dynamism." Her ideas energized populists, but her actions placed her in a David and Goliath struggle with legendary New York power broker Robert Moses. Battle by battle, skirmish by skirmish, Jacobs eventually did what mayors and governors could not do: She undermined the previously unfettered influence of this master city planner. Wrestling With Moses recaps a Gotham saga of biblical proportions.

Publishers Weekly

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. (July 28)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

Flint (Lincoln Inst. of Land Policy; This Land: The Battle over Sprawl and the Future of America) writes about the battle between Robert Moses, New York's master urban planner of the 1920s–60s, and urban renewal activist Jane Jacobs. While covering the careers of both Moses and Jacobs, Flint focuses on two events: Moses's plans to extend Fifth Avenue through Washington Square Park (1950s) and to build a massive Manhattan highway, the Lower Manhattan Expressway (early 1960s). Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities) believed that neighborhood character—its people and buildings—must be preserved. She and other West Village activists used political smarts (e.g., strategic media coverage, having children canvass for petition signatures) to outmaneuver Moses, the powerful government official. The book concludes with current examples—such as how cities are now improving mass transit instead of building more highways—to show how Jacobs's legacy and ideas have held up over time. The jury is still out on Robert Moses's legacy, dealt a hard blow by Robert Caro's The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in urban planning, preservation, or architectural history.—Leigh Mihlrad, Albany Medical Coll., NY

Kirkus Reviews

Scrappy neighborhood activist Jane Jacobs faces off against notorious "power broker" Robert Moses in this history of mid-20th-century New York City urban planning. Jacobs made her name in 1961 with the publication of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a withering critique of that era's modernist, rationalist approach to urban planning. Her nemesis, the bureaucratically savvy commissioner Moses, has become a symbol of that approach. Moses razed whole neighborhoods in the name of efficiency and progress to build-among other things-hundreds of drab high-rises and more than 600 miles of highways in and around New York City. Longtime urban-policy journalist Flint (This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America, 2006) effectively chronicles Jacobs's life and career, her emergence as an activist and the development of her philosophy that cities should be eclectic and organic and that urban planning must have a light touch rather than a heavy hand. In accessible prose, the author explains the forces that shaped modern-day New York, through the lens of the key battles between Jacobs and Moses-Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village and the Lower Manhattan Expressway. However, as factually precise as Flint's portraits of both Jacobs and Moses are, it's too clear from the start where the author's loyalties lie. Since history has effectively proven Jacobs "right"-her vision for pedestrian-friendly mixed-use neighborhoods is now the gold standard for urban planners-it seems too easy to play her as the quixotic hero against a power-grabbing, heartless Moses. Jacobs is indeed more likable than Moses-and her populism is a more appealing motivation than his paternalism-but bothwere complicated human beings with worthwhile ideas, and it's not until the epilogue that Flint concedes as much. A one-sided treatment, but a fun read for lovers of cities in general, New York in particular. Author tour to Boston, New York, Washington, D.C. Agent: Richard Abate/ICM

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