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Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs: Two Versions of Modernity

Holding the title of New York City parks commissioner, and eventually many other unelected but exceedingly powerful administrative offices over a 50-year career, master builder and power broker Robert Moses oversaw one of the greatest urban rebuilding programs in human history. He began with parkway and beach projects that opened Long Island to a general middle class population. He then went on to complete vast infrastructure projects, including “slum clearance” and urban rebuilding programs that radically reconceptualized “The City of Tomorrow” (to borrow the language of the 1939 World’s Fair). Eventually, Moses’s automobile-centered vision was countered by urban activists, such as Jane Jacobs, whose vision of urban neighborhoods with vital and varied street life eventually blocked his plans to run superhighways through Greenwich Village, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side. We will look at selected passages from Jacobs’s tremendously influential book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), and we will discuss how her contrasting idea of urban street life holds up more than a half century after it challenged the urban planning establishment.

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You'll Walk Away with

  • An understanding of the contrasting visions of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs
  • Insight into how Jane Jacobs’s idea of urban street life holds up more than a half century later

Ideal for

  • The curious and creative
  • All members of the community—working, retired, and in-between
NO open sections available for this course at the moment. Please check back next semester.