In the 1970s, New York City hit rock bottom. Crime was at its highest, the middle class exodus was in high gear, and bankruptcy loomed. Many people credit New York's master builder” Robert Moses with turning Gotham around, despite his brutal, undemocratic. and demolition-heavy ways.
Urban critic and journalist Roberta Brandes Gratz contradicts this conventional view. New York City, Gratz argues, recovered precisely because of the waning power of Moses. His decline in the late 1960s and the drying up of big government funding for urban renewal projects allowed New York to organically regenerate according to the precepts defined by Jane Jacobs in her classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and in contradiction to Moses's urban philosophy.
As American cities face a devastating economic crisis, Jacobs's philosophy is again vital for the redevelopment of metropolitan life. Gratz who was named as one of Planetizen's Top 100 Urban Thinkers gives an on-the-ground account of urban renewal and community success.
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Roberta Brandes Gratz is an award-winning journalist, urban critic, and author of the acclaimed book The Living City. Her articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Tikkun, Planning Magazine, and the Daily News, among others. She lives in New York City.From Publishers Weekly:
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. (Apr. 1)
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