Writer and urban activist Jane Jacobs fights to save historic New York City during the ruthless redevelopment era of urban planner Robert Moses in the 1960s.
The battle in how the urban form of New York City in particular was shaped in the mid-twentieth century is presented, the two leading figures on the opposing sides of the battle being Robert Moses, who held many senior positions related to development of urban infrastructure, and Manhattan resident and journalist Jane Jacobs, author of "The Death and Life of Great American Cities". In this battle, Moses disregarded Jacobs as a "mere housewife" and a nuisance of one at that. As was the prevailing trend of the time, Moses was in the camp of demolishing what he saw as not working to build homogeneous neighborhoods in style and function - most buildings several stories high or taller in the need to accommodate a growing population - that were largely supported by urban freeways or expressways to move people from the burgeoning affluent suburbs to jobs in the urban center. Many of the urban housing developments were social housing for those who could not afford to live in the suburbs, and what ended up having the negative terminology of "the projects". Conversely, Jacobs, who lived in the city with her family, felt that what Moses and his ilk saw as chaos was people interacting with each other in a humanistic way, which often took a generation or more to be established and which was much more livable than the sterile environments Moses was creating. Some of the key projects over which they battled are presented. As an epilogue, current urbanization in many developing countries in particular shows that the decision makers of today in these places are following Moses' lead in a much more aggressive way, these developments which have the potential to be tomorrow's abandoned slums.
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