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"Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind"

Contemporary Planning in New York City

Scott Larson

Publication Year: 2013

 The antagonism between urbanist and writer Jane Jacobs and master builder Robert Moses may frame debates over urban form, but in "Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind," Scott Larson aims to use the Moses-Jacobs rivalry as a means for examining and understanding the New York City administration's redevelopment strategies and actions. By showing how the Bloomberg administration's plans borrow selectively from Moses' and Jacobs' writing, Larson lays bare the contradictions buried in such rhetoric and argues that there can be no equitable solution to the social and economic goals for redevelopment in New York City with such a strategy. 

"Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind" offers a lively critique that shows how the legacies of these two planners have been interpreted—and reinterpreted—over time and with the evolution of urban space. Ultimately, he makes the case that neither figure offers a meaningful model for addressing stubborn problems—poverty, lack of affordable housing, and segregation along class and racial lines—that continue to vex today's cities.

Published by: Temple University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

While this book is the result of a very discrete interest, it is the product of a much longer and broader intellectual journey. In that regard, it would be futile to even try to acknowledge the contributions of every person who played a part in its realization. ...

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1. Jacobs versus Moses: A Fight for the City’s Soul

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pp. 1-14

In October 2006 the Gotham Center for New York City History at the City University of New York hosted a public forum. Engaged in a spirited conversation was a select group of historians, architects, planners, community activists, developers, and political appointees. ...

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2. The “Patron Saint” and the “Git’r Done Man”

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pp. 15-32

When Jane Jacobs died on April 25, 2006, she was widely viewed as the patron saint of urban dynamism, an irascible but venerable champion of street-level vitality and neighborhood diversity whose views “changed the way we think about livable cities” (Dreier 2006, 227). ...

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3. The Bloomberg Practice

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pp. 33-44

From the moment Michael Bloomberg assumed the Mayor’s Office in 2002, his administration sought to reshape New York City’s built environment on a scale not seen since Robert Moses’s build-big era. While some hailed the administration’s ambitious plans as a rebirth of big ideas and a throwback to an age when leaders got things done ...

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4. Calls for a New Moses

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pp. 45-58

While revisionist readings of Robert Moses were under way long before Jane Jacobs’s death (Jackson 1989; Schwartz 1993), the resurgence of such thinking just months after her passing underscored the degree to which the two figures had become conjoined in the public imagination and further fanned the debates over their lasting legacies. ...

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5. Planning and the Narrative of Threat

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pp. 59-76

Planning, it has been suggested, is the creation of a master narrative about the future, “the construction of stories that describe the pattern of a desired world” (Mandelbaum 1991, 210) as a means of normalizing and rationalizing the logic behind proposed projects and redevelopment schemes (Dear 1989; Throgmorton 1992). ...

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6. The Armature for Development

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pp. 77-96

For a Bloomberg administration bent on a neoliberal building spree and needing citizen buy-in to see it through, one of the essential challenges had been how to make the case for building on a scale not seen since the Moses era in a city still enamored of Jacobs. ...

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7. Ideas That Converge

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pp. 97-114

As we have seen thus far, in various ways and at multiple levels, Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses continue to resonate in debates over urban form and redevelopment. At particular moments and in specific places, each has emerged as a foundational figure, an urban icon whose ideas inform the work of planning theorists and practitioners, ...

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8. Ideas That Travel

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pp. 115-132

Of course, New York City is not the only metropolis grappling with questions of urban transformation to have turned to Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses in search of ideas and inspiration. Indeed, many of the social, political, and economic forces that made New York a crucible of urban policy were at work in cities across the United States and Canada in the postwar years. ...

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9. Design as Civic Virtue

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pp. 133-144

In New York City, the “Great Synthesis” that some in Toronto pined for in 2010 already had been under way for the better part of a decade. With Dan Doctoroff, Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for economic development, providing the vision for a slate of ambitious projects designed to reshape New York City on a Moses-like scale ...

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10. Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind

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pp. 145-154

For as long as the New York City economy boomed, powered by a raging real estate market and easy access to credit, the Bloomberg camp enthusiastically charged ahead with plans for building a global capital and creative city amenable to the expansion of the financial sector and its ancillary services. ...


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pp. 155-166


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pp. 167-180


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pp. 181-187

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About the Author

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p. 199-199

Scott Larson is an independent scholar who has taught geography and urban studies at Vassar College, Queens College, and Hunter College.

E-ISBN-13: 9781439909713
E-ISBN-10: 1439909717
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439909706
Print-ISBN-10: 1439909709

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2013