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Designs for Working - DEPT OF HUMAN RESOURCES DESIGNS FOR...

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I n the early nineteen-sixties, Jane Ja- cobs lived on Hudson St re e t ,in Gre e n- wich Village, near the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Bleecker St re e t . I t was then, as now, a ch a rming d i s t rict of n i n e t e e n t h - c e n t u ry tenementsand tow n h o u s e s ,bars and shops,laid outover an ir- regular gri d ,and Jacobs loved the neigh- b o rh o o d .In her 1961 masterp i e c e,“T h e Death and Life of G reat Am e ri can Cit- i e s , ” she rh a p s o d i zed about the Wh i t e Horse Ta ve rn down the block ,h ome to Irish lon g s h o remen and writers and in- t e llectuals—a place where, on a winter’s n i g h t ,as “the doors open,a solid wave of c onve r s a t i on and animation surges out and hits yo u . ” Her Hudson St reet had M r. Sl u b e, at the cigar store, and Mr. La c ey, the lock s m i t h , and Bern i e, t h e ca n d y - s t o re ow n e r,w h o,in the course of a typical day, supervised the ch i l d re n crossing the street, lent an umbrella or a d o llar to a custom e r, held on to som e k eys or packages for people in the neigh- b o rh o o d , and “l e c t u red two yo u n g s t e r s who asked for cigare t t e s . ”The street had “b u n dles and packages,zigzagging from the drug store to the fruit stand and back over to the butch e r’s , ”a n d “teenagers,all d ressed up, a re pausing to ask if t h e i r slips show or their collars look ri g h t . ”I t w a s ,she said, an urban ball e t . The mira cle of H u d s on St re e t , a c- c o rding to Jacobs, was created by the p a rticular con fig u ra t i on of the stre e t s and buildings of the neighborh o o d .J a- cobs argued that when a neighborh o o d is oriented tow a rd the stre e t ,when side- walks are used for socializing and play and com m e rc e, the users of that stre e t a re tra n s f o rmed by the resulting stimu- l a t i on :t h ey form re l a t i onships and ca s u a l c ontacts they would never have other- w i s e .The West Vi ll a g e,she pointed out, was blessed with a mixture of h o u s e s and apartments and shops and offic e s and industry, w h i ch meant that there w e re alw ays people “outdoors on diffe r- ent schedules and ...in the place for dif- fe rent purp o s e s . ”It had short blocks,and s h o rt blocks create the greatest vari e ty in foot tra f fic . It had lots of old buildings, and old buildings have the low rents that p e rmit individualized and cre a t i ve uses. An d ,most of a ll ,it had people,cheek by jowl,from eve ry conceivable walk of l i fe . Sp a re ly populated suburbs may look ap- pealing, she said, but without an ac- t i ve sidewalk life, without the fre q u e n t , s e rendipitous intera c t i ons of m a ny dif- ferent people, “there is no public ac- q u a i n t a n c e s h i p,no foundation of p u b l i c t ru s t ,no cro s s - c on n e c t i ons with the nec- e s s a ry people—and no practice or ease in applying the most ordinary tech- niques of c i ty public life at low ly leve l s . ” Jane Jacobs did not win the battle she set out to fig h t .The West Vi llage re m a i n s
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