Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (2016) Movie Script

[indistinct chatter]
[typewriter clacking]
[instrumental music]
Cities are, in many ways,
the greatest invention
that human beings
have brought to the world.
Cities have been expanding
and urbanization has been
expanding on the globe
in an exponential fashion.
Most extraordinarily,
we are urbanizing people
on the planet, at maybe
one and a half
million people every week
In less than 2 months
there'll be the equivalent
to another Los Angeles
metropolitan area
on this planet.
This scale and speed
of urbanization
has never, ever happened
in human history.
This is the first time.
When you look at
what is being built in cities
you have endless, endless
row after row
of homogenizing towers.
And you see more
and more highways.
At this moment, you're
going to shape the cities
for generations to come.
People need to realize
this is an opportunity
which will never come again.
There are a couple of ways
of approaching
the design of cities.
The question is always
who decides..
...what the physical form
will be.. the city
is going to function
and who is going
to live in the city.
In order to understand
what's happening today..
...we need to think
about 2 great figures
in the middle
of the 20th century
who embodied the struggle
for the city.
The legendary power broker
Robert Moses
represented the authority
of the great man
who was gonna come into the
city with his carving knife
and clear away
the cancerous tissue..
...and replace it
with the shiny implements
of modernist planning.
Uh, you have to move
a lot of people out of the way
of a big housing, uh, project
or, uh,
slum clearance project.
A lot of 'em
are not going to like it.
Many of them are misinformed.
In opposition
to the homogenizing clarity
of Moses was Jane Jacobs.
I have very little faith, uh
i -- in, in even
the kind of person
who, uh, prefers
to take a large overall
uh, view of things.
Jacobs was an outsider.
She believed the city
is not about buildings.
The city is about people.
It is about public spaces
and the street
and she stood up for that.
She evolved both a theory
of what made a good
and just city
and a theory of opposition
to the kind of planning practice
that Moses represented.
There's a prudishness,
a fear of life
a wish
to direct things from
some uncontaminated refuge
that is part and parcel
of their bad plan.
They were famously at odds
with each other.
It really did become a war
between opposing forces.
Today we're still fighting
these battles
across the world.
When we look across the
spectrum of all the problems
generated by urbanization
there is the extraordinary
realization that, my gosh
you know, these have been
problems that have been around
for the last 100 years
in cities.
New York, of course
is the greatest example
of that.
In the 1930s
New York was the world's
greatest city, you know?
A very special place.
Just the exuberance
of metropolitan life
in the early 20th century.
That's, you know,
the -- the great age
of the first
real great skyscrapers.
You know,
the Empire State Building
is the very climax of that.
But then,
it all kind of crashes
with The Depression.
Through the entire decade
of the '30s
it's just one problem
after another.
Down at street level
was this degraded environment.
Slums and dirt
and, and pollution
that did not fit
with the glorious spires
of the new skyscraper city.
The city was overcrowded
harsh, dirty, dangerous
and infested with disease.
Jacob Riis' famous book
"How The Other Half Live"
brought a lot of attention
to this.
The idea was, we will solve
the city's problem
by cleaning it up.
Now this is a unfortunate
period for the city.
We've done an immense amount
to cure these diseases
and we have much more to do.
Robert Moses
started to work in an era
where we had a great many people
living in truly
horrible conditions.
He began his professional life
in opposition
to those conditions.
Moses emerged out
of the Progressive Movement
early in the 20th century
in New York.
The progressives were eager
to improve the city.
His early work
in developing public parks
and public beaches
was about making life better
for people who were not rich.
Now if we don't
clean out these slums
the central areas
are going to rot.
And it's all nonsense to say
that the problem can be solved
by rehabilitating
and fixing up
Old Law Tenements.
It can't be done.
That problem
we've got to face.
Just about every progressive
that the way to solve
the city's problems
was to wipe the slate clean,
start all over again.
We didn't understand
how high the price was
how we were giving up
so many things
that were so very important
until Jane Jacobs came along.
Jane always would see
in a city opportunities
that existed there.
She observed
hints of regeneration
hints of creativity
hints of resourcefulness.
It was this life spring
of people coming
to make their way.
I think that must have shaped
her approach to the city.
I just loved
coming to New York.
It was inexhaustible.
Just to walk around
its streets and wonder at it.
So many streets different.
So many neighborhoods different.
Uh, so much going on.
She lived
in Greenwich Village
and just viscerally felt
the pulse of the city
and was
extraordinarily intuitive.
Was extremely observant.
New York was a place
where you don't have to be
big and important and rich
or have a great plot of land
or a great development scheme
or something like that
to do something.
And maybe
even do something new
and do something interesting.
A place that has scope
for all kinds of people.
What she saw
was the soul of New York
and what it meant to be a city
and a city meaning
a community of people.
After the war,
the most sensational thing
that came was the full flowering
of this vision
of the expressway tower city.
This generation of idealistic
city planners comes along
and they're infected
with the modernist
purity idea.
And they certainly have
the tools at their disposal
to sweep away
large tracts of land.
We recognize the problems
that your community faces
and we know that you share them
with hundreds of cities
Now what's involved in making
your city a better place?
Well, things like housing
industrial development
better streets and highways.
Improving all these things
adds up to a better city.
I'm sure that you will see
the exciting opportunity
that exists for your city
to become better.
There was this emerging idea
that crowded urban areas
where people were kind of
hanging out on the street
on their stoops, uh, where
there was a lot of poverty
that the way
to deal with that problem
was to effectively
get rid of the streets.
Was effectively to eliminate
that sidewalk culture.
And build projects that would
make it impossible really
for people to kind of cluster
in public in that way.
The idea of urban renewal
was that
places that were blighted
were a cancer on the city
and therefore, we're gonna
cut out the cancer.
The planners conceiving
these urban renewal projects
are doing this from that
God-like vantage point
in the sky.
To be able to look down
and you're able to imagine
massive transformations.
They thought
that applying the logic
of The Machine Age
was gonna do that.
The problem had to be solved
by some supervisor
noticing where the slums were,
noticing where the traffic was
and going in and bulldozing..
...and building
grand projects.
Well, we got out
a brochure just now
telling when everybody
has to move.
Robert Moses was
the great embodiment of this.
I don't honestly believe that
considering the large numbers
of people we've had
to move out
of the way of public housing
and other public improvements
I don't believe
that we've done
any very substantial
amount of harm.
There must be people
who are discommoded
or call it what you will
on the old theory,
that you can't make an omelet
without breaking some eggs.
After the Second World War
Robert Moses
began to amass power.
He was the august
parks commissioner
in the city of New York.
And he got power
to build parkways.
He was appointed the city's
construction coordinator.
He built
thousands of apartments.
He became urban renewal czar
the head of the mayor's
committee on slum clearance.
By the time
that Moses was running
the Urban Renewal Program
we had torn down
literally thousands
of tenement buildings
in cities like New York
and Chicago.
You know, there's the,
the pre-war Moses
and the post-war Moses.
The pre-war Moses
was mostly an angel.
Post-war Moses
was increasingly problematic.
For nearly half a century
this man has pushed people
around New York.
Almost anybody
who is anybody has cursed him
fought him, knuckled
under to him and admired him.
The list of his adversaries
include Franklin Roosevelt
Fanny Hurst, Elmer Davis
who once compared him
to Hitler, Walter O'Malley
and hundreds
of thousands of landowners
who thought
their property was sacred.
Absolute power
corrupts absolutely
and Robert Moses
was absolutely powerful.
So he had amassed,
um, not simply
an incredible amount of power
but had insulated himself
from oversight
by political authorities
and by the broader public.
Don't forget that
it's one thing to buy a park
or a great big chunk of land
from one owner.
It's quite another thing
to get a right-of-way
where hundreds and even
thousands of people own it.
You theoretically and,
according to some of the, uh
and uplift organizations
we ought to negotiate with every
individual until he's happy.
Can you imagine
when you'd build anything
under those conditions?
Moses along
with all of the people
that were involved
in the Urban Renewal Program
had an agreed-upon agenda.
People needed adequate housing
adequate recreation facilities
and the motorcar
was coming to America
and it needed to be
accommodated on a large scale.
That was the agenda.
Moses became one polar view
of what you could do.
Until, all of a sudden,
there was an alternative.
Jane Jacobs has in
"The Death and Life
of Great American Cities"
written a book that advances
with the controlled
and implacable power
of a bulldozer
against modern orthodox city
planning and rebuilding.
I first began
to look into city planning
and, and housing
and it was unbelievably awful.
Uh, insane.
When "Death And Life"
comes out in the '60s
it's a clarion call.
It's Martin Luther
nailing those 95 theses
to the, to the cathedral door.
The book is really
the first cogent
accessible articulation
of a whole set of ideas
that questions the mainstream
thinking about our cities.
She is constantly probing.
By that example, she's saying
"You, reader, you have
the ability to question."
"Look what we have built.
"Low-income projects
that become
"worse centers of delinquency
"vandalism and general
social hopelessness
"than the slums they were
supposed to replace.
housing projects
"which are truly
marvels of dullness
and regimentation..
"...sealed against
any buoyancy or vitality
of city life.
"Luxury housing projects
that mitigate their inanity
"or try to
with a vapid vulgarity.
"Cultural centers
that are unable to support
"a good bookstore.
"Civic centers that are
avoided by everyone but bums
"who have fewer choices of
loitering place than others.
"Expressways that
eviscerate great cities.
"This is not
the rebuilding of cities.
This is the sacking
of cities."
She was questioning orthodoxy
and in essence saying
the emperor has no clothes.. a time
when women were not welcomed
in those kinds
of environments.
If you wanna see what kind
of a city can flourish
you need to look at the cities
where it's happening.
There must be a lot
of diversity
continually building up,
diversity of kinds of work..
of kinds of people.
She revealed the way
to create better cities
is by working with the people
who live there
and the fabric that existed.
The traditional fabric
that people inhabited.
There have to be
areas of the city
which people use a lot,
walking on the streets
and use at all times of day.
Jane understood neighborhoods
need lots of connections.
Short blocks, lots of turns
allowing different
kinds of interaction.
Neighborhoods need a mix
of buildings, old and new.
They need diverse uses, 24/7,
so that they're safer.
Constant connection with,
uh, neighborhoods around
so that you're not isolated.
You need public spaces
that are accessible to people.
It's all a great network
in the city.
It's all related.
She observed these early,
early qualities at a time
when housing was being built
in completely
opposite direction.
They were
isolating communities.
They were creating
dead-end streets.
They were separating work uses
and recreation
and residential uses.
She was explaining
how life worked.
Before "Death And Life,"
she was a journalist.
She was a very savvy observer
of human behavior
of places, of cities.
Jacobs started writing
about the city
when she was 18 years old.
She was a secretary
for a candy company.
She was determined
to write on the side.
She did what any good
enterprising writer would do.
She got freelance jobs.
Her curiosity
was so remarkable.
She writes about specific
economic districts
in the city.
She does the Jewelry District
she does the Fur District,
she does the Flower District
and she develops a voice.
And where does
she sell them to?
"Vogue" magazine.
She was writing pieces
about what she was observing
and seeing in the city.
"The best way
to plan for Downtown
"is to see
how people use it today.
"To look for its strengths
"and to exploit
and reinforce them.
"There is no logic that can
be superimposed on the city.
"People make it.
"And it is to them,
not buildings
that we must fit our plans."
"Q Magazine" accepted
one of her stories
about manhole covers.
She discovered that they had
all kinds of interesting
uh, patterns on them,
interesting lettering.
How many female journalists
were writing
about manhole covers?
Nobody. But she was.
She wanted to figure out how
the sewer system was working.
She's curious.
She's got a really good craft.
She knows how to write.
And she finds herself
in a staff job
with "Architectural Forum."
Mrs. Jacobs,
an associate editor
of the magazine
"Architectural Forum"
has been a New Yorker
for 27 years
and loves it,
Mrs. Jane Jacobs.
Thank you very much,
Mr. Dolbier.
One fine day,
"Architectural Forum" put me
on an assignment
about some urban renewal
projects that were being done.
In Philadelphia,
as a matter of fact.
We have found, in our work
in rebuilding Philadelphia
that a central design idea,
and clearly-expressed,
can of itself
become a major creative force
and can make more meaningful
the work of individual
in various parts of an area.
I found out
what they had in mind
and what they were
planning to do
and how it was going to look
according to the drawings
and what great things
it was going to accomplish.
I came back and wrote
enthusiastic articles
about this.
All was well,
I was in very cozy
with the planners
and the project builders.
Anyhow, time passed
and some of these things
were actually built.
Society Hill is residential.
The oldest part of the city,
it is the site
of an intensive
restoration project.
Houses, many pre-dating
the American Revolution
slowly had grown dilapidated
and had been converted
to other uses.
In addition,
there was room for new
dramatically contemporary
apartment towers.
Society Hill emerges
as a combination
of ancient and modern.
But they didn't work at all
the way they should've worked.
The city around them
didn't react the way
uh, theoretically
the city around them
should have reacted.
She is the
hyper-sensitive antennae
you know, that's picking up
something here
that no one else is seeing.
Why did stores that looked
very cheerful and posed
to, uh, be doing a great
booming business in the plans
actually go empty
or languish?
Well, I would bring
these questions up
with the people
who had been responsible
for the, uh, planning
of these places.
And I got quite
a lot of alibis
boiling down to,
uh, "People are stupid.
They don't do
what they're supposed to do."
And this was a great shock
to me.
Never mind highfalutin
theories and so forth.
What are we looking at?
What are we seeing?
Do you wanna trust some theory
that somebody figured out
sitting in an office
Or do you wanna trust
what you actually see
out there with your own eyes?
Maybe the experts
didn't really know
as much as they
pretended to know.
About this time, a gentleman
came into the office
of the "Architectural Forum."
He was very much worried
about East Harlem.
About 300 million dollars
uh, worth
of city rebuilding money
had been put to work.
He could see
that their problems
were growing greater
than they had ever been
in the past.
She goes up to Harlem
and she was taken around
by William Kirk
of the Union Settlement House.
And he's showing her
all the things
that are being lost
in this community
when it's being demolished.
He would walk me
around East Harlem.
We would stop in at stores
stop in at housing projects.
I began to see the..
Just out of the accumulation
of all of this
I was beginning to understand
how things worked.
Many little details
of cause and effect.
She describes it
as the very beginning.
The sort of moment
when the light bulb
kind of went off in her head.
What I was seeing,
in fact, was, uh
what makes the very intricate
order of the city.
This has to do with a quality
that's called
rather vaguely urbanism.
Cities are extremely
physical places.
It's not an inert mass.
It's enterprises and people
reacting in certain ways
to each other
and mutually supporting
each other.
And wherever
it worked properly
there seemed to be
an awful lot of diversity.
Many different kinds
of enterprises
many different kinds
of people
mutually supporting
and supplementing each other.
Jane Jacobs is thinking about
how does a neighborhood work?
How does a street work?
What function
does a sidewalk play?
But what she's really after
is a new theory
of how cities function.
"In Death And Life
Of Great American Cities"
she's asking what is
the problem of a city?
She argues,
"A city is a problem
of organized complexity."
Looks on the surface
like it's complex
and disorderly..
...but in fact, there's
an underlying structure.
Looks like chaos,
but in fact,
there's a balance.
There's a productive mix
of different functions
and organisms.
She draws
on ecological metaphors
biological metaphors
to suggest how
it's really an ecosystem.
She wrote..
"To see complex systems
of functional order
"as order and not as chaos
takes understanding.
"The leaves dropping
from the trees in the autumn
"the interior
of an airplane engine..
"...the entrails
of a dissected rabbit..
"...the city desk
of a newspaper..
"all appear to be chaos
"if they are seen
without comprehension.
"Once they are seen
as systems of order
they actually look different."
Jacobs understood
when cities really work
they're phenomena that come
from the bottom up.
So a great neighborhood
is what happens
when thousands
of different actors..
...and that's the shopkeepers,
the bar owners
the people walking the streets
they spontaneously
come together
in, in an uncoordinated
but meaningful way
to create the kind of flavor
and personality
of a distinct neighborhood.
That's not planned.
That's much more a question
of organized complexity.
Jane Jacobs understood that
living cities are not pretty.
They're messy, uh, chaotic
dense with people
interacting together.
Dead cities are beautiful
in a certain sense
because they tend
to look predictable.
There aren't very many people.
If you can understand a city,
then that city is dead.
Living cities are congested.
They're frustrating.
And at the same time, that's
where your dreams come true.
Planners, they don't see any
of the wondrous human qualities
that Jacobs is seeing.
The very forms of urbanism
that she wrote about
the urban renewalists
sought to destroy.
What would you do for Harlem?
- The slum corner of Harlem.
- Yes.
I'd take that and all
the other similar slums.
I'd tear 'em all out,
every bit of 'em.
It's a cancerous thing
and you've just got
to wipe them out.
I say that you have
a cancerous growth there
that has to be carved out.
Alright, you've carved it out
and now you've replaced
it with something new.
Yes, that's right.
With something that's decent
something that involves
light and air
and, uh, new schools
and playgrounds and parks.
And I'd say that's a hell
of a big contribution
and certainly
all the contribution
that I would be able to make
with all the people
I can persuade to make it.
Instead of following
the natural way
that people use space
city planning
in this post-war era
and modern architecture
this abstract vision
of what it should be.
Concentrated on the utopian
and the ideal.
In the 1920s,
you get the rise
of this curious,
mystical figure
um, out of Switzerland
uh, who calls himself
Le Corbusier.
He's done some architecture
and he's bethinking himself
not only an architect,
but a great urban visionary.
The real gestation
of his ideas
about modernist urbanism
that came as a result
of riding in an airplane
over Paris.
Seeing the city
from up in the air
looking down God-like
on this diorama
versus considering and knowing
the city from the streets.
Corb was enraptured
by the airplane.
He writes that the airplane
indicts the mess
we've made of our cities.
Before the wheels
hit the tarmac
he's concluded that we need
to sweep all this away
and rebuild our cities.
Le Corbusier envisioned
tearing down
huge sections of Paris..
...and replacing it with slabs
modern slabs,
cruciform buildings.
He proposed superhighways
that went through
green open space.
And they were going
to terminate in superblocks.
And the superblocks
had high-rise buildings
and the high-rise buildings
were so that people
could have light and air
and they could get out
of the slums.
He was thoroughly
of the opinion
that if you had,
uh, good architecture
the lives of people
would be improved
and that architecture
would improve people
and people would improve
until perfectibility
would descend on us
like The Holy Ghost
and we'd be happy forever after.
Corb did this plan
and made his models
and, uh, it excited
a lot of people.
But in France,
they weren't so excited.
The idea of the Ville Radieuse
and the tower in a park
ended up, uh, moving to America
just like the rest
of modernism did.
To help us get a glimpse
into the future
of this unfinished world
of ours
there has been created
for the New York World's Fair
a thought-provoking exhibit
of the developments
ahead of us.
In 1939, General Motors
had an exhibition.
The Futurama.
It showed superhighways.
And everybody in America
wanted this.
Here is an American city
around a highly-developed
modern traffic system.
Rebuilt and replanned.
Residential, commercial
and industrial areas
all have been separated
for greater efficiency
and greater convenience.
The '39 World's Fair
in New York
was a Corbusier event.
It celebrated that style.
And so we see some suggestion
of the things to come.
A world with a future
in which all of us
are tremendously interested
because that is where
we are going to spend
the rest of our lives.
In a future
which can be whatever
we propose to make it.
Modernism moved
into the mainstream
of both American
commercial architecture
and urban renewal.
The public housing model that
we picked in the United States
was a misinterpretation
of Le Corbusier.
The towers in his 1923 plan
were for offices,
and then around the towers
were low 7 story buildings
with generous balconies.
He never called for people
living in high-rise towers.
It was one
of those odd moments
where a set
of intellectual ideas
could be corrupted
very quickly and easily
into something
cheap and commercial.
The simplest formula to make
quick money is modernism.
And it was very cheap,
very quick to produce
and could suddenly enable
huge amounts of building
to happen very quickly.
And Robert Moses
totally understood that.
The one thing
missing completely
from that vision is streets.
And the idea that a street is
something you actually walk on
and a street is a place
where things happen.
Jane Jacobs saw that at a time
when everybody else
was thinking the sidewalk
was a kind of foolish leftover
of another age.
"This is something
everyone already knows.
"A well-used city street
is apt to be a safe street.
"A deserted city street
is apt to be unsafe.
"But how does this work
"There must be eyes
upon the street.
"Eyes belonging to those
we may call
"the natural proprietors
of the street.
"The buildings on a street
equipped to handle strangers
"and to ensure
the safety of both
residents and strangers
"must be oriented
to the street.
"They cannot turn their backs
or blank sides on it
and leave it blind."
what she recognized was
safety doesn't come
from armed security guards
or blocking the entrances.
What makes a neighborhood
great is precisely the fact
that there are people
on the street.
"The sidewalk must have users
on it fairly continuously
"both to add to the numbers
of effective eyes
on the street
"and to induce the people in
the buildings along the street
"to watch the sidewalks
in sufficient numbers.
"Nobody enjoys sitting
on a stoop
"or looking out a window
at an empty street.
"Almost nobody does
such a thing.
"Large numbers of people
entertain themselves
off and on
by watching street activity."
She went out
and looked at things.
When she said that the doormen
were paid eyes on the street
and that the same thing
could happen
from bars on the street
in West Village
I understood
what she was talking about.
Nobody has to worry
about things
where there are a lot
of people on the street.
Jane Jacobs reverses
the vantage point.
What is it like actually
to live in these places
from street level?
And it's that simple
change of perspective
that lead her away
from the orthodoxy of the time.
Robert Moses had no interest
really in paying attention
to what was there
in neighborhoods.
What was there, he viewed
as simply an obstacle
to what he wanted
to make happen.
People oppose Moses
all the time.
Whether he wanted Lincoln
Center for the performing arts
a bridge across the entrance
to New York Harbor
a parking lot
where mothers air
their babies in Central Park
a highway down the spine
of Fire Island
or one through the middle
of Washington Square
vehement opposition
was what he expected
and what he got.
Oh, there's opposition
to everything
that's, uh, progressive,
everything that's new.
The opinion of people
who were activists
as we were in the village
were Robert Moses was terrible
and Robert Moses
was destroying the city
and Robert Moses
had to be stopped.
Jane had got involved
in several efforts
to stop Robert Moses from
ripping the city to pieces.
Starting with the, uh,
his attempt
to run Fifth Avenue down
through Washington Square.
The first time
I became aware
of the threat
of what the highways
were doing
and could do to New York
was when along came the plan
to push Fifth Avenue through
Washington Square Park
and down below it
as a continuous street.
They, uh, wanted to have
the Fifth Avenue buses
go through the park
down into West Broadway
and change the name of that
to Fifth Avenue South
so as to make it
more valuable for rents.
And that was
a Robert Moses project.
This wasn't in the abstract
for Jane Jacobs.
This was happening
close to home.
Right in her backyard.
This was where
she brought her kids
in strollers
to play in that park.
It was the campus
for a university.
It was the front yard
for neighborhood kids
growing up.
It was a true reflection
of a diverse neighborhood.
This is The Circle.
On weekdays,
it's a wading pool
for village kids.
But on Sundays,
the water is turned off
and the circle becomes
a meeting place
for guitarists,
bongo and banjo players
villagers on a stroll,
folk singers and tourists.
To me and to many others,
we were outraged
about a road going
through Washington Square
and we were going to save
Washington Square Park.
Washington Square
was really Jane Jacobs'
beginning as a civic activist.
All of the activists,
myself included
were involved in trying
to stop that.
The leaders there
included, uh, Jane Jacobs
and Shirley Hayes.
Shirley Hayes and Edith Lyons
uh, were the 2 women
who started the, the fight
against the roadway
in Washington Square Park.
Jane was not deferential
to power.
So she ups the ante on that
Washington Square fight
and says,
"I'm gonna write the mayor."
"I have heard with alarm
and almost with disbelief
"the plans to run a sunken
highway through the center
"of Washington Square.
"My husband and I
are amongst the citizens
"who truly believe in New York
"to the extent
that we have bought a home
"in the heart of the city
and remodeled it
"with a lot of hard work.
"It is very discouraging
to do our best
"to make the city
more habitable
"and then to learn
that the city itself
is thinking up schemes
to make it uninhabitable."
Jane's example
that she set for herself
is an example
for other people to follow.
If a highway is coming through
that's going
to be very destructive
and you know
it's an idiotic thing
you fight that highway.
Protest against stultification
and the status quo
and things that touch you
and your neighborhood
I think she was effective
because of the force
of her personality
and the fact that
she was able to mobilize
a lot of people.
And Margaret Meade
and Susan Sontag
and all the various folks
that Jane was involved with
were drawn to the tangibility
of this particular fight.
They get too many critics.
They get too many mud-throwers
too many people who foul
their nest and there we are.
That's our trouble.
Too many people sitting around
calling names like Mumford.
People that,
what do they contribute?
You have any problem
to solve, any difficulty
you'd never call upon them.
Call upon them
for four-letter words.
They don't even have very good
vocabulary in my book.
Robert Moses wasn't used
to anybody saying no to him.
He'd fire off these letters
to people of,
uh, Greenwich Village.
"I realized that
in the process of rebuilding
"south of Washington Square
"there would be
cries of anguish
"from those
who are honestly convinced
"the Sistine Madonna
was painted in the basement
"of one
of the old buildings there
"not presently occupied
by a cabaret or speakeasy.
"That Michelangelo's David
was fashioned
"in a garret
in the same neighborhood.
"And that anyone
who lays hands
"on these sacred landmarks
will be executed
"if he has not already
been struck down
by a bolt from heaven."
They managed to show Moses
as this bully
and they, they got
a lot of important people
on their side,
including Eleanor Roosevelt.
I would feel very strongly
that destroying the Square
by putting a large artery
for traffic through the Square
would harm
not only the Square itself
but the whole neighborhood
and really the city.
I'm not opposed to change.
In fact, I believe in change.
But I think
that good tradition
has to be preserved.
Jacobs was
a brilliant strategist
when it came to civil action.
She had a real sense
for the photo op.
In Washington Square Park
she arranged for her daughter
and another girl
to conduct
a ribbon-tying ceremony.
This, of course,
was the opposite of
the ribbon cutting ceremony
the politicians loved to,
uh, celebrate
with public works.
It was at one of the hearings
where Moses was foolish enough
to say that
nobody's against us
except a bunch of mothers.
How could he be so tactless?
Only if you think
that people don't matter
at all
could you make
a statement like that.
She was a housewife.
That's how they treated her.
I mean, of course, she was
a professional journalist.
That was not somehow..
When you want to dismiss her,
you just say
there was this housewife
from Hudson Street.
Try to mess
with a bunch of mothers.
Uh, I think that
he underestimated what the, uh
effectiveness of these mothers
might in fact be.
Literally thousands
of people turned to
and it took quite a few years,
but did save it.
It ended up being
an extraordinarily
potent opposition,
which he'd never met before.
Moses had never
met this before.
He had his, he had it coming.
Washington Square Park
was certainly
the first, uh, public defeat
for Robert Moses
and it was a, uh, uh,
a major chink in his armor.
The battle
over Washington Square
is, is Jane's first taste
of victory.
Not long after
the Washington Square victory
"Death And Life" is published.
And Bennett Cerf,
head of Random House
sends a copy to Robert Moses.
And Moses sends it back.
"I am returning
the book you sent me.
"Aside from the fact
that it is intemperate
"and inaccurate..
" is also libelous.
I call your attention,
for example, to page 131."
"Robert Moses has made
an art of using control
"of public money
to get his way
"with those whom the voters
elect and depend on
"to represent their frequently
opposing interests.
"This is, of course,
in other guises
an old, sad story
of democratic government."
He didn't even wanna recognize
the existence of the book
or of Jane.
Others, uh, were also,
uh, not charitable
including Lewis Mumford.
Lewis Mumford,
the great architectural critic
for "The New Yorker,"
his famous review of her book
had the title
Mother Jacobs' Home Remedies.
He's immediately telling you
Jane Jacobs was just
this sweet, old lady
trying to get some homeopathic
medicine into the city
instead of doing
the serious surgery
that a real doctor would do.
Right around the time
of "Death and Life
of Great American Cities"
her own neighborhood
of the West Village,
the very neighborhood
that she had,
had proclaimed as a model
for what neighborhoods could be
was earmarked
for urban renewal.
Moses was commissioner
of, uh, housing
in the urban renewal effort
to build more public housing
in New York City.
He actually stepped down
from that position
but before he did
he designated
the West Village
as eligible
for slum designation.
I got the book
finished finally
and thought, ah, now I can
think about something else.
And for 3 weeks
I did think
about other things.
Then I opened the
"New York Times" one morning
and found that our own area
of the West Village
was going to have an urban
renewal project in it.
She really didn't think of
herself as a community organizer
as a, a street fighter
or that sort.
She was a writer.
She did not appreciate
the distraction.
She really didn't,
but she knew she had to do it.
She was sad. I mean,
she would shrug her shoulders.
What can I, what can I do?
You know that thing
about an inert object?
Well, there is nothing
more inert
than a government bureau.
There's nothing more inert
than a planning office.
It gets going
in one direction
and it is never going
to change of its own accord.
So I suddenly had to put
into practice my own premises
that if anything was
going to happen to reverse
the way things were being done
then the citizens had
to take some initiative
and the citizens had
to frustrate the planners.
I thereupon
began to devote myself
to frustrating planners.
And so did
the whole neighborhood.
Jane calls a meeting
of local residents
at The Lion's Head
a favorite
neighborhood hangout.
Organizes people to speak
at public meetings
and gets everybody
to wear sunglasses
with an X painted on them.
They were fairly sophisticated
I think, in the tactics
that they would employ
and they're tackling somebody
who's been writing
for a living
for a couple of decades
and knows how
to make an argument.
We all knew one another
and were constantly planning
on how to, uh,
get the mayor on our side
and how to threaten him.
And we did.
We got him on our side.
She filed a lawsuit
against the city of New York
to try to block
the urban renewal plan.
"I think
that the time has come
"to put the West Village
"urban renewal proposal
to rest.
"Promptly remove
the West Village designation.
Cordially, Robert F. Wagner."
They prevailed and, uh,
at the end of the day
the slum designation never
happened in the West Village.
She effectively showed
the people
of Greenwich Village
that they could fight city hall
that they did not
have to accept
the plans of the planners
at their drafting tables
and that they could
reject those lines
being drawn
around their homes.
We need to understand
Greenwich Village
is a proxy here for a wave
that was starting to take
hold in the United States
where there was
increasing resistance
to centralized authority.
Her strategy
was certainly informed
by other struggles that were
going on at the time.
Within 3 years of each other
Jacobs published her book.
Uh, Betty Friedan published
"The Feminine Mystique."
Rachel Carson
published "Silent Spring."
The Environmental Movement.
Civil Rights.
The movement
for decent cities
feminism, you know
all were being born at once
and all were sharing tools
of propaganda,
of local organizing
of civil disobedience.
Jane Jacobs was perhaps
the most articulate voice
of a movement that now seems
merely common sense.
Any city that's
tearing down its buildings
just to make money
for a development
or, uh, just to have novelty
is doing something criminal.
A fella who gets up
in the upper stories
of a, of a
public housing project
where he has a view,
what's the matter with him?
He's got a nice place
to live, hasn't he?
I think that the objection
that some might have
was that the view is just
of another housing development
and another highway.
No, I don't concede that.
It wasn't just
that they wanted
new housing
in place of the old.
They wanted an entirely
different-looking city.
Robert Moses
and his constituency
wanted it all to be
very simplified
very sterilized.
It was the hubris
of Moses and his ilk.
The idea that we're gonna
rearrange the spaces
and therefore,
we're gonna rearrange
the social relations.
It had to do with this
towers-in-the-park mentality.
It had to do
with the creation
of a new form of ghetto.
Whole downtowns
were being bulldozed
in the name of people,
but not for the people.
They were destroying lives
and replacing them
with these housing projects.
And why?
Because it was making
a lot of people
a lot of money.
It was making developers
a lot of money
politicians a lot of money
and it was fast money.
So they kept doing it
over and over and over again
in cities
all over the country.
It was several years
after Robert Moses had begun
building these projects
that the other cities
caught up.
What they were building
was the Corbusier model.
You saw the kind
of building of these
uh, these housing projects
across the United States.
You know, 25 story
block apartment buildings
with playgrounds
and gardens around them
that looked great
in all the drawings.
Here in bright, new buildings
with spacious grounds,
they can live.
Live with indoor plumbing,
electric lights
fresh plastered walls and the
rest of the conveniences
that are expected
in the 20th century.
In these projects,
children can play in safety
on the wide lawns
not in the littered alleys
and vacant lots.
We must make sure
that every family in America
lives in a home of dignity
in a neighborhood of pride
and a community of opportunity
and a city of promise
and hope.
But what ended up happening
is nobody ever hung out
on, uh, in the kind of
public space around these
uh, projects
and so they became
these under-populated places.
And they actually
very quickly became
some of the most dangerous
places in the world.
Concentrated poverty.
This was a,
you know, the really
the worst thing
about, uh, the projects
and therefore, amplified
all of the pathological
and antisocial elements
of poverty.
These institutions
became fortressed.
You become cornered.
You feel cornered.
You feel trapped.
They left people
more vulnerable.
Public housing
became places of fear.
High-rise fortresses
like these
were built this way
to save money.
In the long run,
they didn't even do that.
The problem was
that they were all wrong
for the people
who wound up living in them.
Rural blacks, broken families
allowed in and to stay in
only if their incomes
were low enough.
Most cities now are engaged
in something
called urban renewal
which means
moving the Negroes out.
It means Negro removal.
That is what it means.
And the federal government
is an accomplice to this fact.
Now this, we are talking
about human beings.
There's not such a thing
as a monolithic wall
or, you know, some abstraction
called Negro problem.
These Negro boys and girls
who at 16 and 17 don't believe
the country means
anything that it says
and don't feel that
they have any place here.
The phrase, Urban renewal
is Negro removal
was an acknowledgement
by African-Americans
that, that this was
an assault.
Removal is in the sense of
out, over there,
away, far away.
Some place inhospitable
where you can just die.
And a huge part of
what happened to people was
that they were put
in inhospitable places.
And African-Americans were put
in at the margins of the city
in places that were,
could barely support
the vital kind of life
that people need to prosper.
It's as though the builders
have not realized
that children
would be living there
nor did they foresee the crime
the vandalism, which is really
the acting out of rage
and self-loathing
that can make people want
to destroy their own property.
People had lived
in communities
that were messy,
but they worked.
People had social capitals,
people watched
each other's child
when somebody was not there.
All this
was actually taken away.
People had
no investment emotionally.
People resented these projects
that had been built for them
because they were poor.
So you see
a lot of windows broken out.
They all were broken out
by children throwing rocks.
And, uh, what's more natural
than children throwing rocks?
They don't have
nothing else to do.
There's absolutely
no recreation facilities here.
And, uh,
the playground like this
is a mockery
for thousands of children.
Tenants had no input
as to what they wanted.
Uh, it was built
because somebody said
this would be good
for children to play on.
There were
graffiti everywhere
and there were drug problems
and all the problems
that you can imagine come from
when you uproot people
without their will.
And what do you expect, that
they will love these projects?
No, that wasn't gonna happen.
if you really see
an, uh, an aerial view of it
those buildings were spaced
quite a distance apart.
If you took them
and threw them on their faces
which is where
they should've fallen
you will get lovely housing
20 feet high.
You can take a look
at a little exercise here
that if these towers,
these slabs
are removed from the towers
you begin to see
a different attitude
of what is visible.
You begin to see through
the site
as opposed to looking
at a slab of buildings running.
One thing, the tenants
are really stressing
is for a low-rise building
closer to a home.
Something that
they can relate to.
What we are trying
to do here
is to take a given situation
and try to bring it back
to a community where people
would want to live.
After thinking
about the problem
of the
Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project
the city planners blew it up.
Just dynamited it away.
The projects end up
being tremendous failures.
You know, we know all
about that failure now.
And everywhere they existed
30, 40 years later
they're all being torn down.
You can't put streets back
where you took them out.
You can't put stores back.
You can't put the daily life
and all the institutions.
It takes generations
to build up
those institutions.
That's what was eliminated
by these projects.
The superblock urbanism
of the modernist ilk
that Jane Jacobs,
uh, writes about
is, is destroying cities.
You also have,
at the very same time
the automobile
being rammed through.
This causes as many problems
as the urban renewal projects.
The most profound influence
on the city
in the last hundred years
has been the automobile.
The decision
made almost inevitable
was to drive the freeways,
the interstates in some
right through the cities
and through neighborhoods
whose value city elites
and developers
wanted to ultimately reclaim.
We wouldn't have
any American economy
the automobile business.
That's literally true.
I believe that
that this is a great industry
that has to go on
and has to keep on turning out
cars and trucks and buses
and there have to be places
for them to run.
There have to be modern roads.
The first of Moses'
commandments for progress
is thou shalt drive.
Jane Jacobs was
one of the very first people
to say the car is not supreme.
The people who walk
on the sidewalk
are what makes the city.
It isn't hard to understand
that producing
and consuming automobiles
might seem all-important
to the management of Ford
and Chrysler
and General Motors.
But it's harder to understand
why the production
and consumption of automobiles
should be the purpose of life
for all the rest of us.
Moses was about realizing
a very particular vision
of the American dream.
That was, you know,
what's good for General Motors
is good for
the United States of America.
I'm privileged to present
the winner
of the Grand National Award.
Robert Moses of New York.
Robert Moses, New York City
Construction Coordinator
is a world-famous
highway planner.
A man who knows his business.
What he was really doing was
tearing up vital neighborhoods.
For example, in the South Bronx
where he built
the Cross Bronx Expressway.
This was the single most
destructive decision
ever made about US cities.
The Cross Bronx Expressway
an artery
whose history was marked by
such gigantic problems
of construction, financing
and organized obstruction
that it took 17 years
to complete.
The Cross Bronx Expressway
ripped through the heart
and the middle of the Bronx
what was a wall between
what eventually was known as
the northern and the southern
part of the Bronx.
Robert Moses thought
he'd get away with anything.
Who's gonna stop him?
He's got all the city
politicians on his side
because he's bringing
a lot of federal money
from the
federal highway program.
And that gets passed around.
Today our greatest
single problem
is tenant removal.
The, uh, tendency on the part
of people in politics
as well as those
who are living on these
who are immediately affected
is to assume that the people
who are doing this job
are unsympathetic.
They're even sadistic.
Well, of course,
that isn't the truth at all.
When Moses would ram the
Cross Bronx Expressway through
it was not just breaking down
the physical structure
of that borough literally
so south and north
become different
but the community.
When you remove
the daily life
when you remove the stores,
you remove the places
that constitute
where they spend time
what we would call
the public realm
the sidewalks, the bars,
the grocery stores
you remove the city.
And that's what
Jane Jacobs says.
You draw away the people
with a prescription
that is guaranteed
to hurt cities.
Well, you have to bull it
through. You've gotta do it.
It's like all these, these
things that have opposition.
The fact that 2000 people
come and agitate
against the extension
of an expressway
doesn't prove that you're not
gonna build the expressway.
So many of the problems
of the South Bronx grew directly
out of the devastation caused
by building that expressway.
Which, of course,
became totally gridlocked
15 minutes after it was open.
I mean, Moses thought
he was improving the city
by bringing it up-to-date
by making it work
for the automobile.
And as it became clear
that urban highways
were, in fact
uh, profoundly destructive
it really became a battle
between opposing forces.
Of course, in Lower Manhattan
uh, Moses,
uh, wanted to build a road
right across,
um, uh, the city there.
The Whole Cast Iron District
would've been
basically obliterated.
The Lower Manhattan Expressway
was to have connected
the Holland Tunnel
with the Williamsburg
and Manhattan Bridges.
It would've destroyed
most of SoHo.
We would've lost one
of the greatest inventories
of 19th century buildings,
not just in New York
but in the world.
The highways, of course
destroyed the neighborhoods
that they went through.
Where was this going to end?
The whole place was going
to be laced with highways.
What would we have left
of Manhattan?
On any day of the week,
if you walk along Canal Street
and it's often faster
than riding
this is what you'll see.
The crush of endless
waiting traffic.
Now look at the solution.
A Lower Manhattan Expressway
only practical
highway crossing
serving the Lower Manhattan
and business districts.
Can we afford to let
one section of our city
slowly strangle in hopeless
traffic congestion?
There was an awful campaign
against that neighborhood.
It was called
Hell's Hundred Acres.
A bottled-up,
stagnating section
of the city.
No new private buildings
erected in 30 years.
A valley
of economic depression.
The need is urgent.
We must have a Lower Manhattan
Expressway now.
The local priest
in a church on Broom Street
had heard about Jane's
successful defenses
fighting Moses
and asked if she could help.
Father, what effect do you feel
that the expressway will have
on the neighborhood?
Well, the expressway will,
will destroy the neighborhood.
This is the worst thing
about these monumental plans.
There is no way there
that old buildings
can easily be torn down
and new ones put up.
Old things adapted
to different use.
It's settled.
Well, that's not planning
for the future.
Reminded of some
of the opposition
to his longtime dream
for an expressway
across Lower Manhattan
Moses was specific
about what it takes
to override
the inevitable roadblocks.
You gotta move people.
And that,
the political leaders
naturally, if they have
people ticketed
and they know where they are
and they vote right
they don't wanna move 'em
and have 'em go somewhere else.
What I try to do,
uh, in New York
what we've done successfully
in other places
which is to pay more money
to people in cash.
Come take the money
and go away.
You got people who rent.
They don't own anything.
So what different does it make
when you're talking
about a, uh, an expressway
that costs
84 million dollars?
Stop being victims.
I think it's wicked
in a way, to be a victim.
It's even wickeder
to be a predator
but it's wicked to be
a victim and allow it.
You can't, as an individual,
you can't do anything
but you can organize.
If you're being victimized
by an expressway
that a bureaucracy
is putting through
for the benefit
of the automobile people
then you fight that you refuse
to be a victim of that.
What effect do you think
this will have
on the neighborhood itself?
It will destroy
the neighborhood.
It's one of the few
neighborhoods that you can..
A woman can go down the streets
at night and be safe.
And the women know it
and I know it.
2 or 3 o'clock in the morning
the men are sitting
in the cafes
and they're watching you,
taking care of you.
You wanna build
up neighborhoods like this.
They say let's get back
to the old, safe neighborhoods.
This is it!
Memorandum to Arthur Hodgkiss
from Robert Moses.
"The Lower Manhattan
will move very soon.
Please keep an eye on it."
Mr. Simon,
are you saying that
they're trying
to sneak it through?
I would say it's a sleeper.
If this thing is passed, uh
these are how
these things happen.
If they're not watched,
uh, it's a sleeper.
Who do you think
is pushing this?
Well, uh,
there's only one man
that I can think of
that can be pushing.
They seem to think
that they have a choice.
That they'd rather stay
in the houses
that they've lived in
all this time.
The whole federal
arterial aid program
running into billions of dollars
depend upon the votes of a few
a very few people
in one section.
We wouldn't build anything.
Nothing would be built.
There'd be no highways,
there'd be no -- no housing.
There, there'd be
no public improvements.
Please do not build
this express highway.
Most of these people
consider automobiles
more than the human being.
It is not right!
I think it's awful.
I don't think it's fair.
I don't think it's very good
'cause I live there,
I look out my window.
The truck, the car
and everything.
They don't need expressway.
What they gonna do,
throw me in the street?
After 51 years,
I'm citizen and everything?
There's something awful
to think every day
they gonna throw you out.
I think it's awful thing.
They make me sick.
I hope God
they have to be damn sick.
That's what I hope. Goodbye.
Thank you.
It was gonna be
a defining hearing
in which they would approve
the expressway.
And Jane said,
when they discuss this issue
I'm gonna get up
and I'm gonna speak against it.
I went up, uh,
to the microphone.
I was very angry.
They weren't listening to us.
They had made their decision.
That was clear.
They were really
only errand boys
who had no power
to make decisions.
So we had better let them
take back a message.
We would never stand
for this expressway.
I intended just to climb up
to their level
and walk across the stage.
There was a stenotypist
who had a new machine.
She was frightened
and she picked up
her stenotype machine
and clasped it to her bosom.
The tapes fell out
of the machine
and ran across the floor
like confetti.
People began tossing it
in the air.
I knew it had
to be brought to an end
so an inspiration struck me.
I said, "There is no hearing
"because the record is gone.
And without a record,
there can't be a hearing."
The chief state person
was saying
"Arrest that woman.
Arrest that woman."
As I went out,
police captain told me that
uh, I was arrested.
The police
were very apologetic.
They knew who she was
and what was going on.
She was charged
with 3 felonies
which is pretty rotten
for what she did.
What did she do?
She didn't hurt anybody.
She became the hero.
And the politics did shift
at that point.
The Board of Estimate
in an executive session today
voted unanimously
to turn down the proposal
for a
Lower Manhattan Expressway.
The board -- Please.
That was the decisive moment.
And Moses
couldn't do anything.
He was just a pure villain.
The politicians were villains.
At that point, it was clear
that no politicians
were gonna get away with this.
The Lower Manhattan Expressway
was really the beginning
of the end for Robert Moses.
Robert Moses
was finally squeezed out
by Nelson Rockefeller,
who as Governor of New York
might have been
the first public official
powerful enough
to call his bluff.
Moses was famous
for threatening to resign
when he was unhappy
with something.
Rockefeller said
at one point okay
and Moses had no choice.
He couldn't back down
and he was gone.
After the Moses' expressway
situation was finally settled
Jane felt she could go
to Canada with her typewriter
and become a writer again.
Her husband,
who was an architect
was building hospitals
up there.
And their sons were there
be, to keep out of the
that awful Vietnam War.
Of course, as soon as
she got to Toronto
she, she saw there was
another expressway
heading right for her house
the Spadina Expressway.
She stopped that too.
And then got to work.
The Lower Manhattan Expressway
was officially dead
in the year 1970.
Meanwhile, across the country
these kinds of freeway revolts
were taking place
and similar roadways
were being defeated.
But the Lower Manhattan
was really
the leading example.
If that had happened,
there would be no SoHo.
The entire history
of development
and redevelopment
and adaptive reuse in the city
would've played out
in a different way.
It would've been
the single most
damaging intervention
in the urban fabric
in Manhattan
in the 20th century, period.
A city is not just
a physical object.
The city is a living thing.
It will always morph
and change.
Our goal has to be to manage
change well
not to freeze it in time.
As cities around the world
are obliged to house
this dramatically
increasing population
we still have
the conversation in terms of
top down versus bottom up
formality versus informality.
These are
the eternal polarities
of thinking about the city.
If you go to China,
you see huge swathes
of farmland that
are now being urbanized
in exactly the model
that America used in 1950s
and we know that it failed.
China today is Moses
on steroids, you know.
And the notion that Moses
could not have conceived
of this extraordinary
scaling up
of what it means to build.
In that sense,
history has outdone him.
These isolated developments
with hundreds
of similar-looking blocks
with no urbanism, no street
who can live in them
and how would you live
in them?
What they are building today,
I think.. the slums of the future.
And they're made in concrete.
They're gonna last
at least 60 years.
We are condemning
future generations
to an absolute world
without hope.
Given the scale
of the problem we have
that makes a completely
different context.. which Jane Jacobs'
ideas again now
have a new incarnation.
"It is so easy to blame
the decay of cities
"on traffic or immigrants..
"...or the whimsies
of the middle class.
"The decay
of cities goes deeper
and is more complicated.
"It goes right down
to what we think we want
and to our ignorance
about how cities work."
With the amount of people
who now need to live in cities
you have to accept that you're
going to need more density.
But a lot of densely
built up terrain.. not a city.
If, when we're to build a city
no matter how fast it is
without building
a great public realm
you don't have a city.
That's what
Jane Jacobs talks about.
solutions to city problems
have very seldom come
from the top.
They come from people
who understand
the problems firsthand
'cause they're living
with them
and who have new and ingenious
and often very offbeat ideas
of how to solve them.
The creativity and the concern
and the ideas down there
in city neighborhoods
and city communities
has to be given a chance
has to be released.
People have
to insist on government
trying things their way.
If you gave people
an environment
that they could
shape themselves
they would
not only be happier..
...but you would
have a completely
different kind of city.
The problem for people
who are planning
and designing
and thinking about
all this new urban tissue
that's being created
is how to take some of these
incredibly valuable lessons
that Jane Jacobs teaches
um, and apply them
to the project of creating
the places where,
uh, all of these
billions of people
are going to live.
The key thing
about Jane Jacobs
much more important
than loving stoops
and streets and stuff
was a willingness
to be skeptical
a willingness to doubt
the received wisdom..
...and to trust our eyes
"Under the seeming disorder
of the old city
"wherever the old city
is working successfully..
" a marvelous order
for maintaining the safety
"of the street
"and the freedom of the city.
"It is a complex order.
"This order is all composed
of movement and change.
"And although it is life,
not art..
"...we may fancifully call
it the art form of the city..
"...and liken it to the dance.
"Not to a simpleminded
precision dance
"with everyone kicking up
at the same time
"twirling in unison
and bowing off en masse..
"...but to an intricate ballet
"in which the individual
dancers and ensembles
"all have distinctive parts..
"...which miraculously
reinforce each other..
...and compose
an orderly whole."
[instrumental music]