Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jacobs’ Legacy Pervades Debate On Manhattanville Planning

Subject: Walter South has forwarded a page to you from Columbia Spectator
From: South
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2008 22:26:38 -0500

Walter South thought you would like to see this page from the Columbia Spectator web site.

Jacobs’ Legacy Pervades Debate On Manhattanville Planning
By Lydia Wileden

From the cultural texture of a city block in Greenwich Village to the solace of Washington Square Park, there are few places within New York City that don’t bear the mark of Jane Jacobs.

The Municipal Art Society of New York is currently honoring the way Jacob’s work as an urbanist, writer, and activist drastically changed the course of urban development in an exhibit titled “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York,” which opened Sept. 26, 2007. The exhibit, which will close on Feb. 20, 2008, aims to educate the public on Jacobs’ legacy and encourages current generations to become active in issues involving their own neighborhoods.

The exhibit focuses on many of Jacobs’ initiatives, including her dedication to preventing the creation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, an elevated eight-lane roadway that would have effectively severed the lower portion of Manhattan from the rest of the city. Photographs and video footage documented Jacobs in action and recorded the beauty of what Jacobs called “sidewalk ballet,” the unrehearsed choreography of urban dwellers and the vitality of city life.

The application of Jacobs’ values extends today to the debate over Columbia University’s Manhattanville expansion project.

The plan keeps with Jacobs’ legacy through its open streets and sidewalks and underground facility, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs LaVerna Fountain said in an e-mail. “There are no ‘super blocks’ of the kind Jane Jacobs criticized decades ago. In fact, it is just the opposite.
We have specifically created a plan to open the area more fully to allow for greater public activity including putting parking, garbage, and loading docks below grade and creating extra set backs to encourage pedestrian traffic. The design also further enhances pedestrian connection to the West Harlem Piers Waterfront Park as requested by the community.”

Others say Community Board 9’s alternative plan for development, known as the 197-a plan, was closer in keeping with Jacobs’ vision. “Our plan for mixed use area was developed to welcome Columbia and called for Columbia to be part of the community, not the entire community. Columbia’s plan calls for exclusive use of the area,” CB9 member Walter South said.

Columbia’s 197-c plan will “wipe out the entire area, razing 18 acres,” South continued, calling the plan “everything anti-Jacobs” and citing in particular Jacobs’ argument for the texture and fullness of everyday urban existence and against the segregation of cultural institutions in detached locations.

“If Jacobs stood for anything, she never stood for that,” he added.

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