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don't destroy

BROOKLYN     Press Release Main Page

For Immediate Release: April 26, 2006

Passing of Activist and Urban Thinking Giant
Reminder of All That is Wrong With Ratner's "Atlantic Yards"

BROOKLYN, NY - Jane Jacobs, author, social critic, intellectual, urbanist and community activist, died yesterday in Toronto at the age of 89.

Her seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, is widely considered the bible of modern urban planning.  Her struggles with Robert Moses and her efforts to stop the planned construction of a highway through Lower Manhattan in the 1960s remains an inspiration to all of us fighting for smarter, saner, more people-friendly development.

New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger said today on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show that Ms. Jacobs "would not have been enthusiastic about" Bruce Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” proposal.

"There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder," Jacobs wrote in Death and Life, "and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.”  While this passage was published 45 years ago, it applies just as well today to Bruce Ratner’s and Frank Gehry’s designs upon Prospect Heights and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, "While the Ratners and Gehrys co-opt Jacobs' principles by paying lip service to things they call 'human scale' and 'urban rooms,' we can draw inspiration from the vision and vigor that enabled Jacobs to save Greenwich Village from planners, developers, power brokers and politicians intent on their warped ideas of 'progress.'  We seek to ensure that when we are victorious in our advocacy for sensible development and a liveable city, our struggle will be one of her legacies. May Ms. Jacobs rest in peace, and in her name may we find peace for the health of New York's neighbhorhoods."

Francis Morrone, journalist, lecturer, and author of An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn, noted at a recent public forum on the "Atlantic Yards" proposal:

"Make no mistake. The politicians and the developers are getting away with a lot of what they're getting away with because elite cultural opinion has momentarily grown bored with ideas like preservation and human scale..."

"Ultimately, though, it is not about culture, it is about civilization. It's about such things as how we manage change in our environment..."

"Incremental redevelopment, of a more modest scale, may lack luster in this age in which many architects and planners have swung back from the influence of Jane Jacobs to re-embrace the values of an earlier generation that venerated Le Corbusier and his notions of towers and open spaces sweeping aside the shopworn vestiges of earlier periods of urban development. But for many, incremental redevelopment seems appropriate in Brooklyn­which has fought back from the brink to provide models for urban America, not of vast projects of wholesale transformation, but of rehabilitation and the tender loving care of the sorts of neighborhoods and places that we spent so many years trying to destroy."

"Clearly, the 'Atlantic Yards' area needs development. The proposals on the table, however, beg the question of whether Brooklyn’s urban success stories have taught us anything at all, or just paved the way for thoughtless mega-development. Jane Jacobs coined the phrase “cataclysmic money.” Disinvestment is bad. So is over-investment. And it seems that in some parts of Brooklyn we may be going from the one to the other."

The Hillbilly Blog Bard of Brooklyn, Dope on the Slope, in remembrance of Jan Jacobs, writes: "The idea that Brooklyn could be transformed into a 'destination attraction' for tourists, or perhaps even become another Jersey City if we just applied ourselves, would make Jane Jacobs puke. The so-called "leaders" in Brooklyn are repeating the same mistakes Jane warned us about decades ago. Unfortunately, Jane Jacobs and the movement she spawned are currently out of fashion with New York City planners and the architectural mavens in Manhattan."