Jacobs vs. Moses in WNYC's History

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

As part of WNYC's 90th anniversary celebration, Kenneth T. Jackson, Editor in Chief of The Encyclopedia of New York City: Second Edition (Yale University Press; 2 edition, 2010) and president emeritus of the New York Historical Society, listens to archival audio of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs giving speeches that reflect their influence on the definition of urbanism and New York and discusses their lasting impact on the city.


Kenneth T. Jackson

Comments [20]

Chuck "No MetroCard" Moore from Manhattan Valley

As a car-owning Manhattanite (who enjoyed Caro’s book), I appreciate the Moses/Jacob dichotomy…Moses made NYC drivable and vaguely modern! U can’t appreciate the 5 boros underground!

I love the sweeping TRIBORO as a Get-Outta-Dodge option to sneak into Brooklyn!
BTW: "RFK Bridge"?! NEVER!!!

I'd like to hear a show about RM's youthful contributions to the reorganization of NY State government...and his relationship to Al Smith...In fact, more Al Smith in any context! Love NYC history...

Great show!

Jul. 11 2014 10:11 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

If you look at the shrinkage of NYC, which occurred over an extended period, you see that it follows and closely tracks the years that Moses' policies were being implemented.

After he was out of power and those policies were ultimately (not immediately) abandoned, partly being recognized as very expensive, New York began to grow again, mostly organically from the bottom up. . . all those units built in Brooklyn.

It is ironic that that in Detroit in the case of Poletown, they were still, very recently, evicting existing communities of people who wanted to live there, via eminent domain, to replace them with more all-eggs-in-one-basket automobile factories that didn't stay. Now people despair about how few people want to live in Detroit.

Jacobs had a concept of neighborhoods "unslumming." It means to let people in a neighborhood build and create their own wealth and better conditions. By contrast it hurts the poor and less economically advantaged to seek to evict them and contain them elsewhere, but the dirty little secret is that sometimes those in power are hoping that many of them will move out of the city entirely.

Jul. 09 2014 03:05 PM

Our current state proves that building bridges and tunnels as Moses wanted did NOT solve our "arterial problems", so what does that tell us? The world just does not work the way Moses adamantly protested that they would. Good riddance.

Jul. 09 2014 11:26 AM
David Rohlfing from Sunnyside

I was reading Robert Caro's book on Moses a couple summers ago. I couldn't help seeing the similarity of Moses' "slum clearance" initiates with the Bloomberg/Klein/Gates actions in the NYC DOE of closing schools and re-opening schools in their place. Like Moses, Bloomie and his crew did little to actually remedy the underlying issues of poverty and segregation, nor did they actually help create community and democracy in our public.

Jul. 09 2014 11:18 AM
Marlene from CG/Gowanus

How about a comparison to the "top-down" transformations instituted by Moses and the "bottom-up" transformation that has been taking place throughout Brooklyn over the past twenty years?

Old 18th century Brooklyn Housing has seen a reinvestment and renovation that has done more for the city's tax basis that any other major redevelopment project in the area. There is also great wisdom in the collective actions of communities bringing about positive redevelopment for the future. In some ways, it's been too successful.

But the highway "Ditch" that Moses, which cut Red Hook off from the rest of Brooklyn, continues to hamper the area; and everyone is wondering what will become of traffic on our local streets as that aging road way is rebuilt. Even roadways can become blighted.

Jul. 09 2014 11:18 AM
Janice from NYC

I remember when I was about 7 yrs. old, we moved from a tenement walk-up into the projects and my Mother was so happy for the improvement. She said "This is wonderful and we have Moses to thank for it!"
The only Moses I knew was the one in the Bible and so it took a great while before I figured it out.

Jul. 09 2014 11:14 AM
pliny from soho

dont forget Mies van der Rohe's role in all of this
"slum" clearance.

Jul. 09 2014 11:14 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Got any clips where Robert Moses called residents of housing projects "animals"? He actually didn't want to put doors on their bathrooms.

Jul. 09 2014 11:13 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

Moses had plans to tear down most of Brooklyn Heights.

He succeeded in replacing some of the Heights, a relatively small fraction by comparison, building at a lower density for a wealthier middle class population.

Some of the urban renewal building at a lower density in the Heights, displacing population, resulted in the Brooklyn Heights Library, now under threat with a proposal to shrink it and build a much higher density tower for those who enjoy luxury living.

Jul. 09 2014 11:09 AM
Alan from New York

Here are Robert Caro and the late Marshall Berman on Robert Moses and the Cross-Bronx Expressway:

Jul. 09 2014 11:06 AM
raina from Westchester County

Robert Moses was the guest speaker at my 1959 graduation from the High School of Music and Art. It was in the midst of his plan to charge for admission to "Shakespeare in the [Central] Park." You can imagine how this audience would feel about him! Well, he was such a compelling speaker that he almost won us over!

Jul. 09 2014 11:06 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Judy, I was thinking of exactly that, & wondering if those were among the bridges Mr. Jackson described as magnificent.

Jul. 09 2014 11:06 AM

Moses sounded robotic and vaguely human. he understood little about people,and cared even less.

Jul. 09 2014 11:05 AM
tom from astoria

Right now the entire block between Madison and VanBuren -- RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO GRAND CENTAL TERMINAL-- is slated to be torn down. A Chinese company owns the entire block and tenets have been told to leave by august. What stage are we in of ugly modernization? The Bloomberg administration was devastating to the historical places of our city.

Jul. 09 2014 11:05 AM

Because of Moses legacy, we learned that housing projects do not work. Warehousing the poor away from the rest of the population only creates slums and high crime zones. so, we came up with 80/20 housing, which developers are now screwing up.

Jul. 09 2014 11:03 AM
antonio from baySide

Robert Moses was racist and didn't really acknowledge his heritage...

He is aggrandized much in the way Giuliani is today...

So funny how we are envisioning a streetcar system which RM would have hated...

Jul. 09 2014 11:02 AM

I hope that your guest knows that the same things can be said of Mussolini.

And he only disagreed with the director of parks, because he made a deal with someone else just south of the Shakespeare folks for a paying event and that guy didn't want free competition nearby. Moses shilled for capitalism over free Shakespeare.

Jul. 09 2014 11:01 AM
fuva from harlemworld

"Tough love", Brian? This kind of cavalier attitude toward myriad forms of race terrorism...annoys me. It's pathetic. SMDH
Of course, Moses' egg-cracking was QUITE unevenly distributed. The phenomenon traumatized many a black and latino community. E.g.,

Jul. 09 2014 11:00 AM
Judy Biener from Brooklyn

I believe that, in The Power Broker, it is revealed that Moses deliberately made the overpasses on the way to Jones Beach too low to clear busses, in order to keep people of color and the poor away from the beach. Horrid.

Jul. 09 2014 10:58 AM
John from NYC

Interesting – yes, they were both important, but –

I think Jacobs is misunderstood – read her later books – she is totally for free market, open economies that PERMIT (not plan) innovation.

She shows that large scale planning in economies is as bad as large scale planning in cities.

As for Moses – look at the horrible conditions of our NY infrastructure, including two of the worst airports in the world. We are in need of visionary leadership (for today, not for 80 years ago).

Jul. 09 2014 10:51 AM

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