In counterpoint to last February’s three-venue series of Robert Moses retrospectives, New York City’s design mavens are now revisiting Jane Jacobs, whose writings about urban life came to symbolize the opposite of Moses’ own approach to planning cities. Manhattan’s Municipal Art Society (MAS) is using the late community organizer and theorist as the touchstone for an inquiry into New York City’s current character.
Jacobs made her name in the early 1960s by helping organize a grassroots campaign to protect historic buildings and neighborhoods from destruction—most notably Greenwich Village, which lay in the path of an expressway Moses sought to build. The MAS show “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York,” which opened last week and runs until January 2008, invokes this history to rouse a new generation of community activists. The organization is also hoping for a similar effect from a series of seven talks that kicked off last night with a panel provocatively titled: “Is New York is losing its soul?”