Saturday, August 08, 2009

Clearly Insane

From a NYT book review about Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses.

Moses and Jacobs clashed during the 1950s and ’60s over three of the huge public works projects Moses tried to force on Manhattan. It is hard even to list them now without cringing — or nearly weeping with gratitude that they never came to pass.

There was his plan to build a four-lane highway through the middle of Washington Square Park. Another project would have razed 14 blocks in the heart of Greenwich Village under the guise of urban renewal. There was also a plan to plunge a 10-lane elevated superhighway, to be called the Lower Manhattan Expressway, through SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

Each of these projects is, from today’s vantage point, clearly insane; each would have had cataclysmic effects on the quality of life in Manhattan. But their flaws were less obvious to many at the time. It took an accidental activist, Jacobs, and her ability to marshal popular support and political will, to stop them. The battles over all three projects form the spine of “Wrestling With Moses.”

In that era, many clearly insane urban projects did, in fact, happen, and fortunately plenty more were actually stopped. The good news is that at least in the Northeast the era of building urban highways is basically over.

...locally we can be thankful that South St. and surrounding wasn't bulldozed for the Crosstown Expressway.