The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs

Roberta Brandes Gratz, Author . Nation $27.95 (350p) ISBN 978-1-56858-438-6

The mid-20th-century showdown between New York City planning czar Moses and legendary community urbanist Jacobs reverberates down the decades in this meandering polemic. A journalist and member of New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission, Gratz (The Living City ) views 50 years of economic and real estate development as a duel between the legacies of Moses, whose pharaonic highway and urban renewal projects obliterated neighborhoods, and Jacobs, who extolled urban diversity and disorderly mixed uses, hated cars, and championed organic, human-scale development. Through this lens, Gratz rehashes Jacobs's defeat of Moses's Manhattan expressway schemes, examines New York's (anti-)industrial policies and historical preservation laws, and attacks what she sees as latter-day boondoggles like Brooklyn's proposed mammoth Atlantic Yards development and Columbia University's expansion. The avowedly partisan author despises Moses as “arrogant” and “racist,” and sometimes cedes the book to Jacobs with lengthy excerpts from interviews with the late urbanist. Gratz offers some cogent critiques of contemporary urban planning (while also embracing a few, like urban farming). Alas, her exposition of Jacobs's ideas is larded with unfocused autobiography, and far less tightly argued than Jacobs's own classic writings. B&w photos. (Apr. 1)

Reviewed on: 02/22/2010
Release date: 03/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 350 pages - 978-1-56858-678-6
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