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Old 11-23-2008, 05:14 PM   #1
ablarc
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Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

JANE JACOBS? NEIGHBORHOOD



Mythic Hudson Street! America?s favorite urban ?hood!

On Hudson Street, Jane Jacobs wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities about her beloved West Village neighborhood. She almost sold Americans on urban living.


Still a mixed neighborhood, but less than then.


Today, yuppies and gays are the dominant groups. What will happen to them as the economy heads south? Even more, what will happen to the neighborhood? It has become so ? genteel.


Fourth Street at Sheridan Square. Complex urban space makes a crossroads.


Relics of old Bohemia, as in the Latin Quarter.


Synagogue: superimposed Greek temples on a house lot.


Beatniks and kids persist, but in reduced numbers.


New Yorkers are generally, but not always, in better shape than suburbanites.


West 11th at West 4th: to see how this intersection is possible, consult the map.


An irregular grid. The Village predates the Commissioners? Plan (1811), whereby Manhattan acquired its rigid grid.

Jacobs? West Village is bounded by Seventh Avenue, 14th Street, West Street and Houston Street. Its main street is Hudson Street. It has short blocks.


Many intersections are not at right angles.

Sparely populated suburbs may look appealing, said Jacobs, but without an active sidewalk life, without the frequent, serendipitous interactions of many different people, "there is no public acquaintanceship, no foundation of public trust, no cross-connections with the necessary people--and no practice or ease in applying the most ordinary techniques of city public life at lowly levels."

"It is possible in a city street neighborhood to know all kinds of people without unwelcome entanglements, without boredom, necessity for excuses, explanations, fears of giving offense, embarrassments respecting impositions or commitments, and all such paraphernalia of obligations which can accompany less limited relationships,"


Acquaintances.


Extra Virgin on Fourth Street. Commercial mixed with residential throughout.


Tenements on Bank Street, some missing cornices.


Perry Street: newly famous for Meier buildings, down by the riverside.









?Jacobs argued that when a neighborhood is oriented toward the street, when sidewalks are used for socializing and play and commerce, the users of that street are transformed by the resulting stimulation: they form relationships and casual contacts they would never have otherwise.? ?-Malcolm Gladwell







The West Village, Jacobs pointed out, was blessed with a mixture of houses and apartments and shops and offices and industry, which meant that there were always people "outdoors on different schedules and... in the place for different purposes."

?The idea is to exchange private space for public space, where residents agree to live in tiny apartments in exchange for a wealth of nearby caf?s and stores and bars and parks. The West Village forces its residents outdoors.? ?-M.G.










Tall buildings generally indicate one of the numbered avenues thrust through the Village in the Twenties to connect Midtown with Downtown. These avenues are too wide; they function as speedways and somewhat fragment the Village.


Fanciful Twenties apartments. A man?s home is his?


Sober brownstones, one awaiting a buyer with a few million. Might now be a long wait. I hear they?re feeling the pinch even in Dubai.


Abrupt scale change at Eighth Avenue. Aircraft carrier looms. A cornucopia of styles.


Belgian restaurant, Belgian building.


Two oldtimers share a fire escape.


An elegant late Federal doorway influenced by Robert Adam.


Abingdon Square, a Hudson Street oasis: the West Village?s central square. Park as living room, park as study.


Park as nursery.


Park as bedroom.


Park as dining room.




Hudson Street




Approaching the fabled White Horse.


The White Horse Tavern, where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death. Now mobbed by tourists, for whom outdoor tables are set up. There were none for the windy boy-and-a-bit.


There?s even room for overflow, across the street.


Inside also the tourists teem. The guy with the paper couldn?t care less. Must be a regular; does this every Saturday, tourists or not.

Jacobs rhapsodizes the White Horse of yore: home to longshoremen and writers and intellectuals--a place where, on a winter's night, ?as the doors open, a solid wave of conversation and animation surges out and hits you."


In the north, Hudson terminates at 14th Street. Here begins the Meatpacking District, still New York?s hot find. On weekdays, the sidewalks still run with blood till 8 am, but much less than before. The rest of the day, they run with Rolling Rock.


The view from Markt, a big old Belgian brasserie noted for its mussels and its pick-up bar. Diagonally across Fourteenth they have added three stories to an old building.








Greenwich Avenue, Ninth Avenue and Fourteenth Street converge in a most Parisian manner, complete with flatirons.


More Paris: wet cobbles, slick boutiques, frameless glass and woven caf? furniture. The cab tells you it?s New York.






Paris again, this time the Sixteenth, complete with graffiti.






If you park here, you might encounter Nicole Kidman. She lives right next door?


?here?


?along with Ralph Lauren and Martha Stewart?now that she?s no longer temporarily residing elsewhere.


A stack of celebrities wrapped in glass by Richard Meier.






Silver gloss extends to lobby.




He does not appear able to design an ugly building.


The trend is to river view living. Need at least a BMW for that.


No wonder!: across West Street and the Hudson, the Jersey City skyline beckons. Jersey City??




Jersey City? Wasn?t even there last decade. Now it?s like Houston or Hong Kong in a distorting mirror. The big, sinister tower at left is by Cesar Pelli. He has one like it in Hong Kong, only twice as high. And you should see the view when the cruise ships glide down the river. That?s when my camera batteries gave out.


Manhattan view is not so shabby either, though missing a pair of famous buildings.






Turf on pier is plastic.


Saturday, the day before the Gay Pride Parade, the boys were out and swarming.

?Jane Jacobs did not win the battle she set out to fight. The West Village remains an anomaly. Most developers did not want to build the kind of community Jacobs talked about, and most Americans didn't want to live in one.? ?Malcolm Gladwell.

There are exceptions:






New old town house.

From a curious article on -?of all things? the theory of office landscape:

Designs For Working


Copyright 2000, Malcolm Gladwell

Why your bosses want to turn your new office into Greenwich Village

"The Death and Life of Great American Cities" was a controversial book, largely because there was always a whiff of paternalism in Jacobs's vision of what city life ought to be.

Chelsea--the neighborhood directly to the north of her beloved West Village--had "mixtures and types of buildings and densities of dwelling units per acre... almost identical with those of Greenwich Village," she noted. But its long-predicted renaissance would never happen, she maintained, because of the "barriers of long, self-isolating blocks."

She hated Chatham Village, a planned "garden city" development in Pittsburgh. It was a picturesque green enclave, but it suffered, in Jacobs's analysis, from a lack of sidewalk life.

She wasn't concerned that some people might not want an active street life in their neighborhood; that what she saw as the "self-isolating blocks" of Chelsea others would see as a welcome respite from the bustle of the city, or that Chatham Village would appeal to some people precisely because one did not encounter on its sidewalks a "solid wave of conversation and animation." Jacobs felt that city dwellers belonged in environments like the West Village, whether they realized it or not.

Human behavior, after all, is shaped by context, but how it is shaped--and whether we'll be happy with the result--we can understand only with experience. Jane Jacobs knew the virtues of the West Village because she lived there.

What she couldn't know was that her ideas about community would ultimately make more sense in the workplace. From time to time, social critics have bemoaned the falling rates of community participation in American life, but they have made the same mistake.

The reason Americans are content to bowl alone (or, for that matter, not bowl at all) is that, increasingly, they receive all the social support they need--all the serendipitous interactions that serve to make them happy and productive--from nine to five.


The Make.






Village landmark: Jefferson Library.
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Old 11-23-2008, 05:33 PM   #2
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

I must go to college here. The admissions office has no choice.
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Old 11-23-2008, 06:38 PM   #3
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

Quote:
Jacobs rhapsodizes the White Horse of yore: home to longshoremen and writers and intellectuals--a place where, on a winter's night, ?as the doors open, a solid wave of conversation and animation surges out and hits you."
I really have to wonder what JJ would have thought about the West Village today. The thing people forget is that she was talking about a working class neighborhood in 1961 and she moved to Canada just before the major urban turbulence of the later 60s and complete abandonment of the 70s and 80s.

As much as I think she is right about how we build there is a part of me that has to take it with a grain of salt because she is talking about a totally different time. The West Village of "Death and Life" was working class, today it is the definition of YUPy.

Granted it is the very qualities that she reminisces about that have made the place so desirable. She would probably be much more at home today in Greenpoint, Brooklyn than in her old 'nabe.
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Old 11-23-2008, 07:41 PM   #4
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

She also spent some time in the book praising the North End, which she notes in the 60s was considered a very bad slum. Her thesis was a strong rebuttal of the Mumford-ian ideal of Garden City progressivism, places that *seemed* slums were entirely the opposite.

She actually has commented on West Village's current situation on occasion, from afar, before she died.
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Old 11-23-2008, 10:47 PM   #5
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

Jacobs' dissection of the midcentury American city is still useful in some contexts, but other commenters are right to note the discrepancy between her West Village and today's. The nabe is almost synonymous with celebrities and designer outlets. Most New Yorkers I know would not touch it with a ten foot pole (some out of resentment because it's been colonized by a class of people who dwell in the economic stratosphere, others because it's too culturally and creatively dead to be bothered with anymore).

I think urbanism as Jacobs preached has a problem when the artists, students, and workers look upon neighborhoods like this with resignation, resentment, or regret. It's seen as a Potemkin village, an unreal shrine to the virtues of urban design with little or no relation to urban life or reality. Today even most of the gay population is there on holiday - whether from some other city or from less tolerant boroughs. Their scene is confined to Christopher Street, where they party under the intense surveillance or nervous neighbors and unsympathetic police.

Kennedy, I went to college in New York. If I can assume correctly you're a suburban kid, I can see how you'd dream of this place. But it's going to seem like a world removed from your culture, causes, and concerns (not to mention your budget) if you do wind up at NYU. The university will house you in some far-flung spot in the East Village (which, although it's a boring grid that's increasingly inhabited by the same people who live further West, is still slightly more interesting) and your friends and classmates will pine for the industrial wastes of East Williamsburg and Bushwick. In New York, the emptiness and isolation of the outer boroughs has become far more quirky - and, inevitably, much more chic. It was never about the "city" (or its design) at all...just where the cool people are (or can afford). Zizek would appreciate the gentrification cycle's interplay of base and superstructure.
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Old 11-23-2008, 11:10 PM   #6
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

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Most New Yorkers I know would not touch it with a ten foot pole (some out of resentment because it's been colonized by a class of people who dwell in the economic stratosphere, others because it's too culturally and creatively dead to be bothered with anymore).
Pioneers hate settlers.
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Old 11-24-2008, 05:50 AM   #7
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

The grapes are sour.

It's like Beacon Hill. Who wants to live there? Pooh, pooh.

It's a Potemkin village.

And yet if some unknown uncle left us a house on Louisburg Square, and the money to maintain it...



Anyway, now that the economy has soured, maybe the folks who live in these places will lose their money and get interesting again.

Who knows? Some of them may revert to working class. Or become drug dealers.

Then we superior folks can deign to contemplate a little pad on Perry Street. It'll be interesting again.



Hey Beton, what kind of folks lived in those Lautner houses you posted?
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Old 11-24-2008, 06:26 AM   #8
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

Don't forget, she was also a proponent of public subsidies as a way of keeping middle class and lower class people in neighborhoods they could otherwise ill-afford.
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Old 11-24-2008, 09:59 AM   #9
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

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Kennedy, I went to college in New York. If I can assume correctly you're a suburban kid, I can see how you'd dream of this place. But it's going to seem like a world removed from your culture, causes, and concerns (not to mention your budget) if you do wind up at NYU. The university will house you in some far-flung spot in the East Village (which, although it's a boring grid that's increasingly inhabited by the same people who live further West, is still slightly more interesting) and your friends and classmates will pine for the industrial wastes of East Williamsburg and Bushwick. In New York, the emptiness and isolation of the outer boroughs has become far more quirky - and, inevitably, much more chic. It was never about the "city" (or its design) at all...just where the cool people are (or can afford). Zizek would appreciate the gentrification cycle's interplay of base and superstructure.
You can assume I am a suburban kid yes, but every moment I have a chance I am in the city. And NYU isn't where I'm looking, it's at Parsons, which has housing all in South Manhattan on or around Fifth Avenue. I guess budget will obviously be a concern, but it would be the same no matter where I am, and plus, I wouldn't ever have to pay for gas money. I know it's not about the buildings, rather it is the culture I'd go for.
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Old 11-24-2008, 10:09 AM   #10
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

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Hey Beton, what kind of folks lived in those Lautner houses you posted?
You know the answer to that one, ablarc -- the kind of folks who can afford their own planetarium. Lautner began with modest materials, and modest scale, and even those little steel and redwood homes now trade as art objects.

There's no denying, the West Village has become an art object of sorts, like our own Back Bay, South End, and Beacon Hill. Desirable, but "closed systems" where there is limited opportunity for physical and demographic change without resistance from within.

These neighborhoods are all places I won't mind living, but none are accessible to this working stiff. But that's okay. I visit for dinner and drinks.
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Old 11-24-2008, 01:17 PM   #11
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

I do enjoy the West Village. Last time I was there was in October of 07. While it's certainly not the neighborhood Jacobs writes about in Death and Life, you can see still see the roots.

While we all wax poetic about Jane Jacobs' philosophies, it's worth noting that she is one hell of an talented, engaging writer (if you have even the slightest interest in the subject matter). I had visited the West Village before reading "Death and Life," but when I was reading it, I could easily picture the bustle of a working class neighborhood and not the gentrified yuppyville it is today. Same goes for her description of the North End, Rittenhouse Square (which was elite even then), etc.

I think that while her ideals may not apply completely to many of the neighborhoods dissected in the book, there are others that they do apply to.

Thank you for the photo tour, ablarc... I always enjoy your musings. I spend an hour of my Monday slowly scrolling through the photos and I'd hardly call it wasted time (though my girlfriend who's waiting for the dishes to be done may beg to differ).
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Old 11-24-2008, 06:58 PM   #12
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

If gentrification recedes, it won't be in Lower Manhattan. The economic downturn that helped produce New York's legendary 1970s decripitude dovetailed with the ascendancy of suburbia and the legacy of pre-Jacobsian disregard for quirky, "irrational" neighborhoods. Today, cities are fashionable, and neighborhoods like the West Village all the more.

(For fun, here's a map Gawker put together of probable wealth retraction in New York:



Quote:
The key: Purplish-pink for traditional strongholds of the rich that will remain unscathed. Red for core neighborhoods that are probably too gentrified now to roll back significantly. Pink for marginal hoods, where a recession could send gentrifiers fleeing. And grey for wilderness neighborhoods, where yuppies would fear to tread after The Poors and other non-glamorous types take them back for good.
)

PS - If a relative left me a home in Louisbourg Square, I'd probably sell it and look for something somewhere else. It's not that I don't appreciate Beacon Hill or the West Village, but they're too stuffy - not reflective of my preferences enough to base myself there. For all that the locals complain about their expansion, the universities are the only hope for downtown Manhattan - they'll keep it young and interesting, to some extent. The last time I was in the West Village was for a theatre production incubated by the New School.
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Old 11-24-2008, 07:01 PM   #13
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

new school, thats where its at.
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Old 11-24-2008, 07:34 PM   #14
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

^ HAHA, kennedy, you've got to be kidding!!

I just sent in my early decision application to Eugene Lang, which you probably know is part of the New School. I am deciding between the Urban Studeis and Environmental Studies major...

I visited in July and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
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Old 11-24-2008, 07:53 PM   #15
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

I know! I want to go to Parsons to study architecture, make sure you tell me if you get accepted/attend. It my absolutely my number one choice by far...so awesome!
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Old 11-24-2008, 08:05 PM   #16
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will do. if i end up taking environmental studies I'd need to take classes at parsons!! It's cool to find someone who knows about the New School. People are always asking me my plans for college and NO ONE knows about Lang, they think I'm a bum who likes a stupid school in the middle of no where, but NOT SO! haha
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Old 11-24-2008, 09:42 PM   #17
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

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If a relative left me a home in Louisbourg Square, I'd probably sell it and look for something somewhere else. It's not that I don't appreciate Beacon Hill or the West Village, but they're too stuffy - not reflective of my preferences enough to base myself there.
I bet you'd take it even with a stipulation that you live there till graduation. Think what it would do for your social life. You could present yourself as Thomas Crown, or you could start a harem.
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Old 11-24-2008, 09:53 PM   #18
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

Excuse my geography...but isn't Beacon Hill in Boston and the West Village in New York?
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Old 11-24-2008, 10:38 PM   #19
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

Yeah; the reason we're discussing them in the same sentence is that they're very loosely architecturally and culturally similar.
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Old 11-25-2008, 09:19 AM   #20
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Re: Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood

Gotcha...and if I may put my two cents in, I'd definitely say the West Village has a much more active and diverse streetscape than Beacon Hill...which always seems like it's asleep when I'm there.
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