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Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs

Categories City, Government, New York City, World

Essay, Pages 11 (2571 words)



Essay, Pages 11 (2571 words)

The intended purpose of this memo is to carefully explore the competing visions of New York City held by Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. This memo will discuss how Moses was determined to restore NYC through urban renewal projects and expressways while Jane Jacobs wanted to preserve NYC neighborhoods and put a stop to Moses’s plans.

Competing visions of New York City held by Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs?

Moses was known as the master-builder of New York who transformed the city’s landscape with “modern infrastructure·critical for revitalizing the city’s economy” (p.

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35). His projects included new bridges, parks, highways, tunnels, zoos, pools, playgrounds, and other public places. Some public places that were “restored and expanded the city’s existing public places” (p.32) included:

  • The Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, Bryant Park, New York Public Library, Prospect Park, and Central Park.
  • The Tavern on the Green, as well as the opening of 10 new swimming pool complexes.
  • The Jones Beach and the crescent beach
  • The Henry Hudson Bridge, the Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge,
  • and the Triborough Bridge, a 22 lane that linked the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan along with Tunnel authority that collected .

    25 cent tolls each way.

  • The Cross Bronx Expressway, the Whitestone, the Throngs Neck and Verrazano-Narrow Bridges, and the Brooklyn Bridge Battery Tunnel
  • The Lincoln Center, the Shea Stadium, and the New York Coliseum.
  • The new headquarters location of United Nations in Flushing Meadows in Queens
  • The restructuring of the prison systems of the state, as well as the construction of a structure for state parks.

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Moses’s vision for New York City was to “reinvent all major features of the city” (p.56). The city would have “new infrastructure including highways and parking garages, to provide better access to downtowns; cultural and civic attractions; universities and the massive construction of affordable housing to retain working- and middle-class families” (p.53).

He pushed for a “comprehensive roadway network for the metropolitan area” and “viewed mass transit-crowded streetcars, buses, and subways-as a hallmark of past” (p.51). To create this vision, he needed to demolish existing neighborhoods viewed as “blighted slums” (p.53) to create neighborhoods with modern architecture. Moses was skilled in securing state, city and federal funding for his projects. He partnered with legislators and councilmen to carry out his vision. The federal government supported Moses’s projects through legislations.

To some, Moses was a “champion of public works” but to others he was demolishing “the history, the stewardship and the respite” of Greenwich Village and other neighborhoods (p.34). A part of the latter group, Jane Jacobs fought to preserve the Washington Square Park and SoHo. The Washington Square Park “had come to symbolize free speech, political empowerment and civil disobedience” (p.64). The urban renewal of the park would obstruct The Arch “added to honor George Washington” (p.66).

The Fountain built in 1856

The free space to be outside at one owns leisure

Jacobs fought for the preservation of neighborhoods, to save the many businesses and homes that would be displaced because of Moses’ plans. The Greenwich Village neighborhood and SoHo would lose its “vitality, community, safety and spontaneity” if it was reconstructed into an expressway (p. 96).

Furthermore, the neighborhoods’ affordable rent and diversity would be lost if Moses continued with the urban renewal plan in Greenwich Village. Four elements constituted a prosperous neighborhood which were multifunctional streets, short blocks to ensure the safety and comfortability of residents, dense population, and varying buildings.

The four elements of the neighborhood would be eliminated if Moses’s plan of the Lower Manhattan Expressway also known as LOMEX moved forward. Also some elements constituted a prosperous park were the landscaping and amenities that could be enjoyed by the people of the city, and structuring the size to be small and full of “urban vitality” (p.124).

New York City government involved in Moses’ plan

Moses’ plan for the Washington Square Park was to extend “Fifth Avenue straight through the park·punching through the south side and continue into lower Manhattan as Fifth Avenue South.”(p.62).The Fifth Avenue extension project would increase the movement of traffic to Lower Manhattan Expressway ” that would provide speedy east-west travel between Hudson and East rivers” and become the signature redevelopment project (p.62).

The Lower Manhattan Expressway had ten lanes running down Broome Street, which would demolish existing businesses, homes and displace several residents predominately minorities. The highway had advantages to reduce congestion, increase the flow of traffic increase property value and the revenue from real estate tax but over 1500 families would need to be relocated. The legislation of the federal government that enabled Moses to secure funds for the project were:

  • The Redevelopment Companies Law in 1942 that allowed the government to take hold of privately-owned property for public use.
  • The Housing Act of 1949 which included a Title I program that had an estimated budget of $70 million in Title I funds designated for urban renewal projects.
  • Interstate Highway Act in 1956 that guaranteed “90 percent of the $350 million” to build both LOMEX and Mid-Manhattan Expressway (p.143).

The government issued bonds to the private developers and the private developers brought the property under eminent domain. The 6th amendment granted the government power to seize properties that were considered slums under the urban renewal project. The private developers would then sell or lease the properties for public use.

Furthermore, Moses’s positions in the government granted him power that he would exercise in writing legislation and obtaining government funds to expedite his projects and include it in the National Defense proposal during WWII. His positions included:

  • Construction coordinator that gave him control over redevelopments
  • Chairman of Emergency Committee on Housing and Chairman of Long Island State Park Commission
  • President of the New York State Council of Parks and Secretary of state that allowed him to develop several initiatives for the building of prisons, hospitals
  • Chairman of the Mayors Committee on Slum Clearance that permitted him to determine which neighborhoods would be considered for redevelopment using a “bulldozer approach” (p.77).
  • Chairman on Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority- his most prominent positions where he was able to operate outside government jurisdiction with his projects.

He was able to maneuver through citizen and political oppositions with his influence as the master-builder and government posts. His pamphlets highlighted the advantages of his plans. His contributions to the city made him an asset to the government and the agencies and officials that supported his vision were:

The city Board of Estimate voted for the plans of the expressway but recanted and placed the plan on delay since Moses failed to release relocation plans of residents.

Chamber of Commerce business leaders who emphasized revitalizing the city and the LOMEX project would increase property value, improve housing and receive revenue from real estate tax.

The City Planning Commission that depicted plans for the expressway positively in reports as well as receiving the approval in 1944.

The Department of Transportation of New York State.

President Eisenhower “signed the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act” in 1956 “calling for a vast network of superhighways” (p.138).

Truckers and CEOS relied heavily on transportation for their goods but the congestion after WWI made it difficult.

He lobbied support from government officials including Mayor LaGuardia, Mayor Wagner who approved the sketching out of the Lomex plan with a cost of $150 million. Moses also influenced Mayor William O’Dwyer, Vincent Impellitteri, and John Lindsey to join his LOMEX plans.

Despite the popularity among officials for Moses’ LOMEX plan, many officials that opposed it were:

  • The New York State Senate senator which subpoenaed him for failing to explain his provisions for federal funding.
  • George V. McLaughlin and past allies on the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority board disapproved the plan.
  • Congressman William F. Ryan requested clarification of pending federal funds needed for LOMEX.

Governor Nelson removed Moses from his post in the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, when he reorganized it into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. As a result, Moses became a consultant and lobbied effortlessly by sending memos, and letters to government officials to revive LOMEX.

Reformer Stanley Issacs and Franklin Roosevelt who pushed back his extensive plans and Moses compromised to building a tunnel.

Interest groups involvement with Moses’ proposed project

As Moses laid out his plans of LOMEX with brochures many interest groups lobbied to support construction of LOMEX, despite delay due to opposition. The LOMEX proposal was to reduce traffic as well as boost the economic status of New York City due to WWI that created a deficit to the state. The interest groups in support were:

  • The Downtown Lower Manhattan Association- David Rockefeller its’ founder, and the Automobile Club
  • It was strategic in flushing out opposing voices concerning the expressway. Both dominated public hearings concerning LOMEX since it portrayed the expressway as an economic gain for the city and people who owned cars.
  • They addressed the relocation of tenant concerns by offering the public assurance that they were taken care of.
  • As well as putting pressure on Mayor Wagner to move forward with the expressway plan despite opposition.
  • This interest group’s goal was to improve the quality of lower Manhattan and the LOMEX project would do just that.
  • The Citizens Union: a government group that lobbied the city to oppose de-mapping the highway.

The Regional Plan Association in 1929 developed a RPA plan that included the Mid-Manhattan expressway & LOMEX- that Moses took on.

This interest group’s goal was to influence the Board of Estimates that the LOMEX plan could “reduce cost of business, increase economic activity and accommodate the growth of the tristate area” by “arterials” like highways (p.141).

Although many interest groups supported Moses’s plans of LOMEX which held the promise to revive the economic status of NYC and reduce traffic, some interest groups had the goal to stop the plan and de-map it from city plans. The key interest groups were:

The Joint Committee to Stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway: Initially, it was named Committees to Save Homes and Businesses in the Second Assembly District led by Father La Mountain. Later Father La Moutain sought out Jacobs’ help in the LOMEX fight and became a consolidated organization that gathered other organizations to oppose the LOMEX project. DeSalvio and Jacobs were co-chairs.

This committee requested a report be made explaining what qualitfied the area to construct the highway. The goal of this interest group was to “de-map” the expressway (p.158).

Jacobs encouraged theatric behavior such as wearing gas masks, singing songs capturing the feelings of dissatisfaction of residents, and organizing marches on Broome street to portray the “death of a neighborhood” (p.155).

Joined by Margaot McCoy Gayle to strategically place the concern of historic preservation if LOMEX was built. The Landmarks Preservation commission opposed demolishing historical buildings in which the SoHo area had the rich history of “cast Iron buildings” (p.166). Moses now fought to select buildings that would not be apart of preservation that would cut into his LOMEX plans.

Joined by Democratic State Senator Joseph R. Marro. DeSalvio proposed a bill that would remove the authorization of the state for LOMEX

Methods of influence to fight the Lower Manhattan Expressway

Similar to her fight of the Washington Park, Jacobs engaged in several methods of influence to cease the Lower Manhattan Expressway and preserve neighborhoods that included:

Contacting the Media: Jane collaborated with credible reporters also known as outside lobbying to gain favorable press to stop the LOMEX project. Press such as the Village Voice, Herald Tribune, New York Daily Mirror, the Voice which captured snapshots and comments of the fight of LOMEX and portrayed the highway to be the death of the neighborhood.

In addition Jacobs provides theatrical themes of death due to highway, as well as providing ” the sound bite that would make evening news: The expressway would Los Angelize New York” (p.157)- portraying the LOMEX in a negative light. The victory made headlines of ” Downtown Expressway Plan Killed” om the New York Daily Report and ” Political Powerhouse Kills Broome Street Expressway in the Village Voice (p.158).

Also Jacobs book The Death and Life of Great American Cities portrayed urban renewal projects as detrimental to residents since it did not serve their interests rather it only profited private consultants and developers. The book was an “attack on current city planning and rebuilding” (p.121).

She argued that neighborhoods would lose “vitality, community, safety, affordability, diversity and spontaneity” if replaced with “residential towers” (p.96). In addition, Jacobs allied with Mumford, an architecture critic who published a story in the New York Times which placed a dent in the LOMEX image.

Attending Public Forums: Jacobs participated in inside lobbying concerning LOMEX hearing meetings, as well as plans to “raze part of the neighborhood” (p. 155).

She also partnered with city politician’s such as Ed Koch, Hulan Jack, Bill Passannante, John V Lindsay, Carmine DeSapio and Carol Greitzer that acted as liaisons between City Hall and lower Manhattan to uncover the “secret plan·of reconfiguring Lomex” (p.168). Along with leveraging her relationships with Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Mead, William Holly, and Norman Vincent Peale from the former battle of Washington Park.

Filing the lawsuit: Similar to her previous lawsuit of Jacobs v. the City of New York that was filed under the notion that there was no justification for the redevelopments of West Village, the Joint Committee to Stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway filed a suit against Moses.

Organizing protests on the Broome street where the LOMEX project would run through. Marchers carried signs depicting the death of their neighborhood and the funeral theme orchestrated by Jacobs to be theatrical. In the spring of 1967, Jacobs rallied with protestors that included Allen Ginsberg, Grace Paley, and Benjamin Spock to gain attention against the LOMEX plans.

Subversion: Vandalizing the stenographers notes during the April 10, 1968, LOMEX public hearing at Seward Park High School- with no record of notes LOMEX could not move forward since the New York State Transportation agency was required to “collect public comments on the new project to fulfill its obligations” (p.172).

Jacobs also encouraged “an act of civil disobedience” by having citizens rush the stage during the hearing (p. 172). In addition to encouraging residents to wear gas masks during public hearings to depict the detrimental effects of the expressway.

Securing votes for John V. Lindsey’s campaign for congressmen to “hold up federal funding” of LOMEX (p. 163).

From the perspective of a public administration student, did you like or dislike the book?  Write one or two thoughtful paragraphs to explain your opinion.

This was an enjoyable read like all the books. It is interesting to see how Jacobs efforts in stopping massive highways such as LOMEX and redevelopments of West Village has transformed itself into gentrification. Many areas in Brooklyn especially downtown and Bushwick and Williamsburg had been redeveloped with new modern housing units that consists of a door man, and an inside.

All created for economic gain because these areas seem to be considered low property value. As gentrification is rapidly increasing it poses dilemmas for residents and business owners with rent increases and they are forced to close or move out since they can’t afford to pay.

Some have lobbied to “freeze the rent,” also known as rent stabilization for certain areas. Moses had a keen eye to detail and was visionary looking at the transit systems, subways and buses I wish Moses applied his expertise in that area as well, but he was not concerned with that.

Cite this essay

Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. (2019, Dec 03). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/robert-moses-and-jane-jacobs-essay

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