Jane Jacobs – The Woman Who Saved Greenwich Village


by Karen Perry-Weinstat

As a certified Woman Business Enterprise (WBE), we enjoy celebrating amazing women. Especially those who share our pioneering spirit. Meet Jane Jacobs, a pioneer in urban planning and an activist who championed new, community-based approaches to planning for over 40 years. She would have turned 100 this month. Her article, Downtown is for People, published by Fortune magazine in 1958, earned her a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to write her ground breaking book on urban planning in 1961 entitled The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It became one of the most influential writings about the inner workings and failings of cities, inspiring generations of urban planners and activists.  Jacobs is credited with “saving” Greenwich Village because her grass roots activism resulted in the eventual cancellation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have passed directly through SoHo and Little Italy. Her efforts to stop downtown expressways and protect local neighborhoods helped end then Parks Commissioner Robert Moses’s reign of power in New York City. Like many pioneers, Jacobs was widely criticized since she had no professional training in urban planning. She relied on her observations and common sense to show why certain places work, and what can be done to improve those that do not. The next time you are in Greenwich Village, or any other community based urban area, take a moment to remember Jane Jacobs. To learn more about Jacobs, you can listen to this Bowery Boys podcast, which we found fascinating.

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