Cities: May 2011 Archives

I've got a long post in progress about my visit last Saturday to the Delaware Republican Convention, but I'm not close to done yet. So here is a smattering of links to tide you over. (You'll find more links on the BatesLine Twitter stream).

Jane Jacobs: Libertarian Outsider, by Jeff Riggenbach of the Mises Institute (via @MarketUrbanism) -- a good overview of Jacobs life, education, and career.

Now that she had mastered her new beat, she was reassigned to a different and more challenging one: the city-planning beat. As always before, she set systematically about the business of educating herself. What were the goals of city planners, she asked herself. How did they attempt to achieve these goals? How successful had their attempts been in the past? If they had failed, why had they failed?

To get a handle on these questions, she began walking around Manhattan and riding around it on her bicycle. She observed. She asked herself how the city worked, what kept it orderly, what made it a place people could live happily, benefiting from the neighborhoods in which they lived.

The conclusions she reached, as I have indicated, were remarkably similar to those Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek had reached earlier by different routes. A city is, at base, a marketplace. It is a spontaneous order. It cannot be planned. The people who try to plan cities have failed above all because they have not comprehended the way the spontaneous order of cities works.

Todd Seavey's book selections of the month last December included The Battle for Gotham by Roberta Brandes Gratz. Faithful BatesLine readers may recognize the name. I've often cited Gratz's idea of "Urban Husbandry" as an alternative approach to city revitalization that actually works. (Gratz writes in the intro to The Battle for Gotham: "'Urban Husbandry' was the term I coined... to describe a regeneration approach that reinvigorates and builds on assets already in place, adding to instead of replacing long-evolving strengths.")

Seavey saw Gratz at a panel discussion (emphasis added):

Given that, as Brandes Gratz made clear, Moses displaced some 1 million people from their homes in the name of his brutal and car-obsessed urban projects throughout New York City, it was reassuring that both panelists -- and nearly all the audience members -- seemed as though they have come to regard Moses as a monster. Brandes Gratz noted that she's pleased to have some conservative and libertarian fans, but even on the socialist left, Moses' callous destruction of functioning black neighborhoods -- and the brazenly racist way he did things like place a frieze of frolicking monkeys on one of his Harlem projects -- should raise questions about letting any one man run roughshod over the life patterns and social networks of so many people so needlessly (Brandes Gratz herself sees her work as a sort of sequel to the Moses bio The Power Broker, showing how many businesses and homes that had no Jane Jacobs to speak up for them were crushed under Moses' bulldozers, sometimes by the deceitful means of leaving existing businesses out of planners' stats, the more easily to declare areas blighted, as still goes on in places like the Brooklyn Naval Yards and the condemned areas adjacent to Columbia, tragic legacies of Moses-style thinking).

It makes me wonder whether the myth that Tulsa's Greenwood district never recovered from the 1921 Race Riot was deliberately fostered as a pretext for clearing the area permanently in the late 1960s as part of the Federal "Model Cities" urban renewal program. I wonder, too, whether the studies relating to that program provided an accurate count of business activity in Greenwood.

Note, too: New York City has its "condemned areas adjacent to Columbia [University]," as Tulsa has its Kendall-Whittier, where the city used the public power of eminent domain (or the threat of using it) to clear land for the expansion of a private university.

I look forward to reading Brandes Gratz's latest book.

Finally this: World's Ten Creepiest Abandoned Cities via Linkiest.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Cities category from May 2011.

Cities: April 2011 is the previous archive.

Cities: June 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]