Jane Jacobs

In 1961, Jane Jacobs released The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Jane Jacobs had already made a name for herself as a community activist in the West Village.

At one point, the Washington Square Park Arch had cars running around – and through – it. Jacobs was involved with others in ending this. (See photo: Arch from 1955. Note cars.)

In her groundbreaking book on how we view planning of cities, she writes of NYC’s recurring plans to play around with Washington Square Park:

“The city officials regularly concoct improvement schemes by which this center within the park would be sown to grass and flowers and surrounded by a fence. The invariable phrase to describe this is, ‘restoring the land to park use.’ That is a different form of park use, legitimate in places. But for neighborhood parks, the finest centers are stage settings for people.”

Forty eight years later, the city is bent on destroying Jacobs’ vision of what makes a successful public park.

* Recycled Entry * Originally Published February 28, 2008 *

Leave a comment


  1. Stacy

     /  March 11, 2009

    Such a wonderful photo. Although I still have childhood memories of the Fifth Avenue bus circling the arch, I never thought of Washington Square as a glorified traffic circle. Maybe someday people will look at Times Square as pedestrian space and not remember when it too was a means of directing traffic.

  2. “The city” is just a euphemism for our terrible, terrible mayor Bloomberg.

  3. True. Good point! This was an early entry and I started clarifying that (linking to our mayor) soon after.

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