“Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.”— Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)
Urban writer and activist Jane Jacobs was born on this day 100 years ago in Scranton, Penn. She had no training as a professional planner—a lack that proved to be fortunate, as it also freed her from professional dogmas. Her vision was empirical—what she could see with her own eyes. This was the kind of woman who saw that one of the keys to safe cities was the notion of “eyes on the street.”
If nothing else, New Yorkers particularly owe her a debt of gratitude for leading the fight against the Lower Manhattan Expressway, Robert Moses’ mad scheme that would have destroyed Soho and Little Italy. But The Death and Life of Great American Cities became a rallying cry for those who see cities as evolving, living organisms.
Bennett Kelley, host of Cyber Law and Business Report, has a warm appreciation of Jacobs over at The Huffington Post.