This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
There’s a lot to love about the life and work of Jane Jacobs, who saved much of New York from the overzealousness of Robert Moses in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
What comes across in both is the idea that Jacobs was the conservative and Moses the progressive (small “c” and “p”, respectively). Jacobs certainly embodied William F. Buckley’s famous definition 50+ years ago of his conservative magazine as “stand[ing] athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so.” Meanwhile, Moses saw himself as the vision of urban progress.
Today, of course, the pendulum has swung the other way. Building anything in a city has become incredibly difficult. Not even the all-powerful Robert Moses could get a significant zoning change in a modern American city or suburb. In that way, Jacobs was perhaps too successful.