Also Honor Doris Diether for Continuing Legacy of Community Activism
New York City – Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Scott Stringer, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senators Thomas Duane and Deborah Glick, Council Members Rosie Mendez and Alan Gerson, and members of Community Board 2 officially co-named the section of Hudson Street between Perry and West 11th Streets “Jane Jacobs Way”, in honor of writer and activist Jane Jacobs. Jacobs championed new, community based approaches to planning for over 40 years, and has inspired generations of urban activists. Landmark Preservation Commission Chair Robert Tierney and Community Board 2 Chair Jo Hamilton also joined in the ceremony, which included the unveiling of a new “Jane Jacobs Way” street sign.
“The place where we stand today, and the face of New York City itself, would be dramatically different if not for the pioneering work of Jane Jacobs,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “She taught generations of New Yorkers that communities standing together have the power to triumph over destructive outside interests. Her legacy lives on today in the work of Doris Diether, and all those who fight to preserve the quality of life for their fellow New Yorkers.”
Born in Pennsylvania, Jacobs moved to New York City during The Great Depression. During the 1960s she became involved in urban activism, spearheading local efforts to oppose the top-down neighborhood clearing and highway building championed by New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.
In 1962 she became chair of the Joint Committee to Stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway, in reaction to Moses’ plans to build a highway through Manhattan’s Washington Square Park and West Village. Her efforts to stop the expressway led to her arrest during a demonstration in 1968, and the campaign is often considered one of the turning points in the development of New York City.
“If not for Jane Jacobs, New York City would be a much less humane, less textured and less neighborhood-friendly place,” said U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, “Long before her contemporaries, Jacobs recognized that cities were made for people, and she worked tirelessly to ensure that the Village maintained its neighborhood history, identity and community.”
“The influence of Jane Jacobs can be felt here in Greenwich Village, New York City as a whole, and across the country,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, “Jane Jacobs was someone who understood the human aspect of city life and knew how to preserve our neighborhoods as livable communities.”
“Jane Jacobs and Doris Diether have both been an inspiration to me and generations of others who care about neighborhoods and the built environment,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez, “These grand dames of preservation have known how to speak truth to power – and in a voice that power can hear. I am proud to have fought by Doris’ side on many issues and to follow the proud legacy.”
“Jane Jacobs, the original champion of the livable city, taught us the critical importance of diversity in our communities, and showed us the pivotal neighborhood role played by small businesses and the arts,” said Council Member Alan J. Gerson, “We should still be fighting to implement her theories; they are more relevant now than ever.”
“Jane Jacobs’ understanding of urban landscapes and passion for sustaining their dynamism and diversity continue to guide and influence the Commission to this day,” said Landmarks Preservation Chairman Robert B. Tierney. “I am very pleased that her legacy will be commemorated on the block where she lived, wrote and waged her successful fight to save Greenwich Village.”
“It’s hard to believe that Jane Jacob’s ground-breaking work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was published almost 50 years ago. The ideas that she presented, are as fresh today as they were, heretical, then,” said Community Board 2 Chair Jo Hamilton, “When she passed away in 2006, Ms. Jacobs was lauded nationally and internationally, for her transformational work as an urban theorist. She articulated a vision of planning that was rooted in acknowledging the ‘expertise’ of the ‘locals’ – and rebuked the Robert Moses’ model of reliance on the ‘out of touch’ professionals. Those tributes are in history books around the world.”
The defeat of the Lower Manhattan Expressway was an important victory for the local community and an instigator of Moses’ fall from power. Jacobs’ harsh criticism of “slum-clearing” and high-rise housing projects was also instrumental in discrediting these once universally supported planning practices. Jacobs is also known for her influential book ‘The Death and Life of American Cities’.
Speaker Quinn and the other officials also honored activist Doris Diether, who worked alongside Jacobs in the fight against irresponsible development. Diether helped found the Save the Village campaign in 1959 while working as a tenant and housing advocate. She has served on Community Board 2 since 1964 – making her Manhattan’s longest-serving community board member.