I am sorry to report on the death of Jane Jacobs, a woman whose influence on my own life was profound, but not nearly so profound as the revolution in urban planning that followed her 1961 book, “Death and Life of Great American Cities.” She followed that with a life of activism and additional writing.
In the late 1950s/early 1960s, Jacobs also led a coalition that stopped Robert Moses’ plans to run freeways through Washington Square NYC. It is one of the few areas that he did not succeed in turning to concrete wasteland.
In 1967, after a demonstration at the Pentagon, and with her own children approaching draft age, she and her husband picked up and moved to Toronto where she immediately became known for stopping yet another freeway (the proposed Spadina Freeway) from destroying downtown neighborhoods. The city ultimately honored her with a conference on her work which included everything from an exhibit of her drawings at the Art Gallery of Ontario to an actual celebration of new urban planning (or anti-planning).
I met her in person at a Flying Bulgars concert in Toronto a decade ago and treasure that short meeting. She was everyone’s dream of a wonderful Jewish grandmother, although she, herself, considered herself a more general atheist. When I discovered her writing a couple of years later, I was most blown away by how much of what she wrote about good physical city planning applied directly to the online community work that I had done over the preceding two decades.
Goodbye, Jane, and thanks for the insights and activism. A better role model would be hard to find. Her memory will certainly be a blessing.
More complete obituaries can be found on the Toronto Star, or at the Planet Netizen (great community planning) site.