Mennel, Timothy, Jo Steffens & Christopher Klemek, Eds. Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Angotti, Tom
Pub Date: 06/22/2009
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Summer, 2009 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 1
Topic: NamedWork: Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York (Essay collection)
Persons: Reviewee: Mennel, Timothy; Steffens, Jo; Klemek, Christopher
Accession Number: 229218935
Full Text: Mennel, Timothy, Jo Steffens & Christopher Klemek, Eds.

Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York.

New York: The Municipal Art Society of New York and Princeton Architectural

Press, 2007.

64 pages.

ISBN: 9781568987712.

Jacobs Jacobs was able to publish her classic 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities thanks to a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation. Now, nearly 40 years later, the Foundation has sponsored this lively little book as part of its various efforts to recognize the historic contributions of Jane Jacobs to the understanding of cities and the role of urban planning and design in shaping them.

Block by Block is a collection of short takes by professionals in architecture and design, community developers, activists and writers on urban issues. It is squarely located in present-day New York City, and deals with the Jacobs-inspired opposition to some of the contemporary schemes threatening to disfigure and displace neighborhoods.

For those who are vaguely familiar with Jane Jacobs and her work, this booklet can be a springboard that encourages further reading and study. However, there is not enough substance in its 64 pages to fully ground the reader in her practical and theoretical achievements. The more than 40 contributors include notables like Paul Goldberger, Christopher Alexander, Phillip Lopate, Tama Janowitz, Tom Wolfe, Marshall Berman, and Saskia Sassen, and many established community voices.

Many of the vignettes are filled with provocative opinions and broadsides, such as Danny Lyon's "First We Kill the Architects," and Reverend Billy's "How Do We Shout?" and raise the kinds of questions about Jane that ought to send students and practitioners back to the source for answers. And for those who already know and love her work, the many fleeting observations in this collection can inspire a return to the full collection of her work to look for the things that we missed and to challenge judgments we have formed over the years.

Happily this is not just a collection of accolades to Jacobs, but there are some serious reflections on the current relevance of her work and criticisms as well. Some of the pieces are declarations by present-day activists like Majora Carter that are more connected to their efforts to improve the quality of life in today's communities than they are with the rich history of community activism. Missing in the book as a whole is a full narrative that helps to connect the dots between such lively insights and the life and work of Jane Jacobs. It is priced less than a full-length book, so it might work well when accompanied by the Jacobs classics and some in-depth criticism.

Tom Angotti, Professor of Urban Affairs & Planning, Hunter College, City University of New York
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.