Block by Block
Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York
Timothy Mennel, Jo Steffens, Christopher Klemek
Publication date 1/1/2008
8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm), Paperback
64 pages, 12 color illustrations, 10 b/w illustrations
Carton qty: 60;
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"This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding." From this first sentence of the seminal 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs gave voice to those who believed the bulldozing, postwar policies of urban renewal were a dangerous threat to city life. She spent the next forty-five years challenging citizens to stand up for vibrant, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods such as New York's Greenwich Village. Jane Jacobs's death in 2006 occasioned the beginnings of a critical re-evaluation of her achievements. With major new development plans--for sites from the East River to the West Side and from Lower Manhattan to Queens--either under consideration or in progress, it seems the perfect time to assess the relevance of her ideas for contemporary urban life.
Block by Block is a far-ranging collection of essays about Jane Jacobs from an impressive group of writers and cultural critics including Marshall Berman, Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Gopnik, Paul Goldberger, Tama Janowitz, Ben Katchor, Phillip Lopate, Luc Sante, Bill "Reverend Billy" Talen, Colson Whitehead, and Tom Wolfe. This impressive lineup of contributors discusses the contemporary relevance of Jacobs' ideas about large-scale redevelopment, gentrification, and activism. While their viewpoints on these issues may differ, they continue the important debate begun by Jacobs about the challenges facing New York and other great cities everywhere.
Block by Block is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, which created the Jane Jacobs Medal in 2007 to recognize individuals who have made a significant contribution to thinking about urban design, specifically in New York City. It is published in collaboration with the Municipal Art Society of New York to accompany their Fall 2007 exhibition Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York.
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"This collection of 41 essays, photos, and comic strips by architects, activists, poets, and educators pays homage to the lasting impact of Jacobss insights about urban life. Block by Blocks variety of voices which include New Yorker staffer Adam Gopnik, cartoonist Ben Katchor, and former Dwell editors Karrie Jacobs and Allison Arieff -- explores the magical, mysterious mess of big-city living, effectively capturing urbanism in all of its multitudes of hope, sadness, and great expectations."
— Mike Chino
"Urban-planning visionary Jane Jacobs would no doubt have appreciated the messy vitality of these 42 essays, ranging from nuts-and-bolts development suggestions to tirades, anecdotes, cartoons, and a recipe (Jane's own, for fried tomatoes and bacon in gravy). "
"If you are interested in, or want to know more about Jane Jacobs and her work, Block By Block provides it. However, the real value of the book lies in reminding us that power brokers, politicians, developers, and planners still need to be confronted by ordinary citizens and grassroots activists, just as they were by Jane Jacobs."
Society of Saint Jane, Next American City:
"Jacobs is a city of individuals, of many goods rather than an overwhelming (if invented) public one."
— Mariana Mogilevich
The Chronicle of Higher Education:
"Prominent writers and critics like Christopher Alexander, Adam Gopnik, Colson Whitehead, and Tom Wolfe look back on Death and Life and plumb its meaning for modern New York and for a world of megacities and exurban gated communities."
"a star-studded roster of 39 authors"
"...the book offers a fresh perspective and serves to stimulate a new appreciation for the wisdom of Jacobs. At a time when activism seems woefully stagnant in America, when unchecked wars, environmental and human degradation, and the rebirth of geography-altering, developer-driven urban renewal can barely elicit demonstration crowds, Block by Block compels readers to act."
New Urban News:
"This slender paperback is one of the liveliest little collection of urban essays you're ever likely to come across...Block by Block abounds with stimulating thoughts."
First We Kill the Architects, New York Times:
"...Leave the World Trade Ceter excavvation exactly as it is and use the space as a fresh water pond, planted with pink, white and yellow water lilies. Stock it with bass, sunnies, fat-headed minnows and turtles."
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