Jane Jacobs


Biography of Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) was an American–Canadian journalist, author, and activist best known for her influence on urban studies. Her influential book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) argued that urban renewal did not respect the needs of most city-dwellers. The book also introduced sociology concepts such as "eyes on the street" and "social capital".

Jacobs is well-known for organizing grassroots efforts to protect existing neighborhoods from "slum clearance"—and particularly for her opposition to Robert Moses in his plans to overhaul her neighborhood of Greenwich Village. She was instrumental in the eventual cancellation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have passed directly through Washington Square Park, and was arrested in 1968 for inciting a crowd at a public hearing on the project. After moving to Canada in 1968 she joined the opposition to the Spadina Expressway and the associated network of expressways in Toronto planned and under construction.

As a female writer and mother who criticized experts in the male-dominated field of urban planning, Jacobs endured scorn from established figures, who called her a "housewife" and a "crazy dame". She did not have a college degree, and was also criticized for being unscholarly and imprecise. She has been accused of inattention to racial inequality, and her concept of "unslumming" has been compared with gentrification.

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