One of our What We See contributing authors and author of The Battle for Gotham, Roberta Brandes Gratz, was featured on the KPFA 94.1 FM Berkeley radio show “Against the Grain” with host Sasha Lilley. They discussed the 1960s struggle over New York City’s future between Robert Moses, the father of urban renewal, and Jane Jacobs, the renowned urban critic.
Lilley spoke with Gratz last week; the interview aired earlier today. Lilley asked Gratz to explain the context in which Moses came into prominence. Gratz described the post-World War II era and discussed the way in which the United States won the war in a top-down militaristic fashion that was the result of “big” thinking. This “big” thinking included improving the economy in great strides and focusing on the expanse of the automobile industry. The manufacturing of cars necessitated their use and the construction of roadways. Gratz firmly stated that the automobile’s boom took place after the war. Prior to that time, the automobile was primarily used for leisure rather than commuting. Gratz explained that the evolution of city structures, programs, and highways matched the growing need to accommodate the car-centric country we have now, with New York as an exemplar. Gratz also talked more about her personal and family history in New York City. She emphasized the importance of Jane’s battles and how the diversity of uses and the diversity of businesses brings about the diversity of pedestrians. Gratz pointed out that one of the most fundamental points about Jane Jacobs was that she was all about observation. (more…)