While Jacobs viewed New York City neighborhoods from a holistic view, taking on the policies and past events that governed the streets, Mitchell Duneier approached one neighborhood, in particular, Greenwich Village, in order to uncover a specific aspect of neighborhood life through a series of interviews. In his ethnography and documentary, Sidewalk, Duneier observed the African American men who filled the streets of Greenwich Village in the 1990s selling books and magazines. Duneier drew upon the idea of the sidewalk being “the site where a sense of mutual support must be felt among strangers” in order to live together and that it should be an area of limitations and intimacy between the inhabitants (Duneier, 55).
In Jane Jacobs’ book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs discusses the creation of public life and trust through the use of sidewalks and the common ignorance of “outsiders” or orthodox planners. Jacobs’ uses Bostons North End as an epitome of a neighborhood that is self-functioning yet still considered a “slum” in the expert terms of bankers and developers. Similarly, New York City’s Brownsville is commonly misconceived by outsiders and its image tarnished through untelling statistics. In WNYC’s ongoing feature Brownsville: No Label Necessary, the members of the Brownsville community have commited to rebuilding Brownsville from “the inside out” using public life and trust created within a community to create what Jane Jacobs calls a, “self-governing” neighborhood.
The impact that Robert Moses had on NYC is indisputable. During his reign as the “building maestro”, he completed massive projects in with speed and efficiency, building hundreds of miles of new roads, thousands of acres of parklands and beaches, multiple art complexes as well as new bridges, and more (page 2-3). Despite these indisputable remarkable feats that he accomplished, a massive controversy exists questioning his methodologies and ultimate impacts: did he propel NYC into the future with massive modernization efforts and through projects focused on eradication of slums and building of new roads or did he displace great numbers of innocent people and nearly destroy the city as we know it? In my personal opinion, the answer to this controversy is not at all black and white and in a way I think Moses did both. However, after completing this week’s reading, I found myself focusing on a different approach to the readings. I had the following question in mind: what would New York City look like today if Robert Moses still had the power he once yielded? The pictures above provide a visual model with a potential answer to this question.