From the beginning of our class discussions and readings on Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs the question of “whose plan was better for the future of New York City?” has been continuously brought up. The stark differences between the two of their visions have been engrained in our heads. While I always picked a side for the sake of just answering the question, I was always unsure of why I had to pick only one of the two and wondered what would happen if the best of both of their ideas were combined. I also ignorantly doubted that anyone or any plan/policy related to the planning of New York City took this possibility into consideration…that is until I read Chapter 5: Planning and the Narrative of Threat of “Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind” (Larson 2013), which reflects on the background and logic behind RPA’s Third Regional Plan.
The Third Regional Plan, drawn out in A Region at Risk: The Third Regional Plan for The New York-New Jersey-Connecticut Metropolitan Area (Yaro and Hiss 1996), introduces the concept of the three E’s: economy, equity and environment and asserts that they direct the region’s concerns and that they are “the components of our quality of life” (Yaro and Hiss 1996: 6). It was focused around the concern that the city’s prosperity and global standing were no longer guaranteed (Yaro and Hiss 1996) and contained a regional transit plan modeled after the ideas of Robert Moses combined with a city planning and community design modeled after the ideas of Jane Jacobs (Larson 2013). According to the RPA, the economy of the city would continue to decline unless both equity and environmental quality were increased (Yaro and Hiss 1996). In my opinion, the only way to achieve this is by drawing from the ideas set forth my Moses and Jacobs and having a combination of both of their ideas of an ideal city realized. This way, equity could be achieved by Jacobs’ concepts of diversity contributing to prosperity, while environmental quality could be preserved through the parks built and envisioned by Moses. Just as I would have predicted it would be, the plan has been successful so far in influencing how NYC’s government has begun to rebuild itself.
PlaNYC 2030 – A Greener Greater New York (Georgetown Climate Center 2011) for example, released in 2007 under the Bloomberg administration, exemplifies how his administration carried out the environmental quality aspect of the Third Regional Plan. It “brought together over 25 City agencies to work toward the vision of a greener, greater New York” (Georgetown Climate Center 2011: 1). It created 10 goals to achieve a sustainable future for the city and focused on land, water, transportation, energy, and air quality as well as climate change. It was also created to “prepare the city for one million more residents, strengthen the economy, combat climate change, and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers” (Georgetown Climate Center 2011: 1). Its environmental and transportation facets represent both the ideas set forth by Jacobs and Moses as mentioned earlier in reference to Larson’s writing, as well as the formula of the three E’s presented in A Region at Risk, proving that combining 2 different approaches can work.
While I believe these two plans are successful in combining the views of Moses and Jacobs and are steps in the right direction towards a prosperous city, we are still far from achieving their goals and should evaluate the extent to which certain ideas should be taken. For example, the Third Regional Plan calls for equity, but how equal should things be and in what aspects? Social, economic, etc.? How far can we go towards equality before we lean towards socialist patterns, a concept that many Americans cringe at the thought of owing to their political views. Equality is not only a matter of the extent to which it should be taken but of the possibility of it being reached at all. In terms of environmental quality, for instance, many people ignore the idea of environmental racism— “racial discrimination in the development and implementation of environmental policy, especially as manifested in the concentration of hazardous waste disposal sites in or near areas with a relatively large ethnic minority population” (Oxford Dictionaries 2017). Again, as always, there is the question of who wins and who loses? Cases such as that of Flint, Michigan, where a community of poor and mainly minority residents were ignored when they reported brown water coming from their faucets and are still to this day not provided with clean drinking and bathing water, have shown that despite the enforcement of environmental health and protection policies, poor minority populations are still left to fend for themselves. Thus, the plans may seek to have everyone win, but is that really the case? In this example, representing many other situations, the answer is no. It is more than a matter of imposing laws, but of a change in mindset and long held historical patterns. As of now, the affect of creating a plan that embodies both Moses’ and Jacob’s views has seemed to be successful in influencing policy. However, the only way to determine if the Third Regional Policy and PlaNYC 2030 will be achieve their goals in the long run is through the close watch of its effects on populations of every race and class over time. In the meantime, the questions just posed should be considered in order to improve how these plans are implemented as well as and how their core goals of an improved economy, equity, and better environmental quality can affectively be achieved.
Larson S. (2013) “Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind”: Contemporary Planning in New York City. Philadelphia: Temple University Press
Larson S. (2013) Planning and the Narrative of Threat. Larson S. (1) “Building Like Moses with Jacobs in Mind”: Contemporary Planning in New York City (pp 61-76). Philadelphia: Temple University Press
Georgetown Climate Center (2011) PlaNYC 2030 – A Greener Greater New York. http://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/planyc-2030-a-greener-greater-new- york.html (last accessed 24 March 2017)
Oxford Dictionaries (2017) environmental racism. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/environmental_racism (last accessed 24 March 2017)
Yaro R. D. and Hiss T. (1996) A Region at Risk: The Third Regional Plan for The New York- New Jersey-Connecticut Metropolitan Area. Washington D.C.: Island Press