George A. Pieler writes about Jane Jacobs at Ionarts:
Jane Jacobs, as most of her obituaries note, could never be typecast as left-vs.-right (politically) or planner-vs.-libertarian (in urban design). The New Urbanists tried to claim her but she kept her distance...(italics added)
"Keeping one's distance" is an intriguingly spatial way to put it when the subject is different views of how to plan cities.
Options to explain the statement:
1. Perhaps Jacobs simply wasn't a "joiner," and so maybe never sent her $200 to the New Urbanist mothership, CNU.
2. As well, there is a vast generational gap between Jacobs and NU activists such as Duany , Calthorpe et al. We're talking two generations — a good 40 years — between the cohorts. That puts a damper on things in the real world of human beings.
3. Another possibility is that even with all her knowledge Jacobs may not have been all that well-informed about the New Urbanism.
4. Brilliant as she was, she may have had a blind-spot about suburban growth, its historic inevitability and the potential to create fine places at the urban edge. I happen to live in one of those: a street-car suburb of the 1920-30s now firmly in the heart of Seattle, andgrowing more urban each year, so I am sensitive to the evolution of suburb into city.
I see the two — Jane Jacobs and New Urbanism — as seamless, an historic continuity and that Jacobs must have generally supported it; there could be no good reason not to. Others will claim otherwise for their own political purpose and try to use her name to attack NU; these Modernist enemies will use even the tiniest trowel — and that's all they can find — to undermine New Urbanism because they are too dull to understand how it doesn't force them to compromise their "design integrity." The critic we love to scorn for example, doesn't disappoint us. (Ourousoff's article today is so pathetic and filled with inaccuracies that I will not spend my valuable time on earth addressing it.)
So is there any truth to it? Did Jacobs really have an antipathy to new urbanism?
The closest thing I have been able to find so far — more links sought — is an interview in Reason, where Jacobs says:
....the New Urbanists want to have lively centers in the places that they develop, where people run into each other doing errands and that sort of thing. And yet, from what I've seen of their plans and the places they have built, they don't seem to have a sense of the anatomy of these hearts, these centers. They've placed them as if they were shopping centers. They don't connect. In a real city or a real town, the lively heart always has two or more well-used pedestrian thoroughfares that meet. In traditional towns, often it's a triangular piece of land. Sometimes it's made into a park.
Her major objection seems to be that New Urbanist developments "don't connect." That's a fair criticism. And putting aside the obvious fact that only a very small amount of suburban development is New urbanist, it ignores time — the actual process by which cities develop -- and that includes Manhattan, I believe: So far as I understand all expansion of American cities was by hopscotching, leaving empty fields until owner-by-owner growth filled in the empty places to make one seamless city. Cities only become seamless over time as the private market determines —purely a function of the serendipity of ownerhip — when a particular parcel is subdivided from farm or forest. Neighborhoods are only connected over a period of decades. At any one time, there will be passed-over lands as developers push out beyond to the easy-to-build on spots. That's the way it has always been, so far as I understand.
So does anyone have anything to add as to
1. What Jacobs actually believed about New Urbanism?
2. My own understanding of the hopscotch nature of urban growth?