If the urban extraordinaire were still with us, Jane Jacobs would've turned 99 years old today. This past weekend, New Village Press celebrated her legacy by hosting a Jane's Walk titled "Upper West Side Urban Renewal: Blight or Right in the Sight of Jane?". Every year during the first weekend of May, hundreds of groups around the world host these Jane's Walks (over 200 in New York City alone this year!), which are free tours of communities by communities.
Our walk started at 92nd Street and Central Park West, looping through the Upper West Side, closing with a discussion with one of the original residents one of Park West Village (site of the first instance of Robert Moses' tactics of distributing premiums, contracts, and retainer to favored and incompetent friends being revealed to the press) before we headed to The Pool in Central Park for a breezy and sunny picnic. Along the way, walk leaders James Wunsch, Lynne Elizabeth, and Calman Lobel pointed out the co-existence of brownstones for both low-income and high-income residents on 94th Street, a few examples of how NOT to design a public space, and the first bank to offer women the right to control their own funds (it's now a CVS Pharmacy). Our favorite part, though, was when community members chipped in and shared their own stories of how they remembered a specific playground from their youth or described how the building they live in has changed over the decades.
We invite you to continue in this delightful process of community sharing! We'll be posting input from attendees, and we invite you to share your own responses and experiences in the comments section. Scroll through the photos here and post your own photos, videos, or audio recordings [or email them to jourdan (at) newvillagepress (dot) net]! We'd love for you to help us turn Saturday's walk into an ongoing digital journey!
We leave you with wise words from Jane herself: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
The walk started in the lobby of 325 Central Park West. Built in 1899, it is distinguished by the fact that it was the only CPW structure south of 96th Street slated for demolition. The tenants, mostly female, hosted a "7-Story Buffet" for city officials to save it from destruction. The lobby displays historic photos of the surrounding area.
Jim Wunsch led the majority of the tour (and our always adventurous co-host Lynne Elizabeth appears to be getting into some sort of trouble in the background!).
A long-time West Side Marquis resident shares his experience of the building's change over time.
Cal Lobel, long-time UWS resident, fills the group in on slated controversial infill construction on 100th Street.
The Upper West Side's architectural and historical diversity paired with our group's diversity of ages made for an interesting and informative morning!
Here we are in front of what was once the 1927 East River Savings Bank but is now a CVS Pharmacy - given the bank's claim to being the first to offer women the right to control their own money, we were excited to be accompanied by Elizabeth Cady Stanton's great-great-great-grandson!
Winifred Armstrong shared her firsthand knowledge and experience with as well as literature on Park West Village's history. Originally called Manhattantown, this project displaced a vibrant African-American community on 98th and 99th Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.