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Jane Jacobs Revisited

It’s not surprising to see criticism of Jane Jacobs emerge so quickly after her passing; what may be surprising, to some, is that the criticism may be as valuable as Jacobs’s work itself as a metaphoric resource for advocacy in support of consumer and public interests online. To see that value, though, it’s important to look at criticism from different quarters, and perhaps to perform a bit of rhetorical grafting:

Take Leonard Gilroy, at WSJ’s Opnion Journal:

Politicians and planners would do well to commemorate Jacobs by revisiting her work. Despite the best efforts of well-intentioned planners, you can’t “create” a vibrant city or neighborhood. The best cities and neighborhoods just happen, and the best thing we can do is to step out of the way of innovators and entrepreneurs.

who is talking about what might be called the urban “content layer,” and pair his interpretation of Jacobs with Nicolai Ouroussoff in the Times, who draws attention to the urban infrastructure on which Jacobs’ vision depended:

As it turns out, what the New Urbanists could not reproduce was the most critical aspect of Ms. Jacobs’s vision, the intimate neighborhood that is built — brick by brick, family by family — over a century.

For those who could not see it, the hollowness of this urban planning strategy was finally exposed in New Orleans, where planners were tarting up historic districts for tourists, even as deeper social problems were being ignored and its infrastructure was crumbling.

The answer to such superficiality is not to resurrect the spirit of Robert Moses. But in retrospect his vision, however flawed, represented an America that still believed a healthy government would provide the infrastructure — roads, parks, bridges — that binds us into a nation. Ms. Jacobs, at her best, was fighting to preserve the more delicate bonds that tie us to a community. A city, to survive and flourish, needs both perspectives.

And you get . . .