Citizen Jane: Battle for the City directed by Matt Tyrnauer was release in the spring of 2017. The film details the life and work of the author and activist Jane Jacobs. After seeing Citizen Jane at IFC this summer, Gallatin Students and Urban Democracy Lab Student Advisory Board members Arielle Hersh and Luis Aguasviva sat down to discuss the film and the contradictory legacies of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. The film can currently be watched on Amazon Video or iTunes.
Luis Aguasviva (LA): Let’s begin by addressing the narrative presented in Citizen Jane Jane: The Battle for the City of Jane Jacobs (the hero) vs. Robert Moses (the villain).
Arielle Hersh (AH): Yeah, it’s very prevalent.
LA: It was framed as a David vs. Goliath story. The film directly attributes Robert Moses’s “demise” to Jacobs’s organizing efforts that stop Moses’s building projects in Washington Square Park and the West Village.
AH: I definitely agree that it oversimplifies what’s going on and breaks it down into that dichotomy, but at the same time I felt like it was a really good lens for someone coming to this story for the first time. It’s kind of the way I was introduced to urban planning – I remember hearing the story and seeing it set up as “Moses bad, Jacobs good, they go to battle, Jacobs wins, now we have planning.” We know that that’s not really what happened, but if you’re framing it for someone who isn’t really familiar with the story or with Jacobs, then it seemed like a good primer.