Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wrestling with Moses

Those of us who have tussled with Egan can certainly learn something from a woman who took on Moses. Robert Moses, that is. We all should read "WRESTLING WITH MOSES" by Anthony Flint.

Subtitled "How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City," this book was reviewed by Dwight Garner of the New York Times on August 4th of this year in a piece titled When David Fought Goliath in Washington Square Park. The book details a vision that Moses had to build a four-lane highway through the middle of Washington Square Park, raze 14 blocks in the heart of Greenwich Village run a 10-lane elevated superhighway, to be called the Lower Manhattan Expressway, through SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Thank God and all His helpers that this never came to pass!

Today this book came to my attention again via a comment to a post in dotCommonweal, Eminent domain: Clarence Thomas was right by Paul Moses.

Mr. Moses blogs of Thursday's news that Pfizer is withdrawing from its plan to develop a swathe of New London, CT; a plan that was resisted until 5 justices of the US Supreme Court ruled in Pfizer's favor. (see NY Times story of Nov. 12, Pfizer to Leave City That Won Land-Use Case)

dotCommonweal forum participant Patrick Molloy references Flint's book in his comment to the above post and puts it in a context very local to Our Lady of Vilnius, saying:

"The Jane Jacobs vs Robert Moses story is the subject of a recent well received book:

Enter “La Mountain” in the search box to learn about the priest [Father Gerard La Mountain] and the small parish [of the Church of the Most Holy Crucifix, now the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz] that were at the center of the battle against the Lower Manhattan Expressway favored by Moses.

The page 172 entry mentions a tree planted by Jane Jacobs in front of the church. Here it is, still the only tree on the block:

Parishioners from Our Lady of Vilnius, the Lithuanian parish whose closure a while back occasioned some comments here, were also involved." [My emphasis]

If anyone associated with Our Lady of Vilnius can reminisce about this period in Village history, please don't hesitate to contact me.

1 comment:

Ellen Halloran said...

I wasn't living in NYC at the time that Jane Jacobs fought so valiantly to preserve the small communities within our city. Without her efforts LaGuardia Corner Community Gardens would not exist - the strip of greenery south of Washington Square Park would be one lane of that four lane highway!

Ellen Halloran