Exhibit Opening and Book Launch: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York

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The Municipal Art Society, through sponsorship from the Rockefeller Foundation, has launched a multi-faceted project to highlight the relevance of activist and author Jane Jacobs and the urban design principles presented in her classic text, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

The project, titled “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York,” applies Jane Jacobs’ principles to contemporary New York while seeking to initiate a dialogue concerning the future of the city. “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York” features an exhibit, on display at the Municipal Art Society from Sept. 25, 2007, through Jan. 5, 2008, along with a series of public programs and events throughout the fall.

As part of the project, the Rockefeller Foundation created the Rockefeller Foundation Jane Jacobs Medal to be awarded annually to two individuals whose actions and accomplishments exemplify “Jacobsean” principles in New York. Barry Benepe, co-founder of Greenmarket, and Omar Freilla, founder of Green Worker Cooperatives, will receive the medal at a dinner ceremony on Sept. 24. Benepe and Freilla also will receive $100,000 each.

The Jane Jacobs project will also feature an effort by MAS to work with the residents, business owners and civic leaders of Flatbush, Brooklyn, to assist them in creating a neighborhood sustainability and livability agenda, and develop tools to measure progress toward consensus-based goals. Flatbush is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the city, demonstrating the needs and attributes of a growing population within a district that is both architecturally and historically distinct. Yet the lack of affordable housing undermines the ability of the neighborhood to stay diverse, the resident-to-open-space ratio is among the highest in the city, and heavy vehicular traffic compromises the quality of life. The goal of the MAS project is to empower people with planning tools that will allow them to respond as an organized neighborhood to New York’s PlaNYC 2030, Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to help New York create a more sustainable future.

The Municipal Art Society will publish Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York, a collection of essays that elaborate on Jacobs’ relevance today. The publication will include an essay by co-curator Christopher Klemek and original work by such critics, artists and journalists as Quincy Troupe, Tama Janowitz, Phillip Lopate, Saskia Sassen and Tom Wolfe. In addition, it will include previously published material by Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Gopnik and Colson Whitehead, among others. The book is being co-published with Princeton Architectural Press for release on Sept. 25 — ISBN 978-1-56898-771-2 — retailing at $17.95.

In an attempt to reach the next generation of activists, the Jane Jacobs project included a summer internship program for New York high school students. Each participating student attended workshops designed to enhance awareness of Jane Jacobs, her legacy as an urban planning activist and the influence of her activism. The workshops culminated in video-taped walking tours of two of the students’ neighborhoods. The student videos will be featured as part of Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York exhibit.

Watch the Streetsblog calendar for eight walking tours and seven panel discussions associated with this exhibit.

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