Bottom-up Community Planning


In the eyes of Jane Jacobs, a major fault of community/urban development during her time was the tendency for planners to operate in a vacuum, implementing projects and policies in a top-down manner. Jacobs' big revelation, which was really just a product of her reliance on what she saw at the time as common sense, was to figure out the needs of communities by first closely observing and interacting with them. She argued that only after this occurred could a planner get a sense of the real demands of city inhabitants.

Part of Solution

  • Jane Jacob's Community-based Approach to Urban Planning

  • Additional Information

    The classic story that highlighted this belief was Jacobs' clash with famed NYC urban planner, Robert Moses. During Jacobs' time Moses had already implemented a number of radical projects that imposed significant car-heavy infrastructure over areas where foot traffic was previously prioritized. Moses was pushing for another one of these projects -- the Lower Manhattan Expressway, or LOMEX -- when Jacobs stepped in and advocated for its blocking. The expressway was to be a raised, high-speed, and primarily for car traffic. It would go right through the heart of NYC's Greenwich Village, and right over Washington Square Park. In 2016 a highway over Washington Square park, a vital place of congregation for the lower east side, seems unimaginable. But in the 1950s, with the boom of automobiles and rise of suburbia, such a thing was not implausible. It was because of Jacobs' fierce advocacy for community that the project would ultimately be put to a halt.

    Learn more in this clip from Ric Burns' "New York" below:


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