Posts Tagged ‘jane jacobs’

Photo: NextCity
A Philadelphia street scene

The ideas of writer Jane Jacobs, well-known for her influence on city planning, continue to be tested. Is it true, for example, that having a lot of “eyes on the street” reduces crime? Jared Brey writes at NextCity about efforts in Philadelphia to find out.

“In the five-and-a-half decades since Jane Jacobs published The Death and Life of Great American Cities, her core contention — that urban vitality and safety are a function of small-scale density, a mixture of uses and ‘eyes on the street’ — has become conventional wisdom in urban theory. …

“In June, a team of researchers released a paper, titled ‘Analysis of Urban Vibrancy and Safety in Philadelphia,’ that attempts to begin a quantitative analysis of Jacobsian theory by bringing together publicly available data sets related to crime, business activity and the built environment. The study is the first of a series they have planned.

“In order to test the ‘eyes on the street’ notion, the authors — three statisticians at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an architect — investigated the correlations between public safety and population density, population count, zoning, business activity, and business hours. They also designed a model of ‘business vibrancy,’ meant to serve as a proxy for Jacobs’ concept of eyes on the street, based on the density of businesses in certain areas and the amount of ‘excess business hours’ on them — meaning blocks with businesses open longer than what the authors calculated to be the citywide average. …

“Among the authors’ findings:

* Population density is not as strongly associated with crime rates as population count.
* More crimes occur on blocks with more businesses, but fewer in the direct vicinity of businesses that have longer-than-average operating hours.
* Crime rates are higher in neighborhoods with high rates of vacancy, but within high-vacancy neighborhoods, fewer crimes are reported in the direct vicinity of vacant properties. …

“ ‘What it says is measuring human activity is subtle and difficult,’ [co-author Shane Jensen, a statistics professor at Wharton,] says. ‘Yes, it does seem like there is something to this concept of eyes on the street, but I don’t think it’s just as simple as making sure that there’s businesses on every street corner and stuff like that. If anything, the more high-resolution you break this down, the more insight you can glean.’ ” More at NextCity.

Here’s my question: as online shopping causes retail storefronts to close, how do we preserve any “eyes on the street” at all?

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It’s a little hard to get my head around using this topic for an opera, but an article at FastCo Design makes it seem almost logical.

“A legendary 1960s battle over the urban design of New York City is getting its dramatic due. The struggle between urban planner Robert Moses and journalist/activist Jane Jacobs over Moses’s proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway will become an opera, thanks to composer Judd Greenstein and director Joshua Frankel.

“Moses and Jacobs had deeply divergent visions of New York City’s future. Moses was the powerful planner behind a swath of New York City expressways that displaced half a million people during his reign as the city’s master builder. He envisioned a city built for easy driving.

“Jacobs, who popularized the idea of eyes on the street — the notion that streets are safer and more vibrant when there are pedestrians on them — vehemently opposed Moses’s plans to raze Washington Square Park and much of Greenwich Village, where she lived, to build yet more miles of highway.” More here.

If you ask nicely, I will sing you the lyrics Arnold Horwitt wrote to the tune of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” (substituting the word Moses) that the crowd sang on a ferry ride to protest a road Moses proposed for Fire Island.

Photo: FastCoDesign

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