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Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  785 ratings  ·  104 reviews
To a young Jane Jacobs, Greenwich Village, with its winding cobblestone streets and diverse makeup, was everything a city neighborhood should be. The activist, writer, and mother of three grew so fond of her bustling community that it became a touchstone for her landmark book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. But consummate power broker Robert Moses, the father ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 28th 2009 by Random House (first published 2009)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, nyc, cities
I read this book after reading The Power Broker, Robert Caros book about Robert Moses, because the Caro book gave short shrift to a couple of Moses projects that did not come to fruition but which I was interested in: the construction of an elevated superhighway across Manhattan to connect the Lincoln Tunnel to the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the extension of Fifth Avenue through Washington Square Park and then the linking of the new lower Fifth Avenue to another crosstown elevated superhighway, ...more
DJ Yossarian
Having read Death and Life of Great American Cities about 20 years ago, I found this book about its author and the causes she championed to be enthralling, even-handed, and well-written. Flint doesn't demonize Robert Moses, and gives him due credit for the parks, beach facilities, and bridges he built. The author also demonstrates that, although Moses was extraordinary in both his maniacal work ethic and the amount of power he amassed, his approach to how cities should be revitalized was very ...more
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. I was a huge fan of Jane Jacobs from reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which I highly recommend for anyone who is interested in or enjoys city life. When I read The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York I expected Jane Jacobs to make an extensive appearance and was disappointed to find that she never even showed up once. (That's right, my main complaint with the 1344 page biography is its lack of detail in one area. Apparently Robert Caro ...more
Aug 09, 2019 rated it liked it
If you've never heard of this story and want to learn more about NYC planning in the 1960s (related topics: Urban Renewal, participatory planning and activism, gentrification, affordable housing), I recommend it! If you know anything about it, you probably don't need to read it (I stopped at like the last chapter).
Michael Doyle
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly engaging, succinct chronicle of the decades-long battle between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses--and by extension, the mid-20th century status quo of the urban planning profession. Backstory: the moment I finished reading Roberts' seminal "Death and Life of Great American Cities" at the age of 19, I began researching planning graduate programs even before I started college and an undergraduate. Her ideas had that profound an effect on my and my education and eventual career. This is ...more
penny shima glanz
Jan 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-nypl
Over a decade ago I had the pleasure of taking Professor Kenneth Jackson's great course "History of the City of New York" at Columbia. As a Computer Science undergrad I was a bit scared to take the course, my required reading was generally much different in scale and scope from history courses. I emailed the professor that summer and asked what texts might be included, hoping to both get a head start and to pick up used copies. I received a kind reply and two books listed were The Power Broker ...more
David Jedeikin
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Compelling yarn about how Jane Jacobs, a Greenwich Village writer and mom, took on one of New York's most influential urban-planning power brokers and won. Told from a an earnest-yet-accessible angle (I think the author himself called it "beach-reading for urban planners") it manages to draw both Jacobs and Moses with depth and nuance -- even going so far, at the end of the book, as to show that the pendulum may have swung a bit too far in Jacobs's direction of late: When latter-day ...more
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Power Broker was required reading in the NYS Politics class I took at Stony Brook University as an undergraduate. This is a much shorter book than Robert Caro's Pulitzer Prize winning tome, but it does pack a punch, as it chronicles the careers of Mr. Moses and Mrs. Jacobs, who'd clash over development issues in Lower Manhattan. It serves as a comprehensive introduction to both Moses and Jacobs, and is surprisingly even handed in its treatment of both. Caro's book has made Moses such an ...more
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting book about NYC, urban planning, and of course, Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. I didn't know any of this history previously, but now am considering reading both Jane Jacobs' books and the Robert Caro biography of Robert Moses.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I think this is of somewhat limited interest. It would have been much better as a magazine article (or as a chapter in "The Power Broker"!). Jane Jacobs had good ideas, countering modernism in urban redevelopment. She also perhaps started modern NIMBYism, and it is disappointing that Flint doesn't wrestle with this aspect of her legacy. Instead, Flint largely sees unattainable housing prices as a good thing, evidence that Jacobs's vision was highly desirable. Repeatedly, Flint cites the fact ...more
Stephen Meyers
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Having read both The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs, and The Power Broker, Robert Caro's wonderful biography of Robert Moses, I found Flint's book an enjoyable review of Jacobs' efforts to stop three of Moses' proposed projects, and Moses' never ending efforts to breath new life into them. Flint's writing style is excellent, descriptive, but to the point. Short and too the point, this book offers insights and detail not available on the other books I've read.

A fun read
I didn't read the whole book but would hate to put it in the "abandoned" category. It had moe information than I needed or wanted in backgroun of the history of Washington Square Park for exaample. Interesting that our son who read the 700 page biography that Caro wrote of Robert Moses says that Jacobs is not mentioned. She certainly was his rival over preserving NYC neighborhoods with their bodegas, shops, restaurants, etc.
Daniel Blazquez
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great introduction to Janet Jacobs, and a superb way to expand on the Moses bio by Robert Caro (if you are so inclined, and a BIG reader of urban planning). It seems to contain the key thinking behind "The Life and Death of Great American Cities"
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A quick read with a compelling real-life story. A biography but focused on Jacobs' impact on protecting neighborhoods from being bulldozed and her impact on the field of urban planning. A very encouraging story on how a self-taught and dedicated woman accomplished a lot.
Autumn Kovach
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This was such a great overview of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses; their timelines and involvement with city preservation and city planning. It's cool to learn about both of their personal missions, how they eventually crossed paths and how their work can be seen in NY today.
Tiffany Leigh
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an ideal introduction to Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. I would recommend starting here and then leveling up to Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of American Cities or Robert Caro's The Power Broker if this background look at their tete-a-tetes was interesting to you.
Tallant Burley
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Always a great story, but not well written.
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this book. The right level of detail, fascinating political history.
Mary Lundy
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book about urban renewal.
Rebecca Henn
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great tale

This is a great telling of the battles between Moses and Jacobs. The afterword is also a great ending to the tale, wrapping up the story well.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A well-told narrative of the showdown between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Great perspective. She lived at 555 Hudson Avenue
Oct 08, 2012 rated it liked it
It is amazing how much I can continue to learn about America and about New York 7-8 years after having left the city. I knew people there who were intensely activist, and increasingly I begin to fathom this spirit of political and social activism that at first seemed so simultaneously admirable and alien. 'Wrestling with Moses' is about one of NY's most well-known (well, in the 1950-60s) urban activists, Jane Jacobs, and her work to prevent the demolition and reconstruction of parts of lower ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
My undergrad degree is in Urban Studies from Columbia, which means I basically majored in New York City history, Jane Jacobs, and Robert Moses. This is a book that appealed to a hardcore city nerd like me, but I'm not sure how many others would truly enjoy it. It gets REALLY into the tiny details of every community meeting and conversation and fight between Jacobs and Moses about NYC development. And if you don't know the geography and neighborhoods of NYC, half of it wouldn't even make sense.
Rogue Reader
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: architecture
Though I grew up in New Jersey and had family in the East Village, I was not aware of Jane Jacobs' life of sacrifice and her dedication to preserving and protecting this pocket of Manhattan. I'm ashamed not to know of her contributions, and so glad to learn of them now.

Born in 1916, Jane Jacobs was a funny looking woman, with a keen intelligence and the ability to articulate her ideas and organize for action. She is credited as the founder of 1960s grass roots, community activism.

Robert Moses
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Jane Jacobss four recommendations for successful neighborhoods (p. 124):

1. Streets and districts should serve a variety of industries and purposes.
2.Blocks should be short and feel comfortable to pedestrians.
3. Buildings should vary in age, condition, and use (a.k.a. mixed use).
4. Population must be dense.

In a place like Denver, Colorado--where I live, and which, at the moment, is growing by leaps and bounds, especially in the urban core--Jacobss recommendations are commonplace in discussions
Michael Shaw
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A history of the fights between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs over the structure of a city. The book sometimes convolves two disagreements, however. On who makes decisions, Moses believes in a benevolent dictator (i.e., him); Jacobs, in a benevolent community (i.e., hers). On the right structure for a city, Moses believes in destruction, grand planning, and open, wind-swept plazas. Jacobs believes in diversity, adapting old spaces, and a chaotic streetscape.

Flint asks the reader to choose between
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
The earlier chapters of this book are a bit derivative and feel more like a report on Robert Caro's tremendous work THE POWER BROKER. It is understandable in a way given that Caro's book is the definitive biography on Moses and there is little else to reference, but there is something not quite right about the way that Flint narrates ... and I add my bias here for the historical research conducted by Caro who carefully cites his sources over this more novel-like narrative. It could just be a ...more
Rick Tetzeli
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After 25 years of living in New York there's so much I don't know about the city. That's why I love reading books that illuminate its raucous history. The city I live in is an unexpected pleasure. I never would have imagined, for instance, that Brooklyn would have an arena, and yet we do, a five-minute subway ride from where I live. This book unspools, wonderfully, a conflict that shaped the city I love, a conflict that eventually helped shape into what it is, a collection of neighborhoods with ...more
Alex Csicsek
Jan 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Anthony Flint's narrative history recounts three important battles for the future of lower Manhattan between renowned urbanist Jane Jacobs and New York City masterplanner. While Jacobs's story as a community organiser and Moses's as planner have both been scrupulously recorded, Flint's intention was to give both equal prominence in the same book. He falls short in that effort, however, as it mostly reads from the view of Jacobs fighting against a rather faceless boogie man. At times, it also ...more
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Anthony Flint is author of "Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City." A journalist for twenty years, primarily at The Boston Globe, he writes about architecture, urban planning and sustainability. He was a visiting scholar and Loeb fellow at the Harvard Design School, and also served in the Office for Commonwealth Development, the ...more

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