Robert Moses Vs. Jane Jacobs: The Opera

The show will grapple with the fundamental question of what a city should be.

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mvmtbldg/Wordpress

It's the urban planning equivalent of Rinaldo. Except instead of the siege of Jerusalem, it's the battle for Greenwich Village.

The legendary 1960s struggle pitted planning czar Robert Moses against neighborhood activist Jane Jacobs. Moses wanted to make the city easily navigable by car. During his reign, he displaced half a million people with highways. But the powerful planner met his match when he proposed an expressway through Lower Manhattan. Though she had little institutional support, Jacobs built a citizen coalition that ultimately defeated Moses.

The opera will be composed by Judd Greenstein. Greenstein was inspired by the 2011 Plan of the City, an animated short created with Joshua Frankel. In the film, Manhattan's famous architecture is blasted off into Mars.

Frankel has already agreed to direct the show. The duo grew up in New York, and each has a personal connection to the neighborhoods impacted by the historic battle.

"It's very much a 20th-century story," Greenstein explained at a recent panel discussion that was organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

As the creators explain on their website:

This is a story about New York City, and about cities, in general. It's a story about the people who live in those cities and how the decisions made on their behalf, by those with authority and those who resist that authority, tangibly impact their lives. It's a story about two brilliant, visionary urban theorists, each of whom turned their theory into practice, and in so doing changed the landscape of New York and the field of urbanism forever. And it's a story that continues to this day, in New York City and beyond.

(h/t Fast.Co Design

Top image via mvmtblog on Wordpress. 

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.