3. You won’t believe who funded much of Jane Jacobs’s research for her critically acclaimed book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”

Image bottom from Library of Congress, photo of Robert Moses from The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bridges and Tunnels Special Archives, photo of Jane Jacobs from Wikimedia Commons

Early in her career, Jane Jacobs was a writer for Architectural Forum, but it was a freelance article that she wrote for Fortune Magazine criticizing Robert Moses that brought her to the attention of the Rockefeller Foundation. Subsequently, she was given grant funding by the Rockefeller Foundation to research and review U.S. city planning and to produce critical analysis and white papers for the Foundation’s Urban Design Studies research program. This research would become the basis of the her seminal book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

It’s highly likely that Nelson Rockefeller was well aware of Jane’s writings in opposition to Robert Moses’ urban renewal practices at the time that Rockefeller was negotiating the MTA/TBA merger with Moses. And while Rockefeller may have viewed the merger as a way of appealing to urban voters and raising his public profile for an anticipated presidential run, he may also have known that a healthy mass transit system was absolutely essential to sustaining New York’s future viability as the world’s greatest city.

More than fifty years later, the Rockefeller Foundation is still involved in promoting the work of Jane Jacobs. In 2012, Michelle Young, the founder of Untapped Cities helped organize the conference, Jane Jacobs Revisited at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy, with Kate Ascher, author of The Works, and Mary Rowe of the Municipal Art Society. See a video about that conference here.

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