5. Throwing Shade on Jane Jacobs

Phil Stanziola – New York World- Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Library of Congress

Much of the criticism directed at Co-op City was inspired by Jane Jacobs and her affirmation of traditional neighborhoods with low-rise rowhouses and vibrant street life. But Co-op City’s architect, Herman Jessor, was having none of it and stoutly defended tower-in-the-park development and urban renewal from a left-wing perspective.

Jessor, who earlier in his career helped to design a cooperative apartment complex featuring a hammer and sickle motif, wrote that “the “social fabric” so dear to the hearts of Jane Jacobs and her ilk does not exist. The people living in the miserable slums are not there by choice.”  He added that the “people have no ‘grass roots’ in these foul rookeries… …the only solution is large scale urban renewal, the bulldozer approach.”

He argued that the city should demolish buildings in areas of the Bronx being vacated by residents moving to Co-op City and build more large scale housing projects. Lamenting that this did not happen, Jessor got in another jab at his nemesis, “Jane Jacobs will be happy – the ‘grass roots’ will not have been destroyed.”