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Jane Jacobs distrusted academics about as much as city planners. When invited to leave her papers to Boston College, however, she warmly agreed
During the 1950s and 1960s, urban planners had a dream: to remake cities in the image of suburbs. The ambition was to bring about smoother traffic flow with the creation of urban superhighways, lessen population density with the dismantling of old neighborhoods, and create a strict separation of commercial and residential spaces (read: shopping malls and bedroom communities). The preferred method of effecting these changes was bulldozing. Places like the West End of Boston, a working-class community of Italians and Jews, were razed and replaced by freeways or, in this case, superblocks of high-rise residential towers and barren, concrete plazas. In Boston, after demolition of the West End in 1958–59, city planners contemplated, with no more affection, another crowded district on their turf—the North End. In New York, plans were readied for the decimation of Lower Manhattan, to clear way for a 10-lane expressway.
When did America begin to turn a fresh eye toward neighborhoods like the North End and New York’s Greenwich Village? This isn’t anyone’s guess. In hindsight, the reassessment began some 50 years ago, when a little-known writer who was raising three children in Greenwich Village brought forth a magisterial work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The 1961 book by Jane Jacobs was tantamount to a precision bombing of city planning agencies nationwide, as Jacobs laid unflinching siege to the then-reigning wisdom that large swaths of cities needed to be rebuilt from scratch.
City planners abhorred urban density, associating it with congestion and unhealthy conditions; Jacobs believed it was essential, partly because more people meant more “eyes on the street,” making all feel safer. She liked to see a mingling of functions—shopping, living, working, leisure—believing diversity made cities come alive. In that first book of hers, she pronounced Boston’s North End, with its cheek-by-jowl dwellings and shops, and sidewalks full of chatter, “the healthiest neighborhood in the city.”
Jacobs, who died in 2006 at age 89, left behind a plenitude of papers: reams of correspondence, a stack of personal scrapbooks, manuscripts exhaustively reworked by pen, and many folders of photographs—enough to fill 41 file boxes in Boston College’s Burns Library for Rare Books and Special Collections. The papers catalogue her evolution from a journalist writing about urban issues in the small but influential monthly Architectural Forum (defunct since 1974), to an author whose critiques and principles conveyed in three books about cities upended the urban policy establishment, to a public intellectual with range extending to ethics and economics and the environment.
The Jane Jacobs papers also draw a portrait of an activist, a march-leading, meeting-disrupting organizer bent on protecting her home and her city’s neighborhoods from destruction. In her thinking on the future of urban life, and in the fight for her own city block, Jacobs’s chief nemesis was Robert Moses, the premier builder of his time and probably any time in American history.
As the public works czar of New York City who held powerful positions (usually several at once) over half a century, Moses presided over such titanic projects as the Triborough Bridge, the Whitestone Bridge, the Henry Hudson Parkway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Jones Beach, Jacob Riis Park, and Lincoln Center. But he met his match in Jacobs, who, together with her Manhattan neighbors, thwarted a series of his projects beginning in 1958. The most famous and protracted battle lasted through much of the 1960s, over the proposed 10-lane expressway through Lower Manhattan. Jacobs was the de facto leader of that crusade, and of an earlier struggle against the leveling of her neighborhood, the West Village. She involved children (including her own) in street demonstrations and employed tactics that included civil disobedience and a pointed refusal to negotiate with the likes of Moses.
It is easy to imagine Jacobs’s papers ensconced at an archive in New York City, where Jacobs lived for decades and waged her epochal battles against Moses projects; or in Toronto, which in 1968 became her adopted city, and where she also fought highways that would have bisected communities. But in the mid-1980s, Jacobs found intellectual friendship at Boston College, with people such as Richard Keeley, then director of the PULSE Program for Service Learning, now associate dean of the Carroll School of Management, and Fred Lawrence, now an associate professor of theology, then director of the University’s Lonergan Center, a theological institute that organized the first of several symposia drawing Jacobs to Chestnut Hill. For Keeley, Jacobs’s books offered a lens through which to survey the needs of Boston, with particular relevance to PULSE, a program that to this day combines undergraduate service (in homeless shelters, neighborhood centers, schools, or other urban settings) with connective coursework in philosophy and theology.
Jacobs’s writings began appearing on PULSE seminar reading lists in the early 1970s, as a means to introduce students to the challenges facing the neighborhoods where they were placed. In 1977, Keeley started sending letters to Jacobs inviting her to speak at Boston College, and receiving polite rejections. Jacobs was wary of the academy in general, suspicious of credentialed expertise (which, after all, had manufactured the prevailing urban orthodoxies), and rankled by frequent criticism from those quarters that she lacked the credentials to speak about urban policy (she had no college degree). But Keeley persisted, with more letters from Chestnut Hill scattered across a decade. Finally, in 1986, he asked if he could see her in Toronto, and she agreed. There they spoke for hours about urban issues and Boston neighborhoods as well as Boston College. “She began to get a sense that if she were to come here, she would get a very enthusiastic hearing, and not the academic snobbery that she often got elsewhere,” Keeley recalls of the July 4 visit. Less than a year later she was at Boston College for a symposium on ethics and economics—an event that, she later said, ushered in the post-urban phase of her thinking and writing. The University’s relationship with Jacobs continued, with more trips to campus for at least four more programs. And so, when asked by Burns librarian Robert O’Neill during a 1993 visit to the Heights if she’d consider making Boston College the repository of her papers, Jacobs replied, by every account, “I can’t think of a place I’d rather have them.”
Today the trove is the most visited research collection at Burns and has been tapped as a prime source for several recent books about Jacobs and her ideas.
When Jane Jacobs is discussed these days, inevitably Robert Moses is too. Their battles conjoin them in history. One of the more telling items in the Burns collection is a 1961 original typewritten letter from Moses to Bennett Cerf, cofounder of Random House, which in September had published The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The “master builder,” as Moses was known, was at the height of his largely unchecked power, which included the power to destroy.
The signature at the bottom of the letter (underscored as “PERSONAL” above the address line) betrays a man deeply conscious of his stature. It spans more than half the width of the page and bears a more than passing resemblance to the graphic rendering of sound waves, befitting one whose mammoth projects swept across boroughs and cleared whole neighborhoods.
Moses had reason to be rattled by the book that landed on his desk, and not really because of its opening line—”This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding,” or just because of what it said about Moses, who “has made an art of using control of public money to get his way.” He might well have noticed that the author was the same Greenwich Village mother who helped rally her neighbors in 1958 against his plan to run a four-lane highway through the middle of Washington Square Park—the first of three showdowns with Jane Jacobs. It had been Moses’s first defeat at the hands of citizen activists. Afterward he’d sputtered in an interview that the project was opposed by “nobody, nobody but a bunch of, a bunch of mothers,” as Anthony Flint relates in his 2009 book Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City.
Moses wrote to Cerf:
I am returning the book you sent me. Aside from the fact that it is intemperate and inaccurate, it is also libelous. I call your attention, for example, to p. 131.
Sell this junk to someone else.
There’s a physical feature of the letter that catches the eye—it’s the rusted tape along the edges of the paper, the corners of which have been torn off, as though this historical document had found its way into a personal scrapbook. That’s exactly where the letter ended up—in one of eight scrapbooks compiled by Jacobs. The scrapbooks had to be dismantled upon arrival at Burns, because the acidic covers were corroding the perforated pages.
The fate of this missive suits the Jacobs-and-Moses, David-and-Goliath story. A girl from Scranton, Pennsylvania, born of old Presbyterian stock, Jacobs arrived in New York City in 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, with a high school diploma and a certification from a school of stenography. She found work as a secretary and on the side began writing freelance articles about offbeat urban topics such as the wholesale flower district in Lower Manhattan, which led eventually, in 1952, to the staff gig at Architectural Forum. Six years later a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation enabled her to begin work on The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Moses, on the other hand, was a Yale and Oxford man. By the time Jacobs settled in Manhattan, he had already become what Robert Caro would immortalize in the title words of his 1974 biography The Power Broker. In the mid-1930s he fended off an attempt to get him fired (as head of the Triborough Bridge Authority) by none other than President Franklin Roosevelt, a former New York governor, who resented the man’s unbridled, unelected power.
In private dealings, Jacobs had a friendly and unassuming manner, much in contrast to her feisty public persona. Moses was famously brusque and pugnacious. And still, his letter winds up among her scrapbook’s potpourri, with greeting cards from friends, crayon drawings by children—and newspaper clippings that speak of the thwarting of Robert Moses.
Shortly after mailing off the manuscript of The Death and Life of Great American Cities to Random House in February 1961, Jacobs was thrust into the vanguard of another Greenwich Village revolt against Moses. This time, the hair-raising plan was “slum clearance”—of 14 blocks constituting the West Village, described then by one observer as a “busy, friendly, frowzy” neighborhood of working-class white ethnics that had just begun to see an inflow of Puerto Ricans, African Americans, young professionals, and gays. On one of those blocks was the two-story apartment above a candy shop on Hudson Street that Jacobs and her husband, Robert, an architect of hospitals, had restored in the late 1940s. Together with a neighborhood dentist, Jacobs was elected cochair of the Committee to Save the West Village. She continued with tactics begun during the Washington Square campaign, refusing to settle for anything less than a full scrapping of plans (elsewhere, communities had bargained with Moses for small accommodations that mattered little in the end).
She won that battle in February 1962, five months after the book was released. Around that time, plans materialized for what Moses called the Lower Manhattan Expressway, the 10-lane superhighway set to pierce through Little Italy, Chinatown, the Bowery, and the Lower East Side, and completely destroy a district then known vaguely as the area south of Houston Street, now the thriving arts and upscale shopping district Soho. Jacobs lived just outside those perimeters, but she became the lightning rod of the resistance effort after being drafted by community leaders as cochair of their committee to stop the expressway. She persuaded the communities to brook no compromise. At an April 1968 public hearing in the Lower East Side, she stood up and called on residents to march across the stage of the high school as city Department of Transportation officials were making clear their intention to approve the expressway project. She led, and was followed by artists, shop owners, old Italian and Jewish ladies, and many others. Jacobs was arrested on charges that included inciting a riot, and eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser count of disorderly conduct. Her case, followed closely by the press, proved to be a turning point in the long confrontation.
By the time the Lower Manhattan Expressway plan was finally interred by Mayor John Lindsay in July 1969, Jane Jacobs was no longer a New Yorker. She and her family had resettled in Toronto a year earlier, primarily because her two sons, Ned and Jim, had reached draft age. Both Jane and Bob Jacobs, by then in their fifties, were peace activists. They had stood and sat with shaggy-haired, tambourine-playing protesters in the movement against the Vietnam War.
In the Jane Jacobs Collection there is a faded black-and-white photograph snapped in December 1967 inside a New York City jail (identified on the back of the photo as the Criminal Court Building in Lower Manhattan). Sitting on a bench against a cinder block wall are three stylishly attired young women, and a fourth. One of the three is the reliably photogenic Susan Sontag, cigarette in hand, sporting a furry black hat, her blue jeans tucked inside black leather boots. At 28, Sontag, who died of leukemia in 2004, was on the brink of celebrity as a fiction writer and essayist. Flanking her is the woman who doesn’t seem to belong in the picture. That’s Jacobs with her silver bangs, wearing a wool coat that might have been fashionable a decade earlier during the Eisenhower administration, and thick, round, black eyeglasses. She and the others await booking after trying to block entrance to an induction center during a demonstration against the draft.
Such activism only lends to an impression some have that Jane Jacobs was a figure of the radical left. The Death and Life of Great American Cities is often grouped with other classics of dissent from that period, including Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader, and The Other America by Michael Harrington (Death and Life was the first of these to be published). Jacobs, however, is not easy to peg ideologically. In fact, the sharpest counterpunches to Death and Life came from liberal policy analysts—urban renewal was, after all, an invention of big government. Among the copious correspondence in Burns is a warm exchange of letters with an admirer, William F. Buckley, Jr., who included a passage from Death and Life in an anthology of conservative writing. Jacobs often struck anti-government chords. Looking back on the urban renewal battles that consumed her for years, she told an interviewer in 1998: “I hate the government for making my life absurd.”
What Jacobs longed for was peace and quiet, a return to the writer’s life. That, too, was a factor in her self-exile from New York. In Toronto, she quickly finished her second book, The Economy of Cities, which looked at cities as engines of creativity, or what today would be styled “innovation.” She was becoming more than simply the anti–urban planner. She would find new friends and fresh ideas in Toronto and in a certain less-citified locale west of downtown Boston.
In one of several folders in the Jacobs archive marked “Systems of Survival” is a sheet of paper torn from a small wire-bound notebook. On it, written with a ballpoint pen that was running out of ink, are the names of 15 people connected to Boston College. There are some familiars among them—Dick Keeley of the Carroll School, Fred Lawrence of the Lonergan Center, Patrick Byrne of the philosophy department, Joseph Flanagan, SJ, a cofounder of the PULSE program who died this past May—and others, including undergraduate students. In the same folder is a typewritten letter to Keeley in which Jacobs is checking to make sure she has recorded the names and titles correctly, for special thanks in her upcoming book, Systems of Survival, published by Random House in 1992.
In the acknowledgments for Systems, Jacobs wrote she was “especially indebted” to faculty members of Boston College’s philosophy and theology departments as well as to PULSE and the Lonergan Center. She went on to name the 15 “Boston College people” who had critiqued versions of the book in draft form, including five PULSE students (see sidebar below) who read the manuscript in a seminar taught by Keeley and Flanagan. The students had discussed the text with the author herself, during an April 1991 visit to the Heights.
Written in the form of a Platonic dialogue among fictional characters, Systems examines the moral values that undergird all of economic and political life. Some key ideas for the book were first thrashed out in Chestnut Hill, at an April 1987 conference sponsored primarily by the Lonergan Center and amplified two years later in a collection titled Ethics in Making a Living: The Jane Jacobs Conference, edited by Fred Lawrence. (The theologian Bernard Lonergan, who died three years before the conference, was known to speak of Jacobs allusively as “Mrs. Insight.” The title of Lonergan’s 1957 magnum opus was Insight: A Study of Human Understanding.)
Jacobs had already begun to explore notions about the distinct and complementary roles of commercial and political authorities, and the Lonergan conference helped acquaint her with a tradition of explicitly moral discourse about that very matter. A few days after the conference she wrote to Fr. Flanagan:
My head is now awhirl with new ideas and improved ideas which I never adequately acknowledged at the time, being so busy at taking them in. . . . In many ways I have a better idea now of what I should be doing, and more guidance in understanding too, about what I was already doing but was blurry about. It’s rather like getting compass directions for my understandings, and these directions are infinitely valuable. It seems almost magical to get them, moreover, exactly when I need them.
It was afterward that Jacobs decided to render Systems of Survival as a dialogue, in the Platonic mode that she continued in The Nature of Economies, published in 2000. (The latter book was fashioned as a conversation over coffee among five fictional characters, airing themes such as the dynamic relationship between human beings and the natural world.) And that decision owed significantly to “the utility and pleasure I found in dialogue at Boston College,” Jacobs wrote to Keeley in June 1988.
Systems of Survival was Jacobs’s first major work to depart from the subject of cities. She would continue to find her way to the Heights for conversations, finally for a November 2000 symposium held at the law school, marking the 40th anniversary of Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Stories can be teased out of many items in the Jane Jacobs Collection. There’s the 1988 “Britannica Award for the Dissemination of Learning and the Enrichment of Life,” with raised lettering on large parchment paper and a long-winded identification of Jacobs as a “scourge of complacency” whose “prophetic” vision has “penetrated the veil of tradition, sloth.” It’s a lofty recognition, assigned in other years to Peter Drucker, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Jane Goodall. Keeley and Boston College archivist Robert O’Neill came across the citation when they visited Jane and Bob Jacobs in Canada in 1995, staying as their houseguests (Bob died in 1996). The two from Boston College were there to help Jacobs parcel up her papers and items. O’Neill held up the Britannica Award and asked: “Jane, don’t you want to keep this?” Jacobs replied, “Oh yes, I would,” and proceeded to dismantle the frame, handing the certificate back to him. “It’s a lovely frame,” she said, figuring it would come in handy for pictures of her grandchildren. She did the same with other awards lying in boxes around her house.
There are the serial photographs of Jacobs staring pensively down at a manual typewriter. It was the portable Remington she used in writing Death and Life and everything else until practically the day she died in April 2006. Shortly after her passing, Keeley started wondering with an eye to the Burns collection: What about the typewriter? Right around that moment, the typewriter was somehow mixed up with junk left out for the sanitation detail in front of her Toronto home. An alert neighbor caught sight of the collector’s item, which resurfaced later in a Toronto museum. The Jane Jacobs papers at Boston College has a wealth of offerings, but the old green Remington is one that got away.
As artifacts of her writing life, more telling are the original manuscripts. Versions of several major works are stored in a dozen boxes together with research notes, cover proofs, and other publication materials. Jacobs described herself in one letter as a slow and plodding writer, and the typewritten manuscripts are Exhibit A, with pages upon pages crossed out and revisions penned into the double spaces. In a draft of The Economy of Cities, for example, there is a didactic argument, in fairly pedestrian prose, against the idea that population control programs are a panacea for the world’s afflictions. The text lacks the characteristic Jacobs punch; an “X” is marked across the two paragraphs, along with some cursive rewriting. In the published version of the 1964 book, the words are different. She writes that while birth control may provide many benefits to women, as a prescription for overcoming poverty and economic stagnation it is “nonsense” and “quackery.” She adds: “The economies of people are not like the economies of deer, who wax fat if their numbers are thinned.” This is the Jane Jacobs of the printed page.
Keeley has a method for encouraging his students to make rewriting part of their plan for composing research papers. He literally borrows a page from Jacobs, robustly revised by the author. And he shows it to them—inspiration from a world-class writer who seems never to have produced a draft she liked.
Today, Jane Jacobs is venerated widely as the godmother of urban America, the one who fought off the suburbanization of the city. But did she? Some critics have observed that Soho, for example, with its avenues of high-end boutiques, today resembles an open-air shopping mall. The 19th-century cast-iron structures were spared, thanks to Jacobs, but in a column written shortly after she died, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff argued that Soho’s once-rich diversity of artists, shop owners, working-class people, and others has been “replaced by homogeneous crowds of lemming-like shoppers. . . . It is a corner of the city that is nearly as soulless, in its way, as the superblocks that Ms. Jacobs so reviled.” A few have suggested that in saving urban neighborhoods, Jacobs helped paved the way for colonization by yuppies.
But she did save them.
In New York City, Jacobs’s legacy is there to see. Just listing the would-have-been Moses projects—the four-lane highway through Washington Square Park, the razing of the West Village, the dismembering of Lower Manhattan—takes the breath away. In each instance, Jacobs was the main stopper. And many a neighborhood beyond Manhattan that had an appointment with the wrecking crew was also spared, owing in part to Jacobs. The protracted, grassroots campaign against the Lower Manhattan Expressway helped ignite a nationwide anti-freeway movement that frustrated similar designs in, among other places, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Memphis, New Orleans, Seattle, and San Francisco, as Flint relates in Wrestling with Moses.
In Boston, the publication of Death and Life put city planners on the hot seat, as Alice Sparberg Alexiou tracks in her 2006 book Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary. The city had already demolished the close-knit West End neighborhood; Jacobs reported in Death and Life and continued to allege in the press afterward that the North End was slated for the same fate. Officials rushed to put forth denials, yet couldn’t keep themselves from saying that the neighborhood did need massive “rehabilitation.” In the end, the planners kept their hands off. What part Jacobs played in the sparing of this favorite Boston neighborhood remains an intriguing, unanswered question.
The archives contain the unpublished records (proceedings, minutes, personal accounts) of a triumphant visit to Boston by Jacobs. The occasion was the opening of the 1980 “Great Cities of the World Conference,” which attracted to Faneuil Hall the leaders of scores of municipalities, ranging from St. Petersburg, Russia, to St. Petersburg, Florida. Two highly distinguished men, the developer Jim Rouse and the Harvard architecture scholar Moshe Safdie, spoke as urban experts. Rouse spotlighted the need for cities to embrace “big plans,” arguing that “piecemeal” approaches had no “magic” and no chance of reviving cities, a feeling echoed by Safdie.
Then, Jacobs padded to the podium. She apologized at the outset for remarks that would be merely “piecemeal”—a first dig at Rouse. “Life is an ad hoc affair, and has to be improvised all the time,” she explained. Big plans “stifle the emergence of future, alternative courses of action.” She spoke of the “magic” of little plans such as Quincy Market in Boston, improvisations that reanimate cities from within. “Believe me,” she said, aiming a dart this time at Safdie, “cities are not going to be humanized by conceiving new urban plans at Harvard.”
The record shows that the audience of mayors from around the globe gave Jacobs the most stirring applause of the day, and that Safdie ventured across the stage and kissed her on the cheek.
Editor’s note: This article was revised November 24, 2010, to rectify an incorrect date. The photograph of Jane Jacobs and Susan Sontag was taken in December 1967, not December 1961.
In her 1992 book, Systems of Survival, Jane Jacobs acknowledged a special debt of gratitude to 15 people from Boston College who had assessed drafts of the manuscript. Five of them were undergraduate students in the College of Arts
As members of the PULSE Council, a leadership group of students who had gone through the University’s PULSE program for service learning, the five were taking part in a yearlong seminar titled “Philosophy of Community” in 1990–91. In April, Jacobs spent three days as a guest of the PULSE Authors Series, during which her schedule included visits to classes, meetings with faculty, a public talk, and an excursion to the North End (which she had praised for its “street atmosphere of buoyancy, friendliness, and good health” in her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities). Jacobs joined in the PULSE Council seminar; in the room were the five students, Jacobs, her husband, Robert, and the course’s two professors: PULSE cofounder Joseph Flanagan, SJ, and Richard Keeley, then director of PULSE, now associate dean of the Carroll School (who had formed a close bond of friendship with the Jacobses). Jacobs had previously shared drafts of Systems with Keeley, and he with the students.
What the alumni remember most clearly is Jacobs’s probing interest in their opinions of her work in progress. “She had no airs about her,” says Peggy Bedevian Geragos ’91, who now lives in Glendale, California, near Los Angeles, with her architect husband and three-year-old daughter. Like other PULSE students, Geragos had read other works by Jacobs including The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which devotes three chapters to the subject of sidewalks and touts densely populated neighborhoods for their “eyes on the street.” Today Geragos often recalls that lesson when she sits with her daughter on the front porch of their house on a short block with postage-stamp front yards in a dense, lively neighborhood. “I sit there and think about what makes a neighborhood safe. Eyes on the street—it’s as simple as that,” she says.
Cindy Kang ’92 is a partner in the international law firm Fulbright & Jaworski, with its immigration and naturalization practice in Dallas. Jacobs “was very focused on us, and we had to be on our toes—she asked a lot of questions,” Kang recalls. As it happens, Kang says she has been ruminating quite a bit on Death and Life lately, because she and her fiancé are discussing where they’d like to live and raise children. They’d prefer a dense urban environment but have concerns about the quality of the schools.
Sara Marcellino ’93 was a sophomore when she took “Philosophy of Community.” For the past year and a half she has worked as a development and grants manager at TransForm, an advocacy organization striving to improve mass transit and nurture “walkable” communities in the San Francisco Bay area. Early on in the job, she wandered into the conference room where her new colleagues were having lunch. Around the table were seated TransForm’s urban planners, and on the table was a copy of Death and Life. “It reminded me how ubiquitous [Jacobs] was,” says Marcellino. “And it certainly made me feel justified” in taking the job.
Of the five students, one did gravitate to the field that Jacobs revolutionized. Sheila Lynch ’93 is now an associate planner for the city of Lakewood, Colorado, an inner-ring suburb of Denver. “I didn’t realize at the time how formative an experience it was,” Lynch says of her student encounter with Jacobs. Lynch’s focus is the redevelopment of old suburban districts, and, Lynch says, she is bringing Jacobsian insights to bear: the importance of population density, for instance, and of “mixed use” development that enables people to live, work, and shop in the same community.
Nancy Soohoo ’91 was a senior at the time of “Philosophy and Community,” and she went straight to law school after graduating. She did not know of her inclusion in the acknowledgment in Systems of Survival until contacted for this article.
“I’m surprised,” says Soohoo, who works for a small biotech firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “I wouldn’t have thought that we made much of an impact on her. I think she made more of an impact on us.” Soohoo says that when commuting along the interstate from her home in Framingham, she often thinks about the walkable cities Jacobs advocated in Death and Life. “I wish there were more of them,” Soohoo says.—William Bole
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