Roberta Brandes Gratz is an award-winning journalist, urban critic, and author of five books on urban development, including The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs (2010) and The Living City: Thinking Small in a Big Way (1994). (December 2019)


How New York Is Zoning Out the Human-Scale City

“The cities and the economies we have,” Jane Jacobs observed, “have been created by ordinary people who didn’t have to have a big plan. It is good to remember in the culture that ordinary people can do these things and still do them.” Public-private enclaves and supertall towers are antithetical to that vision. The more a city gives over its organically evolved urban fabric to this kind of development, the more it diminishes the human-scale, bricks-and-mortar substance of the real city. The fate of 270 Park exemplifies how the real estate interests hold the city captive and foist on us Singapore-style, glass-and-steel mega-buildings.