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

A view of the new Hudson Yards tower development on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, New York City, March 15, 2019

“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.