Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (2016)

Scroll to content

“A celebration of grassroots activism and a cry for community”

From the director of Valentino the Last Emperor, comes a David and Goliath tale of the woman who rallied her community and challenged the highest echelons of power to save the neighbourhoods that thousands of New Yorkers called home.

In 1955, New York ‘Master Builder’ Robert Moses proposed a 10-lane elevated highway through Manhattan, demolishing the beloved neighbourhoods of Little Italy, Chinatown, SoHo and the Lower East Side. Jane Jacobs, a Greenwich Village resident, was incensed by the proposition. She responded by motivating her community to engage in letter writing campaigns, government lobbying and acts of civil disobedience to defeat this modernist vision for New York. This battle for the city became the first of many for Jane, setting her on the path to become one of the world’s leading thinkers on urbanism and community.

Her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, championed a fresh and community-based approach to city building and openly challenged established beliefs within architecture, planning and government circles. In it she says, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody”.

This year, Open House Melbourne presented a city-wide program called What Would Jane Do? which celebrated Jacob’s writing, insights and sheer guts, and uses her ideas as a catalyst for conversations about Melbourne’s future.