Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an author, journalist, and urban theorist who transformed the way that urban developments were constructed in American cities. In 1935, she moved from her hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Brooklyn, NY. During her early years in New York City, she acquired a taste for Greenwich Village’s culture and moved there. After receiving her education at Columbia University, Jacobs became a freelance writer. In 1943, she began working at Iron Edge Magazine and wrote an article about her hometown of Scranton’s economic decline, which was well- publicized. The success of the article led to a positive change in support from the War Production Board, which prompted more jobs in Scranton.

In 1952, she became a writer for Architectural Forum. As her interest in urban development grew, Jacobs recognized the disruptive impact of ongoing urbanization. Her prior research on urban planning in East Harlem and Philadelphia further proved the negative effect that it had on African American communities. Simultaneously, Jacob’s new home of Greenwich Village had become a target for development in expanding NYU and constructing a Lower Manhattan Expressway that would bisect the neighborhood.

In 1956, Jane Jacobs gave a speech about urban renewal which was very well received by the public. This allowed her for her writing career to progress at Fortune magazine. Her article entitled “Downtown is for People” led to her being noticed by  Chadbourne Gilpatric, then associate director of the Humanities Division at the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1958, Jacobs received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to write Death and Life of Great American Cities. She had been affiliated with the New School since the Spring of 1957, where she–along with Charles Abrams, Victor Gruen, and Robert Dowling–had a discussion at the New School’s Associates Dinner Forum about the future of urban planning. This prompted her to choose the New School as the financial partner for her Rockefeller Foundation grant to finish her book. In 1966, Jacobs took part in another New School panel discussion about the Social Uses of Power with Kenneth B. Clark and Murray Kepmton.

Jane Jacobs’ legacy still lives on today. In 2019, the New School created a program entitled “Dear Jane Jacobs,” which looked at current initiatives in New York City to develop public spaces with and for communities.


Lewis, Jone. Jane Jacobs Biography. https://www.thoughtco.com/jane-jacobs-biography-4154171 14 August 2019. Accessed on 13 Feb 2020.

New School Bulletin Vol 22 No. 18. https://digital.archives.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/objects/NS030102_bull2218 14 May 1965. Accessed on 13 Feb 2020.

Dubrow, Rebecca. Jane Jacobs’s Radical Vision of Humanity. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/jane-jacobss-radical-vision-of-humanity/ 3 Feb 2017. Accessed on 13 Feb 2020.



“Jane Jacobs.” Bio. A&E; Television Networks, 2014. Web. 07 Nov. 2014.
Jane Jacobs, then chairperson of a civic group in Greenwich Village, at a press conference in 1961. via wikipedia. Web. Nov 3rd 2014.