At his most powerful in the years after World War II, powerbroker and developer Robert Moses was determined to modernise New York and speed up the traffic. He demolished great swathes of housing to build high-rise accommodation and construct superhighways the length of Manhattan. David to his Goliath, Jane Jacobs led a grass-roots campaign to thwart his plan to plough an expressway across town, right through Lower Manhattan.
Author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs had a vision of urban life that involved people, neighbourhoods, heritage and habitation on a human scale, qualities Lower Manhattan enjoyed in abundance. Director Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) has fashioned a lively documentary about the enduring issues enunciated so clearly in their clash.
“Tyrnauer transforms what could be a staid profile film into an urgent story about the dangers of ‘urban renewal,’ something Jacobs herself would admire… How do we retain neighborhood diversity amid rapid gentrification? Can a metropolis retain its humanity when everyone’s living in high-rises?” — April Wolfe, Village Voice