Thursday, November 17, 2016


The White Horse Tavern was,
in the, late 70's, a gem of a
place. On Hudson Street, a
few doors up from where
Jane Jacobs had lived,
before her move to Toronto,
it bore more aspects of a
'literary' soiree than a bar,
although it certainly was
that. Jane Jacobs had
written 'The Life and 
Death of a Great 
American City', 
pretty much an 
expose of her fight 
and take-down, her
adventure-telling of 
that long-ongoing battle 
with Robert Moses,
who was intent, as 
'money-lender in
the temple'  on 
fairly destroying 
the 'local' and the 
neighborhood character 
of NYC, especially 
the Greenwich Village 
portion of it, with his
multi-lane by-ways 
and highways that 
would have cut through 
everything, indiscriminately,
and with tolls, just so 
cars and trucks could 
better move through, 
on a quick in-and-out 
pass through, of Manhattan. 
All so that his bridge and
tunnel authorities could keep
raking money in to do more.
He was against all things 
which made what the city
what it was : the charm 
and deliberateness of 
local streets, shopkeepers, 
neighbors at street level, 
not in enormous, packed, 
high-rises blocs of 
housing (the lower east 
side got that anyway, 
and they still stand  -  
problematic, rundown, 
and noisy-fierce. He saw
nothing of that vision.
Jane did, house-marm 
and mother of kids, 
almost an accidental 
hero. Jane wanted a 
New York where, at 
street-level, people 
still knew one another, 
worked together, watched 
each others kids, kept 
random oversight to 
neighbors and small-shops 
and trade stores, local 
grocers, parks and 
playgrounds. Robert 
Moses wanted everything 
torn down, broken up, 
segregated  -  plazas 
and wind-swept places 
was all he'd give to 
the 'people', who 
were certainly 
secondary to his 
viewpoint of the 
and economic 
streamlining of 
commerce. People 
be damned. When 
you see a parking lot 
of 9 acres, cars, and 
a half-mile walk to 
the store(s) connected 
to it, that's Moses. 
Jane Jacobs, unbelievably 
and against all odds, in 
the 1950's stood up to 
him. Mobilized locals, 
formed community-activist 
groups, stormed meetings, 
and eventually they won 
their case. Moses had 
already done a lot of 
damage to NYC, but 
at least the Village was 
saved and not sundered  
-  no highway, as he'd 
planned, was cut through,
 no thruways and by-passes 
and mega-slots for cars 
and trucks. He was sent
packing, and his plans 
curtailed. The funny thing
about Robert Moses, big-
time bureaucrat and
municipal boss, doing 
all this  -  hr NEVER in
his life had a driver's
license. He always had
drivers, supplied by
Government, taking him
around. After the
successes of her crusade
 and plight, and the greater 
success of her book and 
story, she became a 
quite-someone, and 
eventually, even for 
her and her family 
and husband, the 
city became too much  
- they moved and lived, 
after that, in Toronto 
for many years; a place,
a city, she found more 
conducive to her 
particular idea of city
living, and , place, 
and pace too. No 
matter. 555 Hudson 
Street, today completely 
unmarked and non-descript, 
lives on. To me, in 
my mind, it was as 
if she'd never left 
555 anyway  -  not 
that the crowds nearby 
at a 'watering hole' like 
The White Horse must 
have always pleased her.
Some of my friends
 threw me a 30th 
birthday party there, 
and then we 'groggily' 
walked out to the old
Hudson River piers, 
to finish the night. That 
was the night one of my 
friends (this would have
been late Sept. '79, I 
guess. He and I shared 
a birth date, but he was 
younger by some 5 or 
6 years.) said if he (as a 
writer) wasn't famous 
by the time HE was 30, 
he'd kill himself. He 
wasn't. He didn't. 
Although, alas, he 
is now, these years 
later, quite dead. Back 
then these piers were 
derelict trysting spots 
of weird village people, 
endless gay men and 
women , when 'cruising' 
was in vogue,) all 
pre-AIDS too), crowds 
of dingy student and 
wastrel types. There 
was no commercial 
pier business left, 
except the dark-side 
and the dark-trade. 
We stayed there 
most of the night, 
bizarrely happy and 
dead-drunk as well. 
Oh to be 30 once 
more. I don't quite
 think Jane Jacobs 
had all that sort of 
thing so much in 
mind with her 
vision of the 'livable' 
city, but she did, 
I assure you, give 
allowances for 
such diversity, 
local color, and 
from the boredom 
of routine, in her 
large picture. that's 
what made her 
so real and so great. 

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