Thursday, November 16, 2006

Agree and Disagree with Jane Jacobs

In reading Jane Jacob’s sections “The self- destruction of diversity” and “The curse of border vacuums” I strongly agreed with her on some points, and also disagreed with her on other ideas, sometimes within the very same paragraph. Many of her insights were things that directly coincided with my personal experiences, and then in several examples she gave to support an idea I had an example proving the exact opposite.
Beginning with her very first paragraph I strongly agree with her that “we need all kinds of diversity, intricately mingled in mutual support” (pg 241). I think she does a very good job of reiterating how important diversity is, but I found her reasons for why diversity is so important somewhat vague. She does go into detail that a flourishing part of a city is functional because of the diverse elements of business and enterprises that appeal to so many different kinds of people. But I think she does not get to the core of diversity and how it can bring different kinds of people together, to educate them about similarities and differences, while uniting them in human interaction. While I agree with her in some areas the repetition of the same business can destroy diversity I also think that one area of the city can be a functional unit in one specific interest and still attract different groups of people. I say this because of a street I know, called Chippewa Street in Buffalo, New York. Chippewa Street is a strip of bars, night-clubs, and restaurants. Although the buildings are the same and the same business duplicated, it draws so many different people and age groups to mingle and socialize, both at nighttime and daytime. Although the area has the same enterprises, each unit or place is different enough that people are free to choose from the different atmospheres of each building, cultivating diversity and bringing people together.
I disagreed with Jacob’s general conclusion that often times waterfronts serve as a border vacuum, simply because being a part of Baltimore, and seeing how successful the Inner Harbor is, my experience is opposite to her observations. Although I agreed with Jacob’s when she said “It is curious, too, how frequently the immediate neighborhoods surrounding big-city university campuses… are extraordinarily blight-prone” (258). I agreed with her because I witness everyday the economic, cultural, and structural differences of Loyola’s pristine campus and the rundown areas of York Road. In reading more of Jacob’s I realized it was impossible to separate her view of city planning and my personal experiences with cities. Yet I think this interpretative reading is positive because it engaged me more in the text, and made me think of ways we can improve our surrounding city. For example I agreed very much with her when she writes, “Street by street, as you move away from the project borders, a little more life is to be found, progressively a little more brightness, but it takes many streets before the gradual increase of economic activity and movement of people become strong”. I have seen this in visiting Beans and Bread, and before reading this chapter I have written about this issue in my journal entries. I concur with Jacobs that borders can certainly exist as barriers, but that it is not impossible to break these barriers and create positive ties between the different city borders and districts. I think we are on are way in breaking barriers through our service learning and volunteer work in the city of Baltimore. Through reaching out and creating ties in service we are not diminishing borders, but we are creating ties between different areas. When Jacobs speaks about the separateness of campuses I agreed with her it can be a disadvantage, and I think Loyola College, especially through the “Year of he City” has created a compelling push for students to unite with other areas of the city they belong to.