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Culture & Artsby Brew Editors3:15 pmMar 20, 20170

New documentary profiles Jane Jacobs, champion of “bottom-up” urban renewal

The author, activist and “housewife” famously took on New York “master builder” Robert Moses

Above: Urban visionary Jane Jacobs fought to keep cities from being torn apart by expressways and urban renewal projects. (altimeterfilms.com)

Of interest in Baltimore and any American city: a new IFC documentary on one of the pioneers of modern urban planning, “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City,” is being released tomorrow.

In it, Jane Jacobs herself talks about the ideas behind her seminal 1961 book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” The film recounts Jacobs’ David-and-Goliath fight to prevent the destruction of revered New York neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown and Little Italy.

And it offers a portrait not just of neighborhood-noodge-turned-urban-expert Jacobs, who died in 2006, but of her arch-nemesis Robert Moses.

“The scabrous New York power broker and construction czar who, in the years after World War II, transformed the city by gutting its poorer sections and erecting miles of concrete-slab housing projects and snaking superhighways,” is how the promotional material distributed for the film describes Moses.

The producers promise Citizen Jane will resonate with modern city dwellers, “especially as we grapple with a president who has announced plans to scale back on programs that are integral to well-being of cities.”

“This is a film about our urban past and our urban future,” director Matt Tyrnauer said in November. “Jacobs’s ideas about healthy, just, and vibrant cities being planned and empowered from the bottom up are very important today, when discredited top-down planning is still destroying cities and lives all around the world.”

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