(Excerpted from Variety, September 8, 2016)
“Citizen Jane: Battle for the City”,” Matt Tyrnauer’s gripping new documentary about urban politics, plays out like a mental boxing match between two heavyweight intellectuals.
In one corner is Jane Jacobs, bespectacled and slight of frame, but with a talent for community organizing and a fierce unwillingness to yield to the powers that be. At the other side of the ring is Robert Moses, the towering city planner, who swept away old neighborhoods, erected motorways in their place, and generally treated Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs as his fiefdom. When Moses tried to realize his vision of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a highway that would have bisected Jacobs’ neighborhood of Greenwich Village, he discovered what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
“What brought me to the story was Jacobs,” Tyrnauer told Variety. “She was a bad ass who used the power of the pen and the force of her intellect in a brilliant and heroic way that was way ahead of her time.”
He’s less charitable about her chief adversary, calling Moses, “one of the great villains of the second half of the 20th century.” But, then again, Moses’ reputation has been badly tarnished since Robert Caro published his magisterial biography, “The Power Broker,” in 1974, revealing that the urban planner had troubling racial views and was indifferent to the social upheaval he caused by placing his city projects in thriving communities. Tyrnauer sees parallels between Moses’ imperious nature and the public persona of Donald Trump, the real-estate-baron-turned-Republican-presidential nominee.
“He is similar to Moses in that he has this authoritarian, racist, white guy knows best thing,” said Tyrnauer.
c/o Brent Lang | Variety