Friday Reading: Jane Jacobs’ Intellectual Afterlife, Jersey’s Massive Solar Play, Ogling The Hearst Building

It’s Friday. It’s Reading. You pretty much know how this goes by now, right?

Friday Reading comes but once a week, which maybe makes it more exciting? It also might not, but honestly I can’t do feature-length deconstructions of crappy newspaper articles every day. I am only human! And anyway, the Friday readings in today’s gbNYC Friday Reading are probably more fun than my Real Talk on Drudge and etc. I’m only human, after all, and these links are divine. (Or… I don’t know, I enjoyed them)

  • We’ve written glowingly about Jane Jacobs before here at gbNYC, despite the fact that (and I can’t speak for Stephen) I’ve read more articles about her than I have words actually written by her. (I have, at least, put Death and Life of Great American Cities on my to-read list this summer; if you’re interested in reading it along with me, by all means hit me up via email or in the comments) But while it’s easily caricatured and even more easily steamrolled by mega-developer types, Jacobs’s vision of a city presages the idea of sustainable development so profoundly as to be the sort of thing most gbNYC readers can agree with even if we’re hazy on the specifics. Which, at the risk of circling the point for too long, is where the “easily caricatured” bit comes in. Because Jacobs, as Thomas J. Campanella writes in an evenhanded, well-wrought and much-more-complex-than-usual appraisal of the sainted urbanist at Design Observer, was notably more complicated than her vaguely rosy reputation suggests. “To Jacobs, not just misguided American urban renewal but the entire enterprise of visionary, rational, centralized planning was suspect,” Campanella writes. “She was as opposed to new towns as she was to slum clearance — anything that threatened the vitality of traditional urban forms was the enemy. It is largely forgotten that the popular United Kingdom edition of Death and Life was subtitled ‘The Failure of Town Planning.’ How odd that such a conservative, even reactionary, stance would galvanize an entire generation.”
  • New Jersey: Stephen and I are born of it, fans of it, and — as is the case with anyone who has spent any time there — confounded by it. But for all the jokes about the place — the noxious, cynical hamsteak of a governor being the loudest and coarsest, the Nets being the tallest, and so on — it does at the very least contain multitudes. For a telling portrait of this, and an explanation of the state’s ultra-ambitious solar play in hopes of meeting a 23% renewable-energy, we have Mireya Navarro’s New York Times story on New Jersey PSE&G’s solar campaign, and the attendant (and totally predictable) bitching about the panels — which are spread throughout various neighborhoods, instead of in one massive installation — from suburban New Jersey types. The solar rollout looks promising, the gripes sound like… home, and not just because the Official gbNYC Hometown of Ridgewood, NJ makes a typically/hilariously puckery and ridiculous cameo appearance. “Unlike other solar projects tucked away on roofs or in industrial areas, the utility is mounting 200,000 individual panels in neighborhoods throughout its service area, covering nearly three-quarters of the state,” Navarro writes. “If they were laid out in a solar farm, the 5-by-2.5-foot panels would blanket 170 acres… PSE&G officials said their search for maximum sun exposure could not dodge and weave residential areas in a place as crowded as New Jersey. It turns out that only a quarter of the company’s 800,000 poles are suitable for the panels, which are mounted 15 feet high and need good southern exposure. Solar industry experts approve of the decentralized pole-by-pole approach and said it could be just as efficient and cost effective as larger installations.”
  • This last bullet point would probably be better described as Friday Ogling. But that’s a long headline already, and there are some useful words in Inhabitat’s guided tour through the LEED Gold Hearst Tower, the instantly recognizable Norman Foster-designed skyscraper that became the city’s first LEED Gold high-rise back in 2006. But if you’re distracted by the 21 pictures in Inhabitat’s Hearst Tower slideshow, we wouldn’t hold it against you.

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