A Pilgrimage to Jane's New York

In order to celebrate the history, architecture, art, and community organizing initiatives that preserve livable urban neighborhoods, volunteer- led neighborhood walks have sprouted in cities across the globe during the first weekend of May, Jane Jacob’s birthday week.  Since 2016 is a special celebratory year for Jane Jacob’s 100th birthday, these “Jane’s walks” have proliferated.  Over 200 walks in all five boroughs in New York City were held during this past weekend, May 6 – 8.  The weather was horrible, rainy, cold, dark, but how could I let this stop me?  This was a pilgrimage trip, a way to get inspiration for a year of blogging for “Jane Jacobs in the Woo”.

 I was surprised there was no plaque to mark Jane Jacobs’ home at 555 Hudson Street.  Jacobs based many of her urban theories through the observations she made looking out from this house.  This three story mixed use building combines retail space on the first floor and residential space on the floors above.

 I was surprised there was no plaque to mark Jane Jacobs’ home at 555 Hudson Street.  Jacobs based many of her urban theories through the observations she made looking out from this house.  This three story mixed use building combines retail space on the first floor and residential space on the floors above.

Visiting Jane's Greenwich Village

Some of the most beautiful townhouses can be found in Greenwich Village.  Since Greenwich Village is off the grid pattern of Manhattan, the blocks are often odd-shaped and triangular, creating a maze affect for walking the neighborhood.  This neighborhood is now one of the most affluent in the city and home to famous actors, politicians and business people.  It’s hard to believe that Robert Moses had targeted large swaths of this neighborhood for demolition to place the Lower Manhattan Expressway.  If Jacobs had not organized resistance, then I might not be walking these streets today.

Some of the most beautiful townhouses can be found in Greenwich Village.  Since Greenwich Village is off the grid pattern of Manhattan, the blocks are often odd-shaped and triangular, creating a maze affect for walking the neighborhood.  This neighborhood is now one of the most affluent in the city and home to famous actors, politicians and business people.  It’s hard to believe that Robert Moses had targeted large swaths of this neighborhood for demolition to place the Lower Manhattan Expressway.  If Jacobs had not organized resistance, then I might not be walking these streets today.

The White horse tavern where Jane Jacobs used to go for a drink right down the street from her home on Hudson Street

The White horse tavern where Jane Jacobs used to go for a drink right down the street from her home on Hudson Street

Instead of the famed candy store, 555 Hudson Street now houses a real estate agency in its first floor retail space.  The agents let me come in and take a photo of the interior.  

Instead of the famed candy store, 555 Hudson Street now houses a real estate agency in its first floor retail space.  The agents let me come in and take a photo of the interior.

 

In the back of Jane’s house is a small outdoor patio.  

In the back of Jane’s house is a small outdoor patio.

 

Citi Bike, the New York City bike share program, has bike kiosks all over the neighborhoods.  Dedicated bike lines throughout the streets and easy access to bikes through the share program, make biking an easy option to get around in the city.

Citi Bike, the New York City bike share program, has bike kiosks all over the neighborhoods.  Dedicated bike lines throughout the streets and easy access to bikes through the share program, make biking an easy option to get around in the city.

From Greenwich Village to East Harlem

It was a true culture shock to go from one of the wealthiest to one of the most economically distressed neighborhoods in Manhattan.  Despite the prevalence of monotonous, brick public housing projects, we experienced seeds of urban vitality in “el barrio” of East Harlem. This tour brought us past murals, community gardens, health centers and budding food businesses, the art show in the Marcus Garvey park… all signs of a healthy urban ecosystem emerging in the neighborhood.

“When I go to the market, I fall in love with the chilies”, the owner of El Kallejon tells our group.  He prides himself on his knowledge of traditional Mexican cuisine and offers us Mexican tortilla chips with the best guacamole we had tasted.  

“When I go to the market, I fall in love with the chilies”, the owner of El Kallejon tells our group.  He prides himself on his knowledge of traditional Mexican cuisine and offers us Mexican tortilla chips with the best guacamole we had tasted.  

The mural outside on the ledge of the patio of El Kallejon in East Harle

The mural outside on the ledge of the patio of El Kallejon in East Harle

In 1936, the public market, La Marqueta was founded under the tracks of the MetroNorth railway.  In its heyday, La Marqueta housed over 500 vendors selling everything – food, Latin music, traditional medicines.  It was a community gathering space and a haven for businesses displaced by large urban renewal projects.  In order to breathe life back into La Marqueta, the New York City Economic Development Corporation contracted with Hot Bread Kitchen to have an anchor storefront for selling artisanal breads and to run an on-site kitchen incubator providing 3000 feet of commercial kitchen space for new food entrepreneurs.  

Hot Bread Kitchen also runs a six month Baker in Training program for low income, minority and immigrant women to learn the trade of baking artisanal breads.  The competitive program links up graduates to management track careers in food production, jobs that offer a ladder to livable wages.  We saw the commercial kitchen space and we got to taste some of the delicious bread. The highly competitive program guarantees that every one of its graduates will be placed in a job that is on the management track in food production.

Hot Bread Kitchen also runs a six month Baker in Training program for low income, minority and immigrant women to learn the trade of baking artisanal breads.  The competitive program links up graduates to management track careers in food production, jobs that offer a ladder to livable wages.  We saw the commercial kitchen space and we got to taste some of the delicious bread. The highly competitive program guarantees that every one of its graduates will be placed in a job that is on the management track in food production.

Buying cupcakes in La Marqueta

Buying cupcakes in La Marqueta

a vendor selling paintings in La Marqueta

a vendor selling paintings in La Marqueta

"There was no East Harlem vegan restaurant so I had to start one," said the owner of Uptown Veg and he mixed up some strawberry-banana smoothies to welcome us to the neighborhood.

"There was no East Harlem vegan restaurant so I had to start one," said the owner of Uptown Veg and he mixed up some strawberry-banana smoothies to welcome us to the neighborhood.

I stayed in my cousin’s apartment on the Upper East Side.  Here is the view from her window in the early morning.

I stayed in my cousin’s apartment on the Upper East Side.  Here is the view from her window in the early morning.

Here is Jane Jacobs’ ideal in this photo – mixed use with commercial store fronts and local small businesses on the street level floor and residential units above.  Even early in the morning, one can see the people walking past on the sidewalk.

Here is Jane Jacobs’ ideal in this photo – mixed use with commercial store fronts and local small businesses on the street level floor and residential units above.  Even early in the morning, one can see the people walking past on the sidewalk.

Waiting for the train at Grand Central Station.  Hundreds of trains are coming in and out of this station, making it an active hub and a great place to watch people.  Our Union Station can never rival a station like this or even South Station.  Union Station only has one line going in and out of Worcester to Boston.  We simply can’t match the density of a Grand Central Station but increased train service can populate our station more fully.

Waiting for the train at Grand Central Station.  Hundreds of trains are coming in and out of this station, making it an active hub and a great place to watch people.  Our Union Station can never rival a station like this or even South Station.  Union Station only has one line going in and out of Worcester to Boston.  We simply can’t match the density of a Grand Central Station but increased train service can populate our station more fully.

I get a juice smoothie at a vendor on the first floor of Grand Central Station.  

I get a juice smoothie at a vendor on the first floor of Grand Central Station.