“What architect isn’t interested in housing? I hate the whole blasted idea of it. I think it’s a worthy undertaking – to provide a decent apartment for a man who earns fifteen dollars a week. But not at the expense of other men. Not if it raises the taxes, raises all the other rents and makes the man who earns forty live in a rat hole. That’s what’s happening in New York. Nobody can afford a modern apartment – except the very rich and the paupers.
Have you seen the converted brownstones in which the average self-supporting couple has to live? Have you seen their closet kitchens and their plumbing? They’re forced to live that – because they’re not incompetent enough. They make forty dollars a week and wouldn’t be allowed into a housing project. But they’re the ones who provide the money for the damn project. They pay the taxes. And the taxes raise their own rent. And they have to move from a converted brownstone into an unconverted one and from that into a railroad flat.
I’d have no desire to penalize a man because he’s worth only fifteen dollars a week. But I’ll be damned if I can see why a man worth forty must be penalized – and penalized in favor of the one who’s less competent”.
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, 1943
Thirty years into my passion for urbanism, I’m just finishing my first read, I’m embarrassed to admit, of Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The book has strongly resonated with me as it has done legions others. I’m amazed at how relevant a book written 55 years ago is about U.S. cities today. Perhaps my lateness in reading this milestone of understanding of how cities work was a missed opportunity or resulted in a knowledge deficit for me.Continue Reading The unofficial glossary of Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities