Public Spaces Reading Questions

A couple of questions on our readings from the famous book by Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. You’ll probably just want to answer one or the other of these, because they’re pretty similar:

  1. Think of the scariest neighborhood or block in the immediate area where you live. Describe it and say why you think it’s scary. Think of a particularly safe-feeling neighborhood or block. Describe it. Then read the Jacobs chapter. Does her description of safe and unsafe areas fit the places you just described? Are there any factors that make a block safe or unsafe that you think she’s missing?
  2. Jacobs offers some specific ideas about what kinds of places produce “eyes on the street” or natural “surveillance.” On pages 49-51, she describes a case in which a potentially suspicious interaction between a man and a nine-year-old girl was monitored by a number of people in the neighborhood where she lived (the West Village). This description contrasts sharply with Simmel and Wirth’s comments regarding “blasé,” indifferent urbanism. Which better describes the block you live on? Jacobs’ benevolent “eyes on the street”? Or the cold indifference of Simmel and Wirth’s urban dwellers? What are the factors that make your block a warm or cold place?

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