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Parrish Art Museum Screening Documentary About Jane Jacobs’ Fight To Preserve New York’s Historic Neighborhoods

Sydney A. Braat

The film is a chronicle of activist Jane Jacob's fight to save historic New York neighborhoods from Robert Moses' drastic redevelopment plan in the 1950s and 60s. (Courtesy Photo)

The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill will be screening Citizen Jane: Battle for the City as part of its Inter-Sections: The Architect in Conversation series on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. The film is a chronicle of activist Jane Jacobs' fight to save historic New York neighborhoods from Robert Moses' drastic redevelopment plan in the 1950s and 60s. After the screening, which is being presented in collaboration with the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival, award-winning journalist Roberta Brandes Gratz and author/land use expert Peter M. Wolf will discuss Jacobs' legacy in a present-day context.

"I am excited to screen this excellent documentary on urban citizenry and to welcome two experts on the topic," said Corinne Erni, Curator of Special Projects. "Roberta Brandes Gratz and Peter M. Wolf will take the Jacobs-Moses battle into the realm of today's most urgent urban development issues."

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, directed by Matt Tyrnauer, was an official selection at the DOC NYC Film Festival, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (idfa), and Toronto International Film Festival, where it premiered in 2016. The film concentrates on the battles between Jacobs, a journalist and activist, and Moses, a city planner who simultaneously held 12 titles, but was never elected to public office. Moses' urban planning was criticized for destroying traditional neighborhoods by building expressways through them and displacing thousands of families.

Jacobs began her fight in 1955 to stop Moses' plan to extend Fifth Avenue through the center of Washington Square Park in her Greenwich Village neighborhood. In 1959, Jacobs waged a longer fight against the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway that would've been a 10-lane highways through SoHo and Little Italy that required the demolition of 416 buildings. That plan was scratched in 1962. Tyrnauer's film also includes clips from the 1920s through 1960s, including excerpts of Moses from the 1950s and 60s.

Jacobs served as an agent for social change during the 20th century. (Courtesy Photo)

Roberta Brandes Gratz, one of the speakers, is an international lecturer on urban development issues and a former award-winning reporter for the New York Post. Peter M. Wolf is the author of six books, including his new memoir My New Orleans, Gone Away, which captures the town of his youth and discusses the aspiration, expectations, and disappointments of his post-war generation. Wolf was elected Chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York, and appointed Adjunct Professor in the School of Architecture at Cooper Union. Throughout his career, Wolf earned a Fulbright Fellowship, received honors, awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and was selected as a Visiting Artist/Scholar at the American Academy in Rome twice.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City has a running time of 92 minutes and tickets are $20, or $5 for members. Tickets include museum admission.

Parrish Art Museum is located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. For more information call 631-283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.

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