Citizen Jane: Battle for the City
(Matt Tyrnauer, US, 2017, 92 min)
Co-presented with ARCADE Dialogue on Design
With an introduction by Sam Assefa
Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, directed by journalist and documentarian Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor), captures the intense battle between activist Jane Jacobs and the Trumpian “master builder” of New York, Robert Moses. In the years after World War II, Moses transformed the city by bulldozing its poorest sections and erecting in their place miles of concrete-slab housing and superhighways. Against this dehumanized modernist view, Jacobs published her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in 1961, which condemned the modern planners’ and architects reconfiguration of cities and argued for an approach to urban planning which prioritizes the people who live in the cities, not the cars driving through it. More than simply capturing this urban planning showdown, Citizen Jane invites you to sink into Jacobs’s philosophy of cities and think about how the things we take for granted (like sidewalks and parks) are the very things that make cities magical.
Today, as urbanization grows at an unprecedented scale and speed globally, Jacobs’s prescient text offers many clues to the large array of urban issues we are facing and challenges us to learn from the mistakes that were made by planners like Moses. Above all, the film asks its audience to reexamine the city of today through the lens of one of its greatest champions.
Introduction by Sam Assefa
Sam Assefa is the new Director of Seattle’s Executive Office of Planning & Community Development. Prior to his appointment by Mayor Ed Murray, Sam served as the senior urban designer for the City of Boulder, Colorado, and as the Director of Land Use and Planning Policy at the Chicago Department of Planning and Development while serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley. Between 1991 and 2002, Sam worked as the senior urban designer for the San Francisco architecture firm of SMWM as well as the City of San Francisco Planning Department, where he was responsible for the implementation of various urban design policies and redevelopment plans.
Sam is a graduate of MIT with a Master’s in City Planning, and the University of Illinois, Chicago, with a B.A. in Architecture.