Jane’s Walk and a Naughty Dérive
Municipal Art Society’s “Jane’s Walk” West Village, May 5th 2012,was fun and invigorating.
I was the “official” photographer and took my mission seriously, running ahead, falling back, click click click. Get the shot.
Joan Schechter is a pro tour-guide and she covered the architecture and history of the Village by the lights of Jane Jacob.
How did it happen that Michael Levine, Charlie Anderson and I veered of the path of the official walk and viola! began a sensational wander?
It started outside of 555 Hudson – do you recognize that address? It was Jane’s last home in the US, before leaving for Canada as a protest of the Vietnam War, and a way to save her son from the draft. The kind current owner showed up at the front door – perhaps she heard the sounds of our group of 75 determined tour-ists?
As the group moved on to the wonders of West Village, some of us stayed on to discuss the building and her apartment. Michael had visited Ms. Jacobs in 1967 and wondered about details: were the rooms still configured the way they had been, what about the roof garden? Soon, the house owner offered a home view. Up we tramped on the narrow creaky staircase.
Oohs and aahs, the original planked floor, the window where Jane made her observations, Micheal’s memory of cockroaches that lived there too (whose apartment did not have roaches at that time?). All were discussed and photographed.
By the time we reached the sidewalk again our tour group had gone. We tried to guess their track, and turned up Bleecker. There, we discussed the merits of “obstructions” (the remnants of slate-sidewalk past), embedded relics of railings and tiny trap doors for coal.
We bemoaned the endangered species of Village life…
Our conversation unqualifiedly animated to find like-minds appreciative of the “nature” of urban accretion, we retired to Cafe Angelique for refreshment.
What was learned? Urban planner Michael conflated my interest in Found Lighting to Found Seating. Architect Charlie shared his quest to walk all over the city at all hours of the night shooting photos of doors, building materials, people of all stripes and his upcoming blog on the same.
An all together satisfying New York City, nay, Manhattan experience, was had by all.
The walk according to the New York Times: “One Jane’s Walk tour starts at the Christopher Street subway station in Greenwich Village, where Jacobs arrived after moving from Scranton, Pa., to pursue a writing career. Another sticks to Roosevelt Island, focusing on how it evolved from a purely institutional setting of mostly almshouses and hospitals into a planned residential community. You can explore the Rockaways in Queens or visit “Main Street U.S.A.” in Tottenville, on Staten Island.”
The listing by sponsor Municipal Art Society:
Jane Jacobs’ West Village
Time: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Walk Host: Joan Schechter
Meeting Place: 7th Ave. South & Christopher St., in front of Village Cigar
Accessibility: Partially Accessible – curbs, uneven terrain, busy sidewalks
Description: In 1934, 18 year old Jane Jacobs arrived in NYC from Scranton to pursue a writing career. While exploring her new environs, she found herself at Christopher Street Station, and immediately began her love affair with Greenwich Village. Our tour will include the history of the area, woven with stories and relevant sights of Jane’s epic battles with city bureaucracy and the powerful Robert Moses to preserve her beloved Village. Walkers will visit Hudson Street, where she lived for 20 years, observing its daily ‘intricate sidewalk ballet’ that was the inspiration for her acclaimed first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, as well as see several other historic sites that would not exist today if it were not for her successful grassroots activism.
Selected dérive posts in this blog:
Islington After Dark, A London Light Walk
Leni Schwendinger Lights the Way
Public Lighting Theory – developing the nexus of lighting and urban design
Mexico City, Las Calles y Luz de “La Capital”
Public Lighting Walk with Leni
Dérive, a Cultural Week in Manhattan (July 2009)
Dérive, a Cultural Week in Manhattan (May 2009)
One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll. In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones. — Theory of the Dérive by Guy-Ernest Debord
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