Who Did New York Better? Jane Jacobs or Robert Moses?
“We don’t want to make this; Moses is Darth Vader and Jacobs is a perfect angel from heaven.”
Opera is arguably the most dramatic art form, and a new work titled A Marvelous Order (music by Judd Greenstein and libretto by Tracy K. Smith) takes one of New York’s most famous high-stakes duels and brings it to the stage. In the 1950s, a fierce battle raged between city planner Robert Moses and preservationist Jane Jacobs, a battle for the heart of New York. In NYC lore, Moses is a megalomaniac villain, giddy as he constructs the West Side Highway and destroys neighborhoods. Jacobs is the Batman, defender of Gotham, who protects Greenwich Village from Moses’ proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway (which would have gone right through Washington Square Park).
The two archetypal figures are perfect fodder for opera, although director Joshua Frankel is quick to point out that “we don’t want to make this Moses is Darth Vader and Jacobs is a perfect angel from heaven.” Making these people seem more like people, finding their faults and their redeeming qualities, is surely a more interesting and unexplored approach to the story. Jacobs wasn’t perfect, she was against the creation of Lincoln Center, which has been a legendary and prestigious part of the cultural scene in New York. And Moses, due to his refusal to build a new stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers, is by de facto responsible for the creation of the New York Mets, which may be the only accomplishment of his for which I am truly and deeply grateful.
The 1980s saw the end of the Village, whose streets are now lined with boutiques, cupcake shops, NYU dorms, and brownstones only the very wealthy can afford.
A Marvelous Order is a work-in-progress that will be showing scenes at a gala November 2nd at the Sawdust in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This is an interesting choice of venues, given the subject matter. Williamsburg is the latest in the line of artistic neighborhoods (predated by Greenwich Village, SoHo, and the Lower East Side) that have priced out their artists as the yuppie component staked their claim.
A decade later, SoHo went from being an artistic hub to the world’s largest outdoor shopping mall.
This was not a problem in Jacobs' day, when artists could find affordable housing in Manhattan and build their communities there. The 1980s saw the end of the Village, whose streets are now lined with boutiques, cupcake shops, NYU dorms, and brownstones only the very wealthy can afford. A decade later, SoHo went from being an artistic hub to the world’s largest outdoor shopping mall. In the early-mid 2000s, Williamsburg was an enclave for artists of all types, as the warehouses provided enough space for whatever your project might be — a sculpture, a film set, a DIY concert venue. In 2015, it’s nearly impossible for those people to live in the neighborhood they created and there are now both a Starbucks and a J. Crew off of Bedford Avenue. What does this mean in the context of Moses vs. Jacobs?
Jacobs wanted to preserve artistic communities like the Village; Moses cared more about money. Moses fought public theater pioneer Joe Papp against the creation of free Shakespeare in the Park, and if alive today would probably live in a condo in Williamsburg. A Marvelous Order is bringing some of the art back to a neighborhood that has forgotten its very recent history, and will likely be one of the most riveting pieces of art this year. Bringing opera to North Brooklyn, telling a uniquely New York story, and humanizing two polarizing figures? That is a marvelous order, and this New Yorker can’t wait to watch the show.
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Lori Chandler is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, NY. She has been published in The New York Times and on CollegeHumor. You can follow her on Twitter @LilBoodleChild to keep up with her latest pieces, performance dates, and wry observations.
WASHINGTON SQUARE PHOTO CREDIT: Nathan Blanley/Getty
FREEWAY PHOTO CREDIT: Apic/Hulton Archive
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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