Urbanism in New York Event Tonight with John Norquist and Hilary Ballon

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CNU New York, a chapter group of the Congress for the New Urbanism, will hold its first public event at the Municipal Art Society on Wednesday, April 25 -- creating a lively exchange of ideas on urbanism in New York and the value of Robert Moses as a role model at a time when his legacy is being intensely debated. At the event, CNU President John Norquist will speak with Hilary Ballon, the curator of the much talked-about museum exhibition Robert Moses and the Modern City: the Road to Recreation.

As Mayor of Milwaukee, as CNU President, and in his book The Wealth of Cities, Norquist has championed city redevelopment strategies that capitalize on the value of the traditional form and fabric of cities and takes steps to reinforce them, including repairing the damage done to city neighborhoods by a previous generation of large-scale highway and housing projects. While Mayor of Milwaukee, Norquist tore down a downtown highway that divided the city and replaced it with a boulevard and mixed-use buildings that knit the city's fabric back together again. As Mayor and as President of the CNU, he has worked with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to tear down housing projects built in the 1950s and 1960s and to replace them with mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods.

Robert Moses and the Modern City reevaluates the career of the extraordinary planner and administrator who built many of New York's highways, housing projects, parks, and infrastructure, particularly examining the large-scale projects for which he was both praised and vilified. Near the end of his career, Jane Jacobs famously defeated Moses, but now one hears in New York architectural circles that Jane Jacobs was wrong, and Robert Moses was right. Once again there is a call for urban mega-projects.

Moses' multiple projects to house the middle class in the city are promoted as models. Even his highways like the Cross Bronx Expressway are praised, because they are part of an automobile infrastructure that is considered important. But Norquist has worked with a group in the Bronx that wants to tear down Moses' Sheridan Expressway and replace it with traditional streets and buildings. And New Urbanism's focus on building anew in a way that reinforces the invaluable character of the city is at work in the redevelopment of the far West Village near the former site of the West Side Highway and the redevelopment of Historic Front Street, which won a CNU Charter Award in 2006. The New York debate on the city's master builder will be enriched by this perspective from the President of this national urban design movement, "the most important phenomenon to emerge in American architecture in the post-Cold War era," according to a critic at the New York Times.

April 25, 2007
Reception at 6:00 p.m.
Location: Municipal Arts Society, 457 Madison Ave.
RSVP: rsvp@cnuny.org (seating is limited)
Admission Free, Open to All