City Builder Book Club: Chapter 3

Part 1: The Peculiar Nature of Cities
Chapter 3:  

The use of sidewalks: contact

Chapter 3 , p 67

The trust of a city is formed over time from many, many little public sidewalk contacts.

Chapter 3, p 70

We tell such a friend that he can pick up the keys at the delicatessen across the street. Joe Cornacchia, who keeps the delicatessen, usually has a dozen or so keys at a time for handing out like this.  He has a special drawer for them. Now why do I, and many others, select Joe as a logical custodian for keys? Because we trust him, first, to be responsible custodian, but equally important because we know that he combines a feeling of good will with a feeling of no personal responsibility about our private affairs…  A service like this can not be formalized… The all essential line between public service and privavcy would be transgressed by institutionalization.

Chapter 3, p 76 -77

The more common outcome in cities, where people are faced with a choice of sharing much or nothing, is nothing.  In city areas that lack of a natural and casual public life, it is common for residents to isolate themeselves from each other to a fantastic degree.  If mere contact with your neighbours threatens to entangle you in their private lives, or entangle them in yours, and if you can not be so careful who your neighbours are as self selected upper-middle-class people can be, the logical solution is absolutely avoid friendliness or casual offers of help.

…For considerably complicated reasons, many adults either don’t want to become involved in any friendship-relationships at all with their neighbours… 

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2 thoughts on “City Builder Book Club: Chapter 3

  1. musedemuzz says:

    This part of Jane Jacobs really spoke to me. Our modern suburbs with just houses don’t exactly encourage interaction, much less our shopping malls.

    I recently read something suggesting that chain stores (as opposed to locally owned shops) similarly don’t provide as much interaction either (and certainly not as much original streetscapes).

  2. […] City Love sketches Chapter 3 […]

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