Friday, February 26, 2016

Robert Moses and Lincoln Center

In last week's New Yorker, dated February 22, there's a short item in The Talk of the Town about a forthcoming opera, A Marvelous Order, which is about Robert Moses, the city planner who remade New York City, and Jane Jacobs, whose Death and Life of Great American Cities was a seminal book about how cities thrive.

It's a fine and entertaining article, by Reeves Wiedeman. But he inserts a comment that is unexamined and really does need to be examined. Here's the paragraph in question:
"Jane is our Moses figure, Biblically speaking," Frankel said. "But is' not very useful to look at them as 'pure' Jame Jacobs and 'evil' Robert Moses." Moses razed neighborhoods and displaced families, but he also built Lincoln Center.
Okay. Moses razed a neighborhood and displaced families to build Lincoln Center, to spell it out what really happened. And in the US in the 1950s and 60s, and through into the 1990s, neighborhoods were razed and people displaced to build other cultural centers, too.

In Los Angeles, the Bunker Hill neighborhood was demolished to build a good chunk of downtown.... including the Music Center, home of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Walt Disney Concert Hall. In San Francisco, the south of Market neighborhood now occupied by Yerba Buena Center and the Moscone Convention Center was demolished to make way for those projects. (San Francisco's Civic Center area, where we have the opera house, Davies Symphony Hall, City Hall, the main public library, and the Asian Arts Museum, seems to have grown rather more organically after the fire and earthquake, but I'm willing to be corrected on this point.)

Whether it makes sense to concentrate so much big-organization activity in a single cultural center seems to be to be debatable. Has Lincoln Center had good synergies among its constituent organizations, which include the Koch New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center Theater, and Film Society? What about Juilliard next door?

I admit, it did make sense for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to move the heck down to Civic Center - for the benefit of its students and perhaps those of its teachers who are members of SFS. But I have yet to hear of much crossover between SFS and SFO.

Just asking: I have no settled viewpoint on this.


Eric G said...

There's actually been lots of crossover in myriad ways over different periods. Alan Gilbert is MD of the Phil, but also a teacher at Juilliard (which only started after his start at the Phil). LC's Boro-Linc program brings family programs from all orgs to community centers across the five boroughs. The White Light Festival has partnered with other LC orgs to co-present certain works. The Met and the Film Society often collaborate on some choices for HD screenings on the plaza (outside of the Met's own productions). Live From Lincoln Center, produced by LC, and not PBS, curates and presents programs from across the orgs. Most of these are somewhat recent examples, but they serve the point.

CruzSF said...

When I told my spouse that someone had written an opera about Robert Moses, he asked, "Why would someone write an opera about the man who did more damage to New York City than anyone else in history?"