Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

92 minutes

Watch it for...

Insight into how cities are planned and made, what makes them great, and inspiration for what you can do to help your own neighborhood.


In Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, the “battle” explored is between mid-twentieth century urban planners in NYC, who envisioned a shiny utopia of skyscrapers connected by highways, and the neighborhood activists who wanted to protect their communities, homes, and parks from being demolished. Developer Robert Moses advocated destroying whole neighborhoods, ripping them out like “cancer.” Opposing him was activist Jane Jacobs, who articulated how the apparent chaos of the city is actually vibrant, beautiful, and deeply human. Jacobs was an accomplished journalist, but Moses dismissed her as a housewife interfering with progress. This film shows how regular folks can stand up to those in power.

Moira's thoughts

Jane Jacobs and others advocated for public spaces that get a lot of use by diverse groups of people because these human connections are what make a city alive. Across the U.S., we hear the same kind of complaints: traffic is terrible, neighborhoods are segregated, and downtown stores are empty. This film challenged me to remember that these problems are the result of decisions that have been made in the past. What’s more, important decisions about the future of our cities are being made today. We can get involved in reviving public life in our downtowns and neighborhoods. I work in an area that is having a heated debate about a proposed protected bike lane. After watching this film, I voiced my support, advocating for the cyclists, kids, and pedestrians who would benefit from a safer way to move on the street, even if it means some drivers must slow down or use a different route.  I encourage anyone who feels frustrated or hopeless to watch this documentary, because it is such an inspiration to get involved.