Rockefeller Foundation announces new awards honoring Jane Jacobs


By Albert Amateau

Legendary Village activist and urban-planning iconoclast Jane Jacobs.

The Rockefeller Foundation last week announced the creation of two annual Jane Jacobs Medals, with prizes totaling $200,000, to honor the late Greenwich Village activist who changed the way people thought about the relationship between living communities and the urban environment.

The two awards to living people will be announced in June, one recognizing leadership and lifetime contribution to the vibrancy and variety of New York City and the other recognizing new ideas and activism reflecting the ideals of Jane Jacobs.

Nominations for the 2007 awards, to be administered this year by the Municipal Art Society, may be submitted electronically at www.rockfound.org/efforts/jacobs/janejacobs.shtml until 5 p.m. March 2.

The announcement comes as the career of the late Robert Moses, whose highway and urban-renewal projects were anathema to Jacobs and her followers, is being celebrated with three current exhibits at the Museum of the City of New York, Columbia University and the Queens Museum.

“Someone told me that [the Jane Jacobs Awards] is almost like ‘Jane Jacobs Strikes Back,’” said Katherine Snider, spokesperson for the foundation. “It is a coincidence,” Snider affirmed.

In 1958 the Rockefeller Foundation awarded $10,000 to the New School for Social Research to support Jacobs’s planned book, which she said would be about “what a big city is and how it functions.” A year later, the foundation awarded another $8,000 to allow Jacobs to finish the groundbreaking book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” which was published in 1963 and has never gone out of print.

The award jury, headed by George Campbell Jr., president of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and Agnes Gund, a former president of the Museum of Modern Art, will include David Rockefeller Jr.; Ronald Shiffman, director emeritus of Pratt Center for Community Development; and Marilyn J. Taylor, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill partner in charge of urban design and planning.

The jury will also include Paul Goldberger, New Yorker architecture critic; John T. Reddick, Central Park Conservancy director of education; Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, executive director of the Queens Council on the Arts; Rosalie Genevro, executive director of the Architectural League of New York; W. Paul Farmer, executive director of the American Planning Association; Barry Bergdoll, curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art and Columbia University professor of architectural history; and Bill Aguado, executive director of the Bronx Council on the Arts.