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A Village Hero

Saturday's Times ran the obituary for Doris Diether, Guardian of Greenwich Village.

Doris Deither worked with the legendary Jane Jacobs to thwart Robert Moses in his efforts to build a massive highway through the Village and Soho.

You can read about her here;

the part that gets me is that she served on Community Board 2 for more than fifty years.

I must have met her in my many meetings with the Community Board as my fellow playground moms and I tried to effect change in Abingdon Square Park. She's one of my heroes and I didn't even know it! I could have been friends with her! How many times have I said in my life, "Gee, I wish I'd paid attention"?

Like with the late great Penn Station. Living on Long Island I frequently took the train into the city and must have travelled through those beautiful spaces but I have no memory of it. I wish I could open up a window in my memory and go back there.

But I digress. I read Robert Caro's tome, The Power Broker, about how Moses amassed enormous personal power and built much of New York City, doing some good and wreaking havoc on city life by making all transportation about cars. As my brother Rob likes to say, "The internal combustion engine is destroying our civilization." Moses built Jones Beach, a very good thing, but then made sure poor people couldn't get there by making the bridges on the highway there too low for buses to pass under--you can only get there by car. He ran Long Island's Northern State Parkway through small farms while making big detours to oblige wealthy land owners. Then he tried to build the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a four lane highway through Washington Square Park. He was stopped by what he called "a bunch of mothers."

Reading in bed at night I would get so angry I couldn't sleep. I kept at it, through a thousand pages, reminding myself that at the end I'd have the pleasure of reading of his undoing at the hands of Jane Jacobs (and Doris Diether.) I often read the last chapter of books just to be sure everything works out for the characters but this time I persevered, holding out for the satisfaction of seeing him thwarted but no such luck; the book kind of petered out at the end. I later read that Mr. Caro's research is so exhaustive that there was just no room for what I saw as the triumph of my neighborhood heroes. Oh, well.

I'll console myself by keeping Doris Diether's words in mind;

Listen to what's going on and don't live in your own little world.

Here's an update from my own little world-the next phase of a Saint Barbara picture--lightning photograph by brother Rob.

September 30, 2021

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