NEW YORK – Jane Jacobs, an author and community activist of singular influence whose classic "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" transformed ideas about urban planning died Tuesday, her publisher said. Jacobs, a longtime resident of Toronto, was 89.
Jacobs died Tuesday morning, according to Random House publicist Sally Marvin, who did not give a cause of death.
A native of Scranton, Pa., Jacobs lived for many years in New York before moving to Toronto in the late 1960s. She and her husband, architect Robert Jacobs Jr., were unhappy their taxes were supporting the Vietnam War and they eventually made Canada their permanent home. Robert Jacobs died in 1996.
Her impact transcended borders. Basing her findings on deep, eclectic reading and firsthand observation, Jacobs challenged assumptions she believed damaged modern cities -- that neighborhoods should be isolated from each other, that an empty street was safer than a crowded one, that the car represented progress over the pedestrian.
Her priorities were for integrated, manageable communities, for diversity of people, transportation, architecture and commerce. She also believed that economies need to be self-sustaining and self-renewing, relying on local initiative instead of centralized bureaucracies.
"Death and Life," published in 1961, evolved from opposing the standards of the time to becoming a standard itself. It was taught in urban studies classes throughout North America and sold more than half a million copies. City planners in New York and Toronto were among those who cited its importance and her book became an essential text for "New Urban" communities such as Hercules, Calif., and Civano, Ariz.
Jacobs also received a number of prizes, including a lifetime achievement award in 2000 from the National Building Foundation in Washington, D.C.