Perpetual construction zones, fenced in job sites, holes in the ground that appear and are then camouflaged by structures of grand, modern magnitude; in an age of dilapidated structures and urban visions, urban development is constantly intertwined within the carnations of what can be and what was. But within these visions of progressive creation, there is a loss of days of old, of what was. (Re)Construction within the confines of urban environments is a relevant, debatable, and often contested utilization of resources by parties with goals and missions of their own. Whose opinions matter more when someone’s life or property is in direct conflict with what is believed to be the “public interest”?
One of the more notorious figures of this type of urban reclamation is Robert Moses, a metropolitan planner who utilized eminent domain to create his visions of what he believed to be the most practical use of land. Eminent domain is a tool that “…allows governments to take land at the fair market value if there is a greater good that needs to be served”(Younkain 2009, 10). Moses is recognized as one of the fathers of efficient automobile transportation prior the popularity of automobiles in the United States because of his vision to make the transportation system better. What he is most recognized for is the projects he created, the bridges and tunnels connecting the boroughs and the highway systems, at the cost of land that housed thousands of families for many years. His notoriety came from the fact that “Practically everything he built meant that something needed to be destroyed first” (Younkain 2009, 10). This idea resonates with me because Moses accomplished his goals at all costs, sacrificing whatever necessary to complete the projects he imagined and was able to do this at the expense of the population. What would the world look like with planners like Robert Moses creating city, suburban, or redevelopment plans? With the checks and balances in place now, I am glad to say that question will most likely not be answered.
Looking to the Rutgers New Brunswick community one can find immediate, fruitful locations to discuss the positive or negative opinions that redevelopment has to offer on a continuously growing community in a town rich in history. One such location that offers clashing opinions is that of the Scott Hall bus stop which, up until last year, was previously a parking lot that was also the hub of multiple food trucks. As a location orientated in providing entertainment and comfort to College Avenue residents, the location in it of itself created a legacy that continued and perpetuated the social story that is “New Brunswick College Student”. While presented as a local novelty, the importance of this place in this objectively significant space is easy to recognize because of its proximity to the Rutgers Campus, a characteristic that is both finite and a commodity. The use of this space by the city and the institution supersede that of what was once there, a parking lot and a centralized location to sell food. Once the different utilizations of that land is contrasted, a larger picture is created that gives credence to why the land was procured and is being developed the way that it is: there are jobs being created to create a modern structure and what was once a single lot is going to be a residence to live and to spend. The contestation of losing its original significance to Rutgers students is outweighed by the more efficient uses of that specific plot of land. In densely populated areas like New Brunswick, where such a large population lives, it makes sense when planners and developers want to maximize the use of areas with as much foot traffic as this location and while I am not here to compare the displacement of thousands of people to the loss of a central grease truck location, I am trying to say that proximity and location are major proponents in how land can be used.
Younkain, Kara; Carrion, Carlos; Lu, Jack. Case Study 3: Robert Moses- The Master Builder. October, 2009. http://nexus.umn.edu/Courses/Cases/CE5212/F2009/CS3/cs3.pdf