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Ms. Jacobs's Neighborhood

Life continues (only with celebrities) on Jane Jacobs's model block.

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Jane Jacobs, who died last week, was able to stop the West Village from becoming an expressway by explaining how a street’s “ballet” of shopkeepers and stoop-sitters was the heart of city life. Her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was largely an argument by microcosm, based on what made her own block—Hudson between Perry and West 11th—such an exemplary urban street. So how have 45 years treated the “marvelous order” she extolled? Well, lately residents are “having more babies,” says Fran DeMastri, a veteran daytime bartender at Jacobs’s old haunt, the White Horse Tavern. (Bars keep the street “reasonably populated until three in the morning and . . . always a safe street to come home to,” Jacobs wrote.) Neighbors who may not know their local “fruit man,” as Jacobs did, keep tabs on nearby celebs. Sitting at the White Horse at noon, executive recruiter John Carreras replaces Jacobs’s survey of longshoremen and tailors with a tally of nearby names: Lou Reed, Julianne Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Stipe, Hilary Swank . . . His neighbor at the bar, pausing before the first bite of a tempting burger, barks, “The owner of Virgin airlines has a building here somewhere!”


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