The problems presented by new planning for towns and cities and regions are so numerous, so complex, so intricately interlaced with all the other problems of our modern life, that to attempt even so much as to catalogue them would prove a difficult task for the technical town planner and the result would be nothing to the layman but a dismay and a hopeless horror. Being myself a layman and not a town planner, for the purposes of this paper I shall select but a very few of the problems that at this time may interest both the technician and the layman, and in discussing them confine myself to the experience, realized and impending, of Radburn. I indulge the hope that in the discussion to follow light may be thrown upon these and related problems from the experience gained in other places.
It seems necessary, therefore, since I am to draw upon Radburn for illustrations of the few problems I am to outline, to give in a few words the setting of the Radburn scene.
Radburn we call the town planned for the motor age. It is a town only in the sense that it is, or will be, an urban community. Politically, it is a part of the Borough of Fair Lawn, in Bergen County, New Jersey. Geographically, it lies within the North Jersey sector of the metropolitan region of New York, quite near the industrial cities of Paterson and Passaic, the residential city of Hackensack and the suburban town of Ridgewood. Topographically, it is situated on rolling land within sight of distant hills, and lies from fifty to a hundred and more feet above sea level. Historically, it has been the home for nearly three centuries of a sturdy folk of Dutch origin, the influence of the Hollanders having been kept fresh in each generation by new immigration from the Netherlands, and two of the principal fixed highways which we found ready-made to our hand in Radburn are plainly to be seen on the maps prepared for General Washington by the geographer of the Continental Armies. Socially, the background has been entirely agricultural, the community life finding its home in the Grange Hall, the accepted standards being highly individualistic and the contacts with New York very largely only through the economic nexus of Gansevoort Market.
The historical and social background is of little account in considering our present problems, except for the prime fact that it is responsible for the wide expanse of farms cut only by a few widely separated narrow roads, leaving this tract here, within fourteen miles of Times Square by air line; within seventeen miles of the Jersey City Terminal of the Erie by railroad, and within ten miles of the Jersey end of the new Hudson River Bridge, a virgin territory upon which a new town plan might be laid with a minimum of difficulty in adjusting the scheme to existing streets and structures.
This, then, was the site selected by City Housing Corporation upon which to build its new town planned for the motor age. It is unnecessary here, I am sure, to say that City Housing Corporation is a limited-dividend company formed five years ago by Alexander M. Bing and a group of associates for the purpose of building better homes and better communities, or that its first experiment at Sunnyside Gardens in Long Island has proved a success. Mr. Bing, his associates and his advisers, were, I believe, inspired by the example of the garden cities of England and desired to do something looking in that direction within the New York region. Here the permanent agricultural belt was not practicable and Radburn is not to be, in the strict sense, a garden city.
Radburn will occupy the lands purchased by the City Housing Corporation, two square miles; and probably will extend in influence if not in precise pattern to the adjacent lands owned by others. It is to be a city of from 25,000 to 30,000 people.
So the scene is set.
The persons of the drama have been assembled by City Housing Corporation. Responsible for the enterprise, its financing and its major decisions, are Mr. Bing and the Board of Directors. Clarence S. Stein and Henry Wright, architects associated, are the town planners. They have had as consultants Frederick L. Ackerman, Robert D. Kohn, and Thomas Adams. To carry the whole into execution the City Housing Corporation has its own staff of administrators, construction executives, engineers, lawyers, and the like. Many experts in the field of municipal government, recreation, health, education, and so on have been consulted. To attempt to apportion among so many the responsibility for particular features of the plan, physical or community, is not within the scope of this paper.
From amongst the maze of problems presented in Radburn or encountered there, I shall select but three to talk with you about. First, the street and park pattern; second, the division of the town with respect to use, residential, commercial, and industrial; and third, the governance of the town and its community organization. No one of these can be exhausted nor all of its implications considered: I shall give but the bare bones.