New Brunswick Redevelopment
Interview with Henry Cobb
Cobb: You know you sent me this, and I . . .
Listokin: It was sent electronically and, again, it's almost, we're really not following this, and there isn't that question.
Cobb: I understand.
Listokin: And different people had different involvements at different points.
Cobb: Well, our involvement with New Brunswick, as opposed to . . .
Listokin: So, I guess maybe if you could just, just . . .
Cobb: By the way, let me, would you like some water? You might just bring a few bottles.
Berkhout: Sure that would be great, thank you. Okay, let's see. I think this will work.
Listokin: I should take a quick look. Actually this is vintage thing.
Berkhout: Is it?
Listokin: The New Brunswick plan from 1925.
Berkhout: Wow. Do we have one of those?
Listokin: No. I do want to get a copy of it.
Berkhout: 1925. Herbert Swan. I've heard of that.
Listokin: See, I've seen some things, but they were much later, you know, like, it was well into the fifties and early sixties. Thea, do you have a card you can . . .
Berkhout: Yes I do. It's here.
Listokin: I'm running out of my initial . . .I have to get some new business cards.
Berkhout: Yeah, we can finally get the correct logo.
Listokin: The correct . . .
Berkhout: Okay, thank you.
Cobb: This is all such ancient history that the techniques that we used in those days are all obsolete now. The question is, is there an outlet – we have so many outlets and we . . .
Listokin: I remember the overheads and equivalent technology . . .
Berkhout: Oh I see. Wow that's great having that technology.
Cobb: Okay. In case we want to look through. So are you going to be?
Berkhout: I don't have to move once I know where you're sitting, I'm just going to put this on.
Cobb: I see. You're going to join us over here. So where would you like me to be. If I want to show – I mean, I don't . . .
Berkhout: If these would project up there.
Cobb: No, they're just . . .
Listokin: I think you just put it here and it kind of projects.
Cobb: It's just to be able to see things.
Berkhout: Oh I see it's like a light table.
Cobb: These won't come out on your film but . . .
Cobb: It may help for the discussion.
Cobb: I don't know. So are you both going to be here?
Listokin: Yeah. Thea, maybe we should both be here.
Berkhout: Wait, I'll just put this on while you're sitting.
Cobb: Is this all sound?
Listokin: And maybe at a later point maybe we can get copies of this.
Listokin: I'm impressed your filing and retention system. This goes back quite a ways.
Cobb: It really does. This came out of the warehouse.
Listokin: This goes back here forever.
Cobb: Well – if you're – I can . . .
Berkhout: All right. So the only thing . . .
Cobb: This is going to be a conversation, right?
Berkhout: A conversation. The only other thing we're asking, and this is just so you know that you know that we're recording you and it's being used for scholarly purposes.
Listokin: So, I guess jumping ahead ultimately we'll be talking to about 30 people and everything has been recorded both sound and visual. That would be available in the Rutgers historical archives, and then we'd like to bring together some of the highlights of these discussions in some visual presentation that may be made available from J&J or the New Brunswick Public Library, etc.
Cobb: I see. And who are some of the people that you've talked to that I might know back . . .
Berkhout: John Heldrich.
Berkhout: He was the J&J person, vice president, who Dick Sellars put in charge of the . . .
Cobb: Of New Brunswick Tomorrow.
Berkhout: The New Brunswick Tomorrow. Three different mayors. Pat Sheehan, John Lynch, and the current mayor James Cahill. We've spoken with Eric Krebs who was the developer of . . .
Listokin: Cultural Center
Berkhout: Arts, the cultural theater. He's founded some theaters in New Brunswick, and helped to revitalize what became the Cultural Center area. A few Rutgers people, Kenneth Wheeler who Ed Bloustein who was then the president designated as the Rutgers liaison to New Brunswick. Bob Campbell, who was another vice president at J&J who was also involved in the hospital boards.
Listokin: People involved with New Brunswick Tomorrow and then the New Brunswick Development Corporation.
Berkhout: Previous directors of Devco, city administrators, Tony Marchetta, whom we just talked to yesterday, was an assistant city administrator when the project was being developed.
Cobb: The only person I clearly recognize, recall, is John Heldrich.
Berkhout: We tried speaking with Leo Molinaro, he was with American Cities Corporation who developed the first feasibility study for J&J, but his wife has been ill and we haven't been able to see him, but, and Dick Sellars apparently is not well and we haven't been able to speak with him.
Listokin: And there are, roughly about ten more people that we're trying to. Also we spoke to . . .
Cobb: Have you talked to Jim Burke?
Berkhout: No. He also is not available. I think he has Alzheimer's and . . .
Cobb: Oh my goodness. Really?
Berkhout: Not able to speak with him.
Cobb: What a tragedy. He was such a bright man.
Berkhout: Yes, right. Dick Sellars and Jim Burke were two people we would have liked speaking with, but they're not well.
Cobb: Okay. So – if I'm rambling too much just stop me. Our involvement with New Brunswick began with our engagement by J&J to do a master plan for their new headquarters. And at that time Dick Sellars was the chairman, and Dick Sellars was also the mainspring behind New Brunswick Tomorrow, I guess, at that point.
Cobb: And, more or less simultaneously, with doing the work for J&J we were asked to do a sort of framework plan for downtown New Brunswick for New Brunswick Tomorrow. And, of course, we clearly recognized that these were two different plans, but at the same time the sponsorship of J&J was so essential to New Brunswick Tomorrow, and we had been in other situations where we had done corporate headquarters and a corporate client has wanted to place, which I think is a very responsible thing to do, to place their headquarters in the context of a larger plan. I think it is a responsible thing to do. It almost always exposes us and the corporate client to suspicion of manipulation and, you know, it's all being – strings are being pulled from the corporate center, so to speak, even though it's a separate enterprise. We regard it as a completely separate enterprise. We didn't have any contact with Johnson & Johnson with regard to the work for New Brunswick Tomorrow because Heldrich was the chairman of it, but the people we dealt with and the people we were reporting to were community, not Johnson & Johnson people. So there were parallel efforts. Obviously they were interactive in a certain sense.
The work for New Brunswick Tomorrow was in two phases. All of this I'm telling you not from direct recollection, but because I've looked through the files. We did the first study in the first half of '76, and the second study was in the first half of '77. That study led to our design for something called Commercial Plaza, which I guess still exists. The first building of Commercial Plaza, I don't know whether other buildings were subsequently built. I don't know what happened to George Street in the intervening quarter century, but of course George Street was intended to be the centerpiece of the regeneration of downtown New Brunswick, and as such we hoped would recover a strong retail activity together with commercial, cultural, and so on. I don't know if there were cultural projects being talked about. I don't whether any have subsequently happened.
Listokin: Actually, if you like, I could give you like a 30 second – so, Commercial Plaza was the first, and then there was another office building then built next to it. And then for a while that was a bit of an island with sort of the old, you know, George Street not doing very well with the retail corridor. But over time that, you know, that changed. The George Street strengthened and it was retail, and then in time they brought in some, you know, national retailers, Radio Shack, etc. They beautified the area. Gas lamps, planters, etc. And then two blocks from Commercial Plaza, in fact, developed a very, very, very strong cultural concentration of three theaters. The old movie theater, the State . . .
Cobb: The block east of Commercial Plaza?
Listokin: Yes, yes, yes. So the State Theater, which had been from the vaudelville era, a movie theater, is now a performing arts center. And then there was a George Street Playhouse, again, a regional theater. That was in the YMCA. It was adaptively reused for a theater. There was yet another theater, and that became very, very, very key. So Commercial Plaza, in fact, became an anchor there, and especially as it got linked to the performing arts, which then drew in high end restaurants, etc. So I just wanted . . .
Cobb: So it did – so, with Rutgers at one end and the performing arts at the other there is a certain energy in George Street? And the retail did come back to some extent?
Berkhout: Somewhat. We had many more good restaurants than we have any decent retail.
Cobb: What about the housing – the Hiram?
Berkhout: Well that whole area was completely redeveloped.
Cobb: It was? In the housing?
Berkhout: There are townhouses, condos, and apartments, and that actually has done quite well. It took a while.
Listokin: Even thought it took – it took 20 years of really the nonresidential development and some of the cultural development before – and of course the world changed, you know, now downtown housing and mixed use is – people are very comfortable with that and seek that in fact. So that . . .
Cobb: The timing was good in that.
Listokin: Some of the old urban renewal cleared land you're now getting market priced housing. Interestingly, they initially tried housing for ownership, thinking you would have a more stable group. That was too soon. Then they started building rental. And rental rented up quite quickly, because people were just making the year commitment. So now there is a quite strong housing market. Of course, we're in a challenged real estate climate, but it was, the other thing that happened . . .
Berkhout: In addition, Rutgers built buildings downtown. So beyond the State Theater is our building. In fact the School of Planning and Public Policy . . .
Cobb: Oh. So Rutgers built buildings at the other end of George Street as well?
Berkhout: Well, it's around the corner. At the end of George Street where the State Theater is and the Commercial Plaza, between those is now a large conference center hotel, where there used to be the Roger Williams Hotel. They took that down. The whole block is now a large conference center hotel, and then across from the street from them up Livingston where we are, we're a block up from George Street. We're the School of Planning and Public Policy and the Mason Gross School of the Arts from Rutgers share a building. And Rutgers also built a large residence hall right across the street, New Street, from Commercial Plaza. So a lot more has happened.
Cobb: Well let me just go back to what we thought we were doing. What we actually did. We – I don't know how much you know about our practice, but in the '60s we were quite active in urban renewal around the country. Because in the '50s we had actually been – our firm began as the architectural division of a real estate company, William Zeckendorf's real estate company, and he was one of the first people to recognize the potential of urban renewal and got us involved in a number of projects like, for example, Kips Bay here in New York and Society Hill in Philadelphia, which you may know about. And as a result of that experience, when we separated from Zeckendorf and became I.M. Pei Partners, a separate firm, because we were one of the few architects who had experience in urban renewal, albeit for a developer, we were engaged by a number of cities to do urban renewal plans: Boston, my home town, was one. We did the Government Center plan. Cleveland, the Erie View plan, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Bunker Hill, we did a number of urban renewal plans. And by the end of the '60s, we were very much aware of the, I would say, more of the short comings of urban renewal than of its accomplishments. The way one often is. We were very much aware, for example, of the sort of fatal flaw in the urban renewal planning process, which tended to over proscribe renewal through the medium of illustrative site plans, which then sort of, in effect, the phrase I like to do, is stretch one mind across many acres, which is a fatal thing to do in cities. And the reason I'm mentioning that is by the time we became engaged in New Brunswick, we were very much aware of that problem, and very anxious to avoid that problem. In other words, we saw ourselves as planners helping to develop a strategy for renewal, but eager to avoid prescribing too much, and that our work for New Brunswick Tomorrow was very much strategic. That's probably why there isn't a good deal of record of it, because it was – I mean these transparencies, which we used in presentations to the community, are essentially all I have, and if you look at them you'll see that they are all focused on sort of strategy, the framework plan. And so at the same time, of course, we were doing an architectural design for a major campus for Johnson & Johnson, which is sort of the other end of the spectrum of our practice, which did embrace a wide range of building types already at that time, but also had this planning component. We were very active in planning in the '60s, pretty much up until 1980. We haven't, in recent times been any near as active in planning, and one of the reasons, of course, is that the whole, shall I say, the planning profession and the whole idea about what planning is has been in disarray for a long time; maybe a healthy disarray with, of course, a much greater emphasis on local community input and this kind of thing. And that was already, I mean, there was already – because, after all, this was the mid-70s after the cultural revolution of the late 60s, and so, as I mentioned, when I go back through the file, I can already find evidence in letters of people who were suspicious of us and Johnson & Johnson, and thinking that we were simply the tools of a corporate initiative. We took great care, however, to separate the two so I'm – I think that there is no doubt – I mean Johnson & Johnson was trying to be a good citizen. The decision to stay in New Brunswick and expand in New Brunswick was – it was a very – it certainly took a lot of debate within Johnson & Johnson. They almost went to the suburbs.
Listokin: And going against the current at that time.
Cobb: So – but, of course, their decision to stay in New Brunswick, and specifically to acquire that site on the – between Albany and the railroad tracks – already raised issues that at that time were just in their inception, but now would have been taken much more seriously. I mean that zone was a very run down area, and certainly fit into the definition of . . .
Cobb: Of a candidate for slum clearance, so-called. But it was also was the oldest area in New Brunswick, and had in it, I still have in my files a letter from Elizabeth Moynahan begging Johnson & Johnson to preserve a tunnel used by a brewery, and I don't know whether you know about it. There was on that site an old tavern, and there was some kind of historic tunnel. Now, today, I think – it was right in the middle of the J&J property so it – it proved to be impossible. But today, I think, it might have been a deal breaker – that kind of thing because so much more attention is being paid to, not just visible but invisible historic artifacts.
Anyway, we were embarked on this kind of dual assignment, and as it happened I was the sort of designated partner in charge of both of the change in headquarters and the – but the staff involvement was quite different. Quite separate. But I was the principal responsible for both efforts, and now just a little bit, I don't know whether you know this document, but . . .
Berkhout: I've heard of it. I have not seen it.
Cobb: I urge you – I discovered this somehow. I discovered the original and I made a copy, I don't know whether the original exists in New Brunswick.
Berkhout: So maybe it's in the New Brunswick Library archive.
Cobb: I'm sure it exists. Anyway the reason, I was totally enchanted with this, because you have to remember we were coming out the 60s and out of the era of urban renewal, and suddenly I came across this plan made by a man named Herbert Swan who was quite a well known planner.
Cobb: 1920s and 30s. And his approach to planning was exactly what we had in mind, but in a very sensitive to – not at all sort of tabula rasa, wipe everything clean, but very much about going in and making very limited surgical kind of – and very much, very civically oriented. Very much about the quality of urban space and streetscape and this kind of thing. So the reason I copied this – and I haven't read it for a good many years – was because I thought of it as a kind of a wonderful model, which I hadn't known existed for how to deal with a city like New Brunswick. And I also saw it as an emblem of something, maybe a lesson that my generation failed to learn in our enthusiasm for wiping the slate clean. So, this actually influenced our thinking.
Now the scope of our study, I found one document, which I could copy for you. It's evidently a report that I made quite early in our study. I don't have any of illustrations that accompany it, but oddly enough it's a fairly good outline of what we were thinking about New Brunswick, and, you know, I could copy that for you if you want.
Berkhout: That would be great.
Cobb: The purpose of this report, which was evidently made in a talk of some kind, I can't remember, is to "report on our appraisal of downtown and to define the broad outlines of a strategy for future development." So, then, part I was the appraisal, which was the assets: "The compactness in the downtown; proximity of residential areas; proximity of major educational institutions; presence of J&J; presence of county offices; topography; river and canals; slope from George Street to the river; very positive in our view. Attractive 19th century buildings and sites. Sense of history."And finally "George Street, tradition of retail, attractive scale, elevated position on the ground."
And then liabilities. Now of all this was very early in our study, but "Liabilities: image of decline especially in the retail area; derelict state of east side of Hiram Street to Bayard; proximity of ugly crime-ridden public housing; too many vacant buildings and vacant sites; fragmentation; traffic congestion; inadequate access, circulation, and parking. Any development strategy for the future must be based on a concept for circulation on parking, which will eliminate existing inadequacies. We therefore begin with a discussion of this problem."
At that time we were working with a wonderful traffic consultant, actually the best I've ever had the privilege of working with, unfortunately he died recently, Warren Travers, who was based in Clifton, New Jersey, and worked with us for many years. A terrific traffic consultant and he then gave his report. Then I came back and described a development strategy as it was emerging: "Based on the circulation concept we can now define the desirable character of major streets in the downtown, (a) George Street. Retain existing scale, improve conditions for pedestrians, reduce through traffic, strengthen the retail spine. Albany Street. Widen. Landscape to create a boulevard image." As you can see that was important to us because it was within our power to do that, and that's what led to our treatment of Albany Street between George and the river, which I regarded as one of the better pieces of urban design that we've done. I hope it's still in good condition.
Berkhout: It is.
Cobb: "Livingston. Retain and strengthen the boulevard image." Then "The rib streets, Church, Paterson, Bayard. Retain existing scale. Strengthen activities at street level. Hiram Street. Local access traffic only. Build image based on church buildings and churchyards. George Street. Is and must remain central to any downtown development plan. Should be strengthened by four basic strategic concepts: 1) Infill development along George Street and along the rib block. 2) Major multipurpose development on polar sites at north and south ends of George Street." Obviously that's happened.
Listokin: The two anchors, yeah.
Cobb: "3) Downtown residential development on east flank, Hiram Street district. 4) Civic Center development on west flank, north to the railroad." I don't whether that is . . .
Berkhout: Yeah, the courthouses, those were all, that whole area was re-done.
Cobb: And "5) Intercept parking directly accessible from perimeter circulation routes." I don't know whether that's happened or not.
Berkhout: Parking decks have been built.
Listokin: You know, not really into intercept kind of parking.
Cobb: Anyway that's sort of interesting because . . .
Listokin: Actually it's a very smart growth plan.
Cobb: It's an autograph document.
Berkhout: That's great.
Cobb: And it describes exactly what we were thinking on the 11th of March 1976. If you want a copy.
Berkhout: Yeah, definitely.
Listokin: We would love to get copies of all of this.
Cobb: Now, in June of '76, we presented this report, and it's interesting that this report contains no illustrations, and that is kind of a reflection of our rejection of what we regarded as an over-prescriptive illustrative planning. So, we did it all in words. I don't know whether you have this, but I can also give you.
Listokin: No, no actually these are all important documents, and that . . ..
Cobb: And that does include . . .
Berkhout: Travers Associates.
Cobb: That's a fairly comprehensive document.
Berkhout: I would say of all the things that New Brunswick has done, they've done the least amount on traffic, unfortunately.
Cobb: Well Route 18 improvement was the subject of a lot of debate.
Berkhout: That was completed. And that was completed, and, in fact, they just completed more of it now. For about 30 years they had plans to complete it through New Brunswick, widen it, and they've actually done a good job of that. It's almost finished.
Listokin: But the transit access is much – has become a real key attraction.
Cobb: The what?
Listokin: The transit access.
Cobb: Transit, I see. And how is that working?
Listokin: Well they're now talking about transit-oriented development. You know, and, in fact, the nonresidential sector in terms of office development in part came about because people recognized being within in five minutes of a main station on the main line on the east coast, the train station was a very attractive place to be. But of course that took – that's more within the last ten years that that's better appreciated.
Cobb: So people commute to both Philadelphia and New York from New Brunswick.
Listokin: Yes, it's well located that way.
Berkhout: It's interesting – College Avenue, finally, there was work done on closing down College Avenue to make it become pedestrian mall. It's not complete yet, but some changes are being made now to make it become a much more pedestrian or maybe transit only, bus rapid transit area. So – thirty years later some of these things are finally happening.
Cobb: Right. Now I don't know whether you have these documents, but I could also give you . . .
Listokin: It would be good to get all these documents.
Cobb: The contractural documents related to both phases of our work.
Berkhout: Sure. Now, that I've seen before – the New Brunswick Tomorrow map. Do you have that David?
Listokin: No. I think we should get copies of all of this. They may – they may. So I would say if we could just pay for this to be copied that would be, including that old 1920s plan.
Cobb: Oh really. But this – now you should get the original. It must exist. Because this – it won't copy well. This was not copied well to begin with.
Listokin: If we could just pay for copying the file. That would be . . .
Cobb: Oh here it says personal property Kathleen Turner, Oakmont, 17 Oakmont Avenue, East Brunswick, New Jersey. I must have given it back to her.
Listokin: Including your presentation notes. That would be.
Cobb: Yeah, that's sort of, because that's . . .
Listokin: We're not going to get it anywhere else.
Cobb: Then, I mean, I can't tell you what in these days before – we didn't like slides because you couldn't tell a story with slides, and we didn't have Power Point, which, of course, is terrific for telling a story. So what we did, we tended to do was this sort of thing. We'd start with an image, and then we might put this over it, and then we would probably take this away and start with the overlays, which – that was J&J's existing headquarters. And I can't tell you, so then, yeah, we always oriented this emphasized so that was – see this is related to this – infill retail.
Berkhout: Housing community center.
Cobb: That's Commercial Plaza, community center, J&J, the boulevard hotel, which was already being talked about. Housing. And then . . .
Berkhout: Residential, yeah.
Cobb: Residential. Now the Cultural Center, which is where . . .
Berkhout: It's right here along Livingston Avenue, and our building is right at this corner. The school, and this is where the Heldrich is.
Cobb: What's that?
Listokin: That's a large, multi-use building. It's a hotel, it's offices . . .
Berkhout: A conference center, restaurants, and retail.
Cobb: I see.
Berkhout: Right. And it was named after John Heldrich.
Cobb: That's interesting. How old is John Heldrich now?
Berkhout: John is in his later eighties, mid-eighties, I guess, eighty-five or eighty-six, and still very sharp and we had a nice interview with him to begin this.
Cobb: It's really a shame about Jim Burke. Jim Burke was one of the best clients we ever had. He was so sharp, and it's tragic to think that he has Alzheimers. [ . . .] He and Dick Sellars were very different people.
Cobb: And our work for Johnson & Johnson began under Dick Sellars and continued under Jim Burke, and Dick Sellars sort of thought J&J headquarters in monumental terms. I mean he wanted a skyscraper, originally that's what he wanted, was a skyscraper. We sort of talked him out of that because we—well, there were a whole of practical reasons, but also we wanted to engage this property on a scale that seemed sympathetic to downtown New Brunswick. And we didn't want it, I mean our, the phrase that I used, it's a building in a park, and a park in a city – so we wanted people to feel that they were passing by a park not just a corporate headquarters. And I think that – I mean it's really grown up amazingly. So – but when Jim Burke came in, his view about an appropriate posture for J&J in New Brunswick was the exact opposite [of Sellars' view]. He actually would have preferred to have no tower. I mean, we have a very slender tower. He said to me several times, and if he had it to do it over he would have had no tower, but it was, you know, in – but he was very . . .
Listokin: Just more low rise structures?
Cobb: Yeah, yeah. I think the tower actually works as a kind of – without . . .without being too dominant, it's kind of – I think it's appropriate to the scale of the city. [ . . .]. And [Jim Burke] was so smart. So, and very focused even though, you know, as a chairman, you don't get to see the chairman very often, but when you saw him he was very focused. So this started with the circulation, and this was I guess the idea about the parking.
Listokin: The intercept parking.
Cobb: The intercept parking. Of course this is the J&J parking, which is – has that happened? I don't think so. Is there parking there?
Berkhout: Where is this?
Listokin: You really have smaller parking garages.
Berkhout: There's parking over here. There's parking there. There's the Ferren Deck, which is right across from the train station, which would be over here.
Cobb: Well, obviously we were advocating to get people . . .
Berkhout: And that's Church Street Parking. There's a deck on Church Street. So it's in further, I think.
Listokin: But it's not the intercept parking concept. It is this intercept, and then, you know . . .
Cobb: I think this might have been the first one and this might have been the second one, because here this was more about tackling. In the second – oh, I'll come back to that. And the two now, so this was mixed use, so we did have that idea. I think this – that that was what was there. So those are the ideas that are expressed in here. It's pretty clear plan, and again, very much about . . .
Listokin: I'm struck how much contemporary planning things – this would be a very comfortable, you know – less auto use. Mixed use. Neighborhood scale.
Cobb: So and again we were trying to avoid getting involved with . . .
Listokin: The old prescription that you were referring to.
Cobb: Over prescription, yeah, yeah, so that's why this is – and I think this must be the second phase, because here it's more strategic, more of – and what we did in the second phase.
Listokin: I'm impressed how good your files are.
Cobb: They're not – they're not very good.
Listokin: So, now it would all be electronic and then deleted.
Cobb: That's right. Yeah, yeah. I think, well, I don't know –I think there's another document that might be relevant, but I don't have it with me here, that discusses our concern, in fact, I think I'll try to find it if you'll give me a minute, because we were very much concerned about the fact that New Brunswick had had a series of sort of failed planning efforts, failed renewal efforts, and we didn't want to add to another – to the pile of failed plans so that's why we were emphasizing strategy, small steps that are realizable and so on. I would like to get that.
Listokin: I would just make copies of this and the slides and whatever it costs, it costs.
Berkhout: I don't know if we can, well maybe we can, I can also take the video camera down maybe.
Listokin: Okay. The thing is it's going to be lost without the – you know.
Berkhout: Yes. Yeah, I don't know how you can do that anymore.
Listokin: Yeah, but I would say that's a key document. You know if it costs two or three hundred bucks.
Berkhout: Right. It could be done on the transparencies.
Listokin: And then I would do, and may talk about later down the road, you have the plan and now you would say what's there, and that's a wonderful way of looking at it.
Berkhout: Uh-huh. Now it's possible Devco has this. Has a copy of it.
Listokin: Yeah, but I always assume, you know, better to have redundancy, you know . . .
Berkhout: Right. That's interesting the transportation. Have you ever heard of this person?
Berkhout: My pen is leaking. "The New Brunswick Study."
Listokin: Again, I would – we want a copy of everything. This is . . .
Berkhout: Yeah. To Abraham Wallach.
Listokin: See these are nuances that we're getting. This is an important interview.
Berkhout: Right. Do we have a copy of Leo Molinaro's?
Listokin: I have like what is it Meyers and Shiff's, but I don't have a copy of . . .
Berkhout: So when was that done?
Listokin: That was done, I think, a little after, a little after, after this, and then you would think that they incorporated some of this, but you need all of the things And then I recall seeing, I forget where it was, when I was in the New Brunswick library archives or the Rutgers archives, you know, some kind of classic urban renewal plans of the 50s, back then.
Berkhout: Right. So who started the urban renewal initiative?
Listokin: Well the urban renewal, it's interesting, I'm going to share something with him. It started officially in 1949, but it was interesting how—it was originally called in '49, actually urban redevelopment, and then I'm going to share it with him because I think it would be an interesting tidbit, and that was sort of the classic, you redevelop, you just get rid of the old thing. Then there was Rouse from the Rouse Company who did the – . He headed a commission in fifty-three, which said we need a retuning of urban redevelopment, and he came up with a lot of contemporary things. We need some renewal not just redevelopment. We need large scale planning. We need planning, etc. They then changed the name of the program to renewal from urban redevelopment, but what happened was that the imprint had been established already, and it was easier to sort of redevelop than it was to renew. People don't forget. Since Rouse was saying in order to renew you need to plan so in the '54 housing act they then came up with this section 701, which gave federal monies to subsidize planning. And in fact, the planning profession then began to take off, because now you were getting, but it was an interesting – that's not how, I was involved in the study looking at the 50th anniversary of urban renewal.
Berkhout: I see.
Listokin: And I fortunately then linked up with this attorney who had been at HUD for 50 years, and had all these incredible files, and he was the one, because I came in with sort of this, you know, it was the program from the get go, and he was the one who was, you know, tuning me into this renewal versus redevelopment, which I thought was an interesting. I learned a lot from that. As I said, I'm going to share that with him.
Berkhout: Now when the Ford Foundation set up these urban policy centers, was that part of this emphasis on renewal?
Listokin: I don't think they knew what they were doing.
Berkhout: I see.
Listokin: You know, it was more, we got a problem in urban, and it was viewed more as like sociology, you know? Plus muddled thinking, you know. It was like the origins of CUPR.
Listokin: So that goes back to whatever the urban study center, and then Rutgers . . .
Berkhout: It was '59 I think, right?
Listokin: Right. Rutgers received a million dollars from the Ford Foundation, and then I think they went through $700,000, mostly spent by the sociology department. They then were worried that we hadn't produced anything, and then that's how Sternlieb got brought in. They said, "We're in trouble. Who knows something about urban?" He was in the business school. He had written his dissertation on the future of the downtown department store. So that was kind of the, you know, and they said well he got his degree from the business, Harvard Business School, he's done some urban – he knows something about urban, but it was almost one of these fiascos of we're going to get sued by, and you know, how much money a million dollars was, you know, the early '60s? I mean a lot.
Berkhout: That's amazing. I can turn this off for the time being.
Listokin: I don't know. I've been impressed how trouble free both things have been.
Listokin: I remember recording at earlier points, and you'd be looking if your tape is there, is it on . . .
Berkhout: Right. These are great. And I can download them. And the transcriber has been able to just pick it up.
[First Audiotape Ends]
[Second Audiotape Begins]
Listokin: When the program was first initiated, which was by the 1949 Housing Act?
Listokin: It was called urban redevelopment.
Listokin: And it was pretty much redeveloped. Just get rid of the old, which reflected the thinking in the – at the time. There was a Rouse Commission in 1953 that, which said we need a mid-course correction to do less clearance, more renewal of the existing stock. We need to do it within a framework of planning to understand what makes a place tick, etc. And in fact, in the '54 Housing Act they changed the name of the program from urban redevelopment to urban renewal.
Cobb: I see.
Listokin: It was reflecting renewal rather than redevelopment. Now, of course it didn't play out . . .
Cobb: No that way.
Listokin: With, with – as renewal. The other thing I wanted to share, because you mentioned your firm's involvement with the Society Hill urban renewal in Philadelphia. Urban renewal was usually terrible for historic preservation. In a few places the urban renewal plans, in fact, embodied that, and the Society Hill plan being that. College Hill, you know, in Providence, etc. I point this out to my classes. Within the urban renewal . . .
Cobb: There were pockets . . .
Listokin: Plans that were way ahead of what the contemporary thinking was.
Cobb: Right. Society Hill did have substantial preservation, and we actually wove into Society Hill a series of townhouse squares.
Cobb: Designed to blend with the historic buildings. But it's a . . .
Listokin: But I'm struck again how your plan was really a very, in today's – it's a very contemporary, smart growth plan.
Cobb: Well that's good. A couple of documents that might be of interest. This relates to Route 18, and I don't know whether that's interesting to you or not, but this is New Jersey School of Architecture, faculty and students, wrote to I.M. Pei saying that Route 18 was a disaster and shouldn't be allowed to happen.
Listokin: We would like a copy of all the file and, whoever does it, and whatever it costs, we'll just – it's important to our records, I think. Of course Route 18 had a lingering controversy. The bridge over – the bridge wasn't built for many years because it is yet another controversy.
Cobb: "According to my information, Johnson & Johnson, which practically owns New Brunswick and Middlesex County, is using economic blackmail to force this plan by threatening to move out if the bridge isn't build. Since J&J owns a large facility north on Route 18 a new Raritan bridge and eventual widening of the highway to their doorstep would make it easier for workers from New Brunswick to get to the plant. Of course it would also help make citizens of the area and of this state helpless slaves of the automobile."
Listokin: It's good to be young. There was – you know, there was similar reaction by Rutgers-linked group. So on.
Cobb: So, and this I don't know whether this is of interest to you. This . . .
Listokin: Absolutely. The Hiram Market, yes.
Cobb: It's a MIT student thesis. Is that of interest?
Listokin: It would be.
Berkhout: On Hiram Market, on the Hiram Market development?
Cobb: Well, it's a student thesis at MIT.
Listokin: Hiram Market was a very controversial, and in fact in the end they demolished, you know, what was there. I think it was viewed as it was right next to the hotel that was built, and the, you know, that was one of the sort of black eyes, so to speak.
Cobb: I see.
Listokin: That within a larger context of – could more of the existing stock been preserved. I'm not sure if it's an urban legend, but they said when Rockefeller was considering what are the potential sites with the ultimate winner being Willliamsburg, you know, looking for where was there a concentration of an older housing stock. Supposedly New Brunswick was not on the short list, but was on the initial longer list.
Cobb: Oh really? I see.
Listokin: What would be 50 or 100 communities in which we would consider this.
Cobb: Well, so I don't know why I can't find a particular document I was looking for. But it was a memorandum in which we expressed concern about New Brunswick, I'll try to find it later and send, which we were expressing concern about the city being given yet another plan followed by nothing happening.
Listokin: Which was a sentiment you mentioned earlier. So.
Berkhout: So did you – we heard from John Heldrich that he had taken Mr. Pei up in a helicopter to look over New Brunswick were you part of that survey of the downtown New Brunswick area?
Cobb: I can't recall. I cannot recall. But . . .
Listokin: Further to that, with Mr. Pei then saying this is where the – you know, the cultural facilities, and with much of that then happening, you know, that being realized down the road.
Cobb: I see. Yeah.
Berkhout: Your wife's work is cited in here in the bibliography.
Cobb: Who's work?
Berkhout: His wife.
Cobb: Some early publications.
Berkhout: His wife did a book on the architectural history of New Brunswick, 1681 to 1900.
Cobb: Oh really?
Listokin: But my wife is trained as an architectural historian and she did her dissertation on the architecture of New Brunswick so that was . . .
Cobb: Oh, that's interesting. We should have known that when we – so I don't know, I mean, I've sort of tried to give you a flavor of what we were doing, and . . .
Listokin: You've done that well, and we just getting copies of all of this would be key to our research. If somehow, I know we don't do these things anymore, but that overlay would be a wonderful thing, and then show what happened. So I don't know whether it's possible to make copies of the overlay, and we'll pay you whatever it is on that.
Cobb: I think this is the key one.
Listokin: The key one? Okay.
Cobb: But I don't quite know how . . .
Listokin: No, we don't know ourselves.
Berkhout: I guess it could be done as slides even starting at the – I mean instead of, I don't know how else you would do that.
Listokin: Would you be interested in seeing, like this is sort of the plan, and now if we showed what happened would that be of interest to you?
Cobb: Yeah, because I'm totally, I mean it has literally been 30 years almost. I mean we did our work in '76 and '77. Of course we continued to work on – the J&J headquarters wasn't finished until I think '83. But . . .
Berkhout: Who was the landscape architect you worked with?
Cobb: Laurie Olin.
Berkhout: Oh really? Laurie Olin?
Cobb: He did the landscape for the headquarters, and the boulevard.
Berkhout: I see.
Cobb: There was an interesting, I mean, this might be, the whole thing about Johnson & Johnson's presence and what kind of a presence it should have. There was a debate. There were some people who thought that we should build right on George Street and have ground floor retail and put Johnson & Johnson upstairs, something like that. In the end, we opted for, as I said, the building in the park, the park in the city, and part of that has to do with—you know, J&J, because of their – the business they're in, was very concerned about security. This had nothing to do with terrorism, it was industrialist. And so they were – Jim Burke was very supportive of the park idea, but the reality is that the park couldn't just be flung open to people. And so what we did is we picked up on the Rutgers campus precedent over the low wall with a raised ground level beyond it. It's an interesting thing that when you have a wall, if you raise the ground level beyond it, it reads much less like a wall. You know, a wall is with the ground on both sides is just a wall, but if it's a change of plane and has a different reading then somehow, I think it works, that you – that you're invited to enjoy the park even though you're not in it. And of course there is a public access from one corner, but I don't know whether how public it is.
Listokin: It's really not. It's almost like the privately owned public space in Manhattan in so many places. It's not really – many of those areas are not really publicly enjoyed.
Cobb: Look, but don't touch. Yeah. So it's from that point of view problematic because it really doesn't do anything for George Street, although arguably George Street is long enough in here, if you can get it to come alive in there, that's about from the point of view of pedestrian traffic. That's actually quite a – but still it's . . .
Listokin: I think it's also within the context of its time. I mean when J&J was doing this, the move of corporate was out of cities and all that. So I think, in part, what was done, you know we're not on the street itself, but that was something that was not being done at that time.
Cobb: The main thing that I think J&J did was the boulevard. I think – I'm sorry that the hotel wasn't a better piece of architecture
Berkhout: You mean the Hyatt?
Cobb: Yeah. But . . .
Listokin: I've been asking everyone with the benefit of hindsight, you know, things knowing what we know now and things might have been done differently or, you know, looking back.
Cobb: Well, I don't think – first of all, coming back to my – to the attitude that we brought to this New Brunswick plan, which was an attitude of trying to avoid over-prescribing and trying to make it very strategic that the aspect of that that, I mean, underlying that is a feeling that cities are living organisms and that you intervene in the life of a city at a certain moment and you try to make that intervention positive, but you never – but you don't try to prescribe everything that's going to come out from it. And, so, I think that in those terms, what we tried to do made sense and from what you're telling me seems to have imparted at least been fulfilled over time.
Listokin: Many of them.
Cobb: The key issue for me, which I haven't been there for so long, I can't – I'm really wondering what George Street is like. Is it a nice street? Is it a place that people want to go to?
Listokin: It's nicer. It's getting . . .
Cobb: People think of it as the heart of the . . .
Listokin: It's getting stronger as, I think, until the last maybe eight years or ten years, you had no national retailers, because they just weren't signing leases. That has changed. There is huge competition from the suburban malls so, again, that's a fact of life. In part it's maybe rethinking George Street as, and of course retail now is just a difficult environment. In part, you have restaurants becoming more the on street – draw people in from the region. Unique offerings. Another store doing x,y, and z, which is replicated five times over now.
Cobb: Are there things like art galleries?
Berkhout: No. There is an art gallery in our building that's part of the Mason Gross School of the Arts and the Zimmerli Museum, of course, has expanded tremendously over the past few years, and that's almost, that's catty-corner from the J&J. It's on George Street past the railroad. So those exist. But other galleries don't.
Listokin: And the city did, you know, as far as within what planners do to revitalize an area and so there is a business improvement district. That does promotion. They widened the sidewalk. They – to allow some of the restaurants to have on-street tables, etc. The street lighting was changed, you know, to have electric looking gas lamps. You know there are planters. It's not just plain vanilla concrete, you know, there's some texture to that. So there was a time, if I recall correctly, although I'm getting older I just lose – I think there was a pedestrian mall. Wasn't – again maybe, maybe it was just a portion, and then of course that wasn't . . .
Berkhout: But it's a very narrow street, and there have been issues – there was a study done on putting in a light rail system that would have gone from Route 1 all the way out to Bound Brook that would have gone through the Rutgers campuses, but the issue was what do you do with George Street because it's so narrow, and there is also now bicycle path work going on and George Street is too small. So they are looking at Neilson Street, which is the next street down, but whenever you get then you get to J&J and you have to go around it or you have to go under the railroad trestle. So that's been a bit of an issue, you know, George Street is still where most of the businesses and restaurants are, although there are some off on other streets. But because it's so narrow it has transportation issues in it. There's no longer any parking allowed on it, fortunately. Because when there was parking allowed, there was hardly any way to get through there.
Cobb: But it's two ways.
Berkhout: Yes. It's two-way. And some of the old bank buildings have become other things. You know, those still exist.
Listokin: You know adaptively reused.
Berkhout: And there's some change that came in like Starbucks and there's a Chipotle going into a old, like an old pharmacy building those kinds of things. But it's still, you know there's a Dollar Store. The Woolworth became a Dollar Store or something like that. So there's some not-so-desirable things.
Listokin: And things take a long in terms of redevelopment, you know really, it just takes decades. It took three decades of nonresidential before the housing market opened up. I mean . . .
Cobb: But this area is healthy now?
Berkhout: Yeah, it seems to be.
Listokin: This area is – it is stronger, and in fact you were getting on your renewal lands, you know, housing is being built. Interestingly, often suburban developers who were thwarted by nimbyism, it was just hard to get anything approved anymore, they could come to New Brunswick and then with a cooperative city government in place, you know, a Devco that could do various things, they could approved for, you know, thousands of units in three months, etc. So the developers rethought New Brunswick as a market, almost, so in part there were outside forces that worked with New Brunswick.
Berkhout: At the very end of the Hiram district there is a street that retained the old original buildings, and there's a wonderful, I don't know if it's a five star restaurant, the Frog and the Peach Restaurant was put in down there.
Cobb: Which is at which end?
Berkhout: Way down, closer to the water. Down here. Behind the Hyatt Hotel. And there's also there are two restaurants. They're very good. And a lot of night life down there.
Listokin: In existing older interesting structures.
Berkhout: Right, right.
Listokin: And at the time the city was fighting, they wanted to get rid of these because they wanted to clear it. And again this is a 20/20 hindsight, and then they were very tenacious and they were able to stay, and, in fact, those are the new anchors. You know? It's culture. You know what does a city like New Brunswick offer to a region, it's really – retail is hard, retail is hard. And then it's going to take a lot more residential to provide the onsite market. But the culture became the regional draw, and then the restaurants linked to that.
Cobb: And the university must still be a regional draw.
Berkhout: Yeah, right. And it has grown. I mean there are more students now than before.
Cobb: Do the students use downtown?
Berkhout: More now than they did because there are buildings downtown, and so there's actually now . . .
Cobb: And they go back and forth. So Rutgers has a presence down there?
Berkhout: Yeah, right.
Cobb: That's actually a useful . . .
Listokin: Even though it took a while, and for a while Rutgers was sort of just staying where it was, and where they did some construction, I guess in the sixties, it was on non – they were going away from New Brunswick.
Cobb: Your institute is here, but you're teaching here . . .
Cobb: In that building?
Berkhout: Graduate classes, right.
Listokin: And we share a building with the Mason Gross School which is our, you know, where they're training artists, etc. So what you have there are interesting looking students, you know, with purple hair, but they're there at all hours, so it kind of gives an arty urban flavor in a good way, in a good way.
Berkhout: And the residence hall is a block away.
Listokin: But that's recent within . . .
Berkhout: Right. Only two or three years.
Listokin: Within the last . . .
Cobb: What about the leadership in New Brunswick? Does New Brunswick Tomorrow still exist?
Berkhout: And so does Devco, the development corporation.
Listokin: Both exist. Both have been viewed, at least by some, as a model, you know, also reflecting you need both the social and the development which is sort of in New Brunswick Tomorrow and Devco. Devco has become very successful development entity. And they've become more and more sophisticated.
Cobb: Is it a public benefit corporation? Or is it quasi-public?
Listokin: Yes. Yes. I mean . . .
Cobb: It's separate from New Brunswick Tomorrow?
Berkhout: It does the physical building, planning and building part and . . .
Cobb: And they bring redevelopers in as partners?
Berkhout: Yeah, and you know getting as much public money as possible to, you know, to match whatever projects they're doing. NBT is social services. Right, NBT started I think as sort of both, and then Devco broke out and became the developer.
Listokin: And then over time they became as they started to do bigger and bigger projects, they became more and more sophisticated. They can work with the city in terms of using eminent domain powers, which, of course, has its own controversies now, but nonetheless if you're doing this type of development you often need that. So that's, you know . . .
Cobb: And how is the downtown surviving the current recession?
Berkhout: A few restaurants come and go, you know, a few businesses come and go, but most of the storefronts have something in them, you know, so New Brunswick's also attracted a large Mexican population so there's even now one or two Mexican restaurants on George Street. There's an Ethiopian restaurant, there's a Thai restaurant, there's a Vietnamese restaurant, so it's quite diverse.
Listokin: So that's where, again, the restaurants have somewhat supplemented retail as the type of activity along a spine. The other thing that has happened is the hospitals became huge, both in terms of scale and activities, which happened in many other urban areas. The local hospitals, there's Middlesex General that was adopted by the Robert Wood Foundation, and now it's the Robert Wood Hospital, etc, and that has just grown geometrically, which provides employment, etc. Often in not well designed buildings. When designed they become islands unto themselves. It's almost like the old Atlanta urban renewal where there was no street presence, etc., but the nonetheless it has been important. We will share with you, because again what I want to do is almost use some of your initial concept slides with things today.
Berkhout: What's happened today.
Listokin: We will be happy to share it with you.
Cobb: Well I'll try to get it. I'm not quite sure how I'll do this, but I'll try to get you – well, is it going to have a sequence or just the totality?
Listokin: The sequence is – whatever works for you. I mean . . .
Berkhout: If we can only do the totality that's okay, but if we could get the sequence.
Listokin: I mean even if it was done separately and then totality. Whatever works, whatever works.
Cobb: Okay. I'll see what I can do.
Berkhout: Yeah, and we can keep in touch with Ann I guess, and if she could let us know what – I mean we're happy to pay you for the full cost of the copies.
Listokin: This is an important file in terms of what happened. So if we could just have a copy, and we can come pick it up, you know, we can make whatever – whatever works best for you.
Cobb: Okay. You're not in a big rush? Because it probably will be . . .
Listokin: Whatever works for you.
Berkhout: No big rush.
Berkhout: We've been at this since last June doing interviews and it could go on yet another year before we . . .
Listokin: It's also a chain of interviews, you know.
Cobb: Yeah, I think that this pretty much – this is a fairly thorough . . .
Listokin: That's good. And actually your notes were very helpful.
Cobb: Now that because it gives a flavor of how we actually were presenting ourselves. I'll copy this. And . . .
Listokin: You've been very generous with your time.
Cobb: Well it's interesting. I mean it's not easy to deal with this. Again you're focus is from sixties to seventies?
Listokin: Well and . . .
Berkhout: And subsequent.
Listokin: And also . . .
Cobb: I think you should go back to [Herbert Swan]. Because this is really . . .I mean I haven't read for a long time, but all I remember is . . .it's actually very well written.
Berkhout: It looks like it. Yes I . . .
Cobb: I mean the guy was really . . .
Listokin: I've seen the 1950s sort of standard urban renewal plans, which were not particularly – I mean we were looking at a table of populations I think it was. I want to show that to students and say, you have to be humble when you do these things.
Berkhout: Actually now at 45,000 population.
Cobb: Oh it is. Really?
Cobb: I see. So that's where it was more or less where it was when this was . . .
Listokin: Basically, you then had the depression, so things weren't going that much. The war period of course, and then I guess in the early '50s, you know, was the last sort of stronger period, and then there was the classic change.
Cobb: I mean the thing I liked about it was this sort of tone voice. Like cost of traffic – because so many people writing do – you know planning is so often bureaucratese, this guy says, "Did you ever stop to think how much street congestion costs New Brunswick?" I mean it's a conversational tone. "Only a few years ago there was no such thing as a traffic cop. Today they are patrolling and regulating traffic constitutes a large part of the police force in many cities, and so on."
Listokin: It pulls in – it pulls in.
Berkhout: And his company was in Clifton?
Cobb: This is Herbert Swan. I don't know where –but Herbert Swan, is a guy, he was in New York. He's a person, if I were in the academic world, I think he's a person worth doing something on. I don't know whether anybody has – why don't you get one of your students to do their thesis on him? Because just reading this, it's very compelling. It's very well written. Very thorough, and modest in a way, but – practical, you know. It says something about it.
Listokin: You could learn a lot just going through the many plans that were made in New Brunswick.
Berkhout: You know who might have had it was Don Krueckeberg. Maybe that's where I remember it from.
Cobb: You should try to get there. But you want me to copy this?
Listokin: Please, please.
Berkhout: Yeah, because I don't – we may find it, but since you have it, it would be useful.
Listokin: If the places you think would have it, just because they don't have their act entirely together.
Cobb: Um-hmm. Okay. Well . . .
Listokin: So I once co-taught with I guess Jack Beyer from Beyer, Blinder, Belle and we were teaching a historic preservation course, actually, this was in the Harvard School of Design, so I had been teaching that. It was almost all the students were architects because that's the school of design, and then . . .
Cobb: When was that?
Listokin: Oh must be about, it was a while back – ten, years ago maybe?
Cobb: I chaired the Department of Architecture there for five years in the '80s. But that's later than that.
Listokin: I remember having to make a class more interesting, because I had always taught planners, and then how –how I can make it more interesting to architects, and then, as it turned out, I had a bunch of landscape architects – and then it made me think about how the classic historic preservation land marking – what you allow and not to allow, how does that play out in terms of a landscape setting, and in fact, the classic preservation tools haven't really been thought about very well with landscape as opposed to structures.
Cobb: I mean one of the interesting phenomena of recent years is the resurgence of landscape. The redefinition and expansion of landscaping as a profession, and right, and Laurie Olin, he's done a lot of work with us. I discovered him when he was Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, and when he came back; we were his first clients actually. Now he's one of the major landscape firms in the country.
Berkhout: Right, that's true.
Cobb: And this was his first major project.
Listokin: You had a nose for good talent.
Berkhout: Now you've also done some buildings in Princeton? Correct?
Cobb: Yes. We just finished.
Berkhout: I live in Princeton. My husband is an assistant vice president there. And we used to live on William Street right across from the Friend Center.
Cobb: Oh yes. That was ours – we had three projects in Princeton; one was done in the 70s at the Spellman Hall.
Berkhout: Oh yeah.
Cobb: I.M. Pei did that. The second one is my project for Friend Center.
Cobb: And the third one just finished is my project for Butler College.
Berkhout: Okay. That's right. So do you recall somebody named Donna Ching who did – she's a designer, and she did a lot of work on, you know, I guess, the opening or whatever. Right. Because we also work with Donna.
Cobb: Yes. Because I had a big celebration – at the end of September. That was a major project. It took five years or so.
Berkhout: Wow, that's great.
Cobb: So . . .
Berkhout: Well, we'll see if we can get you to New Brunswick sometime to see what it looks like.
Listokin: Maybe after we do some of the before and after . . .
Berkhout: Get out the information.
Cobb: What are you going to do with all this? I mean what's your thing to produce?
Berkhout: Well, we got some initial funding just to get the, I'd guess you'd say oral history part dealing – talking with the original leaders of the project and others who had been very involved in the redevelopment. But we were hoping to get more funding – whether we would do a publication, whether we would end up with materials for class use, or whether we'd have some kind of exhibit at some point for a visitor's center or whatever on the project, we're not quite sure. It all depends on what – what we end up with in the way of materials, and then how we format that.
Listokin: It's some wonderful materials and it plays out against how cities renew themselves.
Berkhout: We're at least making it available on our web site for other people doing planning related projects, and the Rutgers Archives, once we – you know documents like this we would put into the Rutgers Archives.
Cobb: Planning initiatives tend to be ephemeral in terms of documentation. I mean sometimes you have big reports. Urban renewal projects had huge documentation, but it's not so easy to keep track of every single document.
Listokin: I'm quite impressed, you know, with . . .
Berkhout: And I was a neighbor, I lived very close to John Heldrich, and very good friend of his, Ralph Voorhees in Highland Park, and they would talk about these, you know, what happened, but it wasn't written down. So, I finally said, you know, we need to get these stories. It was all anecdotal, well, it wasn't all anecdotal, but a lot of it was anecdotal about what the decision-making was. So we began really by wanting to know more about, you know, what decision-making took place, what kind of leadership did it take to make this happen?
Cobb: You know Heldrich is probably, I mean you're lucky to have Heldrich, because he's the most reliable source.
Listokin: Yes. He's . . .
Cobb: He lived with it, and that was his main assignment for Johnson and Johnson I guess.
Listokin: And we haven't fully accessed all his files, but he has voluminous files. He has good recall of many things so there's still a lot for us to do. And the other interesting aspect was the personal. People may have left New Brunswick, but they went across the river to Highland Park, like John Heldrich, so there was a tie back. People would belong to New Brunswick churches, even if they now moved a half hour away. You know things don't think about of the interconnections that influence why something, you know, happens. The scale of the city. It's easier to work within a city of 40,000 than, you know, St. Louis that had been at what 800,000 and now it's 400,000. It's just the same activity in a larger city would have less of an impact. I mean here it's . . .
Cobb: Well, it would be. New Brunswick is small enough and especially the downtown, it would be actually very interesting to have a historic atlas of downtown New Brunswick showing the state of play starting whenever, possibly back in the 19th century and then you, periodically, you see what was the land use pattern and what was . . .
Berkhout: John Heldrich said he had wished we could have some kind of a visitor's center or an exhibit place somewhere where you could do that, show the history of the development from the beginning and also some kind of a history of the, you know, demographic patterns, because there have been so many different, you know, the Hungarians who came through and now it's a large Mexican population, but some tie between those two about what's happened over time physically to New Brunswick.
Cobb: Is there a history of New Brunswick?
Berkhout: Up until a certain point I guess.
Listokin: Little bits and pieces, you know. There are various "-enniels," you know there would be something brought together, but there's enough we can draw on, and we're looking for the visual, you know, like the aerial photo, if it existed from 1940, you know.
Berkhout: Right, right. So we're going to keep at it. We just wanted to start with the interviews with people, because you know, we wanted to get the memories and understand better the whole environment at time.
Cobb: What you have to work with, so to speak, yeah.
Listokin: And there will be another product. It's more than just archives. I hope to, maybe down the road, teach a class on New Brunswick. Let's learn about planning.
Cobb: Well it is a characteristic middle-sized city. You know the fact that again coming back to Herbert Swan the fact that New Brunswick commissioned this thing in the 1920s.
Listokin: In the 1920s you really – for a city its size you really weren't getting . . .
Cobb: And it's a comprehensive plan and deals with everything in a kind of . . .
Berkhout: I wonder what happened. What the – whoever it was that asked for this – whether it was the then mayor or whatever, if they did any changes . . .
Listokin: Well, remember this is '25 and then the depression hit so you were figuring how to survive and then the war hit and then it was 1950 you only had a little a few years and then you had big forces going on.
Cobb: It was probably everybody forgot about it. The idea that this kind of planning was happening is what – I should Google this guy and see if there's anything on him, because I'm very impressed with this.
Listokin: I'm going to follow up on that. Maybe Burnham was making no small plans, so you had to get people to make smaller strategic plans.
Cobb: Yes that's right, yes.
Berkhout: Wasn't that about the time the American Planning Association started in the 1920s?
Cobb: So there was a city planning commission.
Listokin: Which was ahead of its time.
Listokin: Well, thank you very much. You've been most generous time and your insights.
[End of recording]