Interview with Jesse Feiler


1. What is your relation to Jane Jacobs Walks?

I lived on Hudson Street in the West Village of New York, in the next block to Jane Jacobs. I joined the West Village Committee and was involved with projects such as stopping Westway and the de-mapping of the West Village. Jane describes the Hudson Street neighborhood very well in Death and Life of Great American Cities. The people I met through the West Village Committee and other groups were Jane’s friends and neighbors — a perfect example of how the experts on any community are the people who live there.

2. Why were you interested in hosting a walk in Plattsburgh?

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that there’s nothing like walking to learn about a neighborhood. Plattsburgh is a small city — pop. 20,000, area 5 square miles, and remarkably flat so it’s amenable to walking. The city is centered on downtown which is an even smaller area extending from the shore of Lake Champlain to the campus of State University of New York College at Plattsburgh. The Saranac River runs through the City, and the multi-user Saranac River Trail was opened several years ago. With the second and third phases under way now, the City is as walking- and biking-friendly as possible.

3. What do you hope people gain from attending this walk?

We’re also just over an hour  on Amtrak to or from Montreal with frequent bus service to and fro so people can visit for the day or weekend without the need for a car. The City has a variety of people living here, and I hope they will meet one another. Also, this is an opportunity for people from the outside to find out who the people are who live in Plattsburgh.

4. What are your goals when you host a Jane Jacobs Walk for the participants?

We hope people will look at the place where we live and work and see it as if for the first time.

5. What are your hopes for the future of Plattsburgh with regards to Jane Jacobs Walks?

Friends of Saranac River Trail has been hosting walks (“Treks” we call them) for several years. We have focused on the Saranac River Trail, and themes such as nature (invasive species and birds) as well as activities (photo treks, stroller treks), and tour of remarkable places that are critically important that that people don’t pay attention to even though they see them every day. Our Water Pollution Control Plant (“sewer plant”) is like walking through a chemistry set, and it makes it possible for the magnificent Lake Champlain to host anglers and tournaments as well as marinas and one of the longest fresh-water beaches in the US. We’re repeating some of our treks but are adding Jane’s walks this year along with a sculpture walk.