Yes, Jacobs directly confronted Moses over Washington Square Park (when he was parks commissioner) and the Lower Manhattan Expressway (when he was chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority). Beyond that, however, his presence in her world seems to have been rather hazy. He was a local figure of great power, but not always the leader of the opposing army.

And while Moses’s ideas and influence always seemed to extend beyond whatever his job title of the moment was, even he had his limits. At times, then, the Jacobs versus Moses structure feels a bit forced. In reality, Jacobs was battling a whole variety of larger forces, hard to pin down and even harder to shape into a single narrative. She was living in an era of large-scale abandonment of cities by the white middle class, as well as the continuing northern migration of African Americans from the South. European modernism exerted a heavy hand on architects and planners as they wrestled with these demographic shifts. Flint hints at these broader currents—offering, for example, a brief history of modernism—but not enough for us to truly understand Jacobs’s complex relationship to them.

We also get very little criticism of Jacobs’s ideas. This is a crucial omission. As the influential urban historian Robert Fishman has noted in an essay published in Planning History Studies: “Since today we see the city and planning so much through [Jacobs’s] eyes, it is all the more important to be aware of her limitations.” Flint does mention some of these, most notably the problem of gentrification, which he acknowledges that Jacobs never sufficiently addressed. But his critique is fairly glancing.

All that said, the strong points in Wrestling With Moses are strong indeed. Anybody interested in the history of cities—and their future—should read it.

Elinore Longobardi is a Fellow and staff writer of The Audit, the business-press section of Columbia Journalism Review.