By Jerilyn Perine
On September 11th, the legendary author, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at CCNY and the CUNY Graduate Center and self proclaimed urbanist passed away.
Marshall was the author of classic works like All That is Solid Melts Into Air, containing a heartbreaking essay on his reflections of the South Bronx of his childhood which – in the mid 1980’s when he was writing it – was battered and broken. His last book On the Town (he edited another book of other people’s essays New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg in 2007 and wrote a new introduction to a reissue of Marx’s Communist Manifesto in 2010) was an incredible look at the mythology, cultural significance and reality of Times Square through the decades; making you question much of what you think you know about this iconic place.
In all of his writings – which could connect the great modernist philosophers like Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Walter Benjamin with Robert Moses and the demise of the South Bronx – his love of the city, and the place in his heart for NYC in particular, always underpinned his work.
While many great minds will no doubt eulogize Marshall in the coming days and weeks, for me he will always be one of my first teachers when I started City College in the first fateful year of Open Admissions in 1970. We were the ragtag class, not destined for college, never expecting to go. Our education to that point was designed to drop us into technical or clerical jobs or ship to Vietnam. Many like me were ill-prepared for an intellectual education. Marshall embraced us and infected us with a love of philosophy, politics and history. He made us feel that our experiences in the city we all loved could actually have special meaning.
It was Marshall who directed me toward Urban Planning (a field I had never heard of) and introduced me to people who helped me find my first job. It was Marshall who made me believe in 1970 that we could work to rebuild our neighborhoods that were literally coming down around us. And it was Marshall who reminded us that whether or not we were interested in politics, politics was interested in us – so you might as well get involved.
I am sure that Marshall would find some eloquent symbolism to his passing on September 11th. For me, it is strangely fitting to lose Marshall on the anniversary of our City’s collective saddest day – a day when the whole City weeps.
His funeral will be held this Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at the Plaza Community Jewish Chapel at 91st Street and Amsterdam Avenue in New York City.
Marshall is survived by his wife, Shellie, and his children Eli and Danny.
All of us at CHPC extend our heartfelt condolences to all who loved him.