What and who defines public space in New York City?

by cathryn on January 26, 2009

amNY today delves into the Bloomberg Administration‘s “vision” for transforming New York’s public spaces. Yet, the article doesn’t touch upon parks as public space which is too bad because highlighting what the Bloomberg Administration has done to take away and adversely impact public space at Washington Square Park, Union Square Park, the giveaway of Bronx parkland to the Yankees, the privatization of Randalls Island, etc. would counter city “planner” Amanda Burden‘s gushing spin on the whole thing.

Ms. Burden and Mayor Mike’s idea of expanding public space is more about putting tables in the midst of city streets (seriously) and not so much about how people interact. It is more about figuring out how tourists can sit and have a cup of coffee amidst Times Square congestion versus people actually engaging with one another in unplanned, unusual and spontaneous ways.

Jeremiah of Vanishing New York blog is thankfully quoted and provides some balance, saying, ““There is a kind of mono-cultural aesthetic that everything is being made too coordinated and the style is this kind of glass and chrome where everything looks like a condo. …It’s nice to have a place to sit, but it feels too antithetical to what a city is supposed to be, which is chaotic and organic and wild and hard to tame.”

Ms. Burden tells amNY that many of her initiatives are informed by time spent in Europe. Of course, on the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that. She says, ““I really believe you can measure the health of a city by the vitality of its streets and public spaces. … In the end, that’s what draws people to a city. That’s what makes people fall in love with a city.”

That sounds great — until you look closer. When city “planning” starts worrying too much about changing a city as unique as New York for tourists and doesn’t preserve what New Yorkers already love about their city, I think there is a problem.

 

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