by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP
A lot of money is being raised to fund Mayor Bloomberg’s plaNYC 2030. Included in the plan is a Sustainable Mobility and Regional Transportation (SMART) organization to raise funds and issue revenue bonds to improve transportation. A NYC Energy Planning Board will centralize planning for the city’s energy supply and demand initiatives. However, nowhere in the plan does it mention raising funds to maintain the open spaces the Mayor is planning to create or rehabilitate.
The Mayor wants every person to live within a 10-minute (or 1/2 mile) walk from a park. Schoolyards will become accessible as public playgrounds. Asphalted areas will be converted into multi-use turf fields, and lights will be installed for evening use. High-quality competition fields will be made available to athletic teams across the city, as well. A new public plaza will be enhanced or created in every community. Underutilized destination parks (there are several throughout the five boroughs) will be completed. He plans on expanding the Greenstreets program, created in 1986 to replace paved traffic triangles and medians with shrubs and flowers, by planting 250,000 trees citywide.
Simply providing parks does not mean that people will use them. Often parks deteriorate from lack of use. What will make people visit parks, if they are not already in use? I’m sure in some cases, cleaning up a park and providing better lighting at night will help. But in many cases, improved surveillance and police presence is needed. For example, High Bridge Park is on the Mayor’s list of destinations to be improved. I recently helped clean that park as part of NY Cares’ Hands On New York Day. After so many rolling paper packages, plastic cocaine bags, and a number of syringes, I certainly would not feel safe spending a day wandering through the meandering pathways without extra safety measures in place.
Part of the problem with the Mayor’s plan for open space is that the list of initiatives does little to spur the city’s inhabitants. After a park is cleaned up or constructed, will there be any community outreach? Better yet, why aren’t community members being involved in the clean-up/construction? If locals are involved in improving their own communities, there will be a better chance that they will embrace and inhabit the parks. The Mayor has proposed many good ideas, but a follow-through plan is critical.