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A City Leader that Gets Parks

Parks & Recreation magazine interviews New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg about his commitment to parks, and the Mayor is quite the spokesman for them. In his own words:

New Yorkers have a special relationship with parks. After all, they’re our backyards. They’re where we go to relax, spend an afternoon outdoors, and share good times with family and friends.

That’s enough reason to make them a priority, but our parks have many other advantages as well. They teach our children about the natural world. They help clean the air we breathe They encourage exercise and fitness. They increase property values and boost tourism. And the list goes on.

That’s why we have focused so intently on improving our parks system. In fact, one of the main goals of PlaNYC, our long-term sustainability program, is to ensure that all New Yorkers have a park or open space within a 10-minute walk of their home. It’s an ambitious goal, but we’re well on our way to achieving it. In the last eight years, we’ve added more than 500 acres of new parkland to the city — the largest expansion since the 1930s.

Park Signage for the Donts AND the Dos

This picture of a sign from Bryant Park pretty much speaks for itself. Lots of parks have don’ts signs, but few have dos and don’ts signs, which really change the feeling of welcome-ness. (Our earlier post, aided by Gil Peñalosa thoughts on the subject.)

cc Flickr user Ed Yourdon

Potters Fields to Parks

The New York Times City Room reports on an actual 210-year old gravestone that was found when workers were digging in a section of Washington Square Park. Once a burial site, the land was covered to become a military parade ground and then to its current use as public park. The remains of up to 20,000 people are said to be lying underneath the park, but this is the first discovery of a headstone. Many of the nation’s very old urban parks were either burial, military grounds or common spaces for animal grazing the the like before they were parks. This is a quick and interesting history on one of those parks.

Short Video on Ideas for Cities to Reduce Carbon Emissions

The folks at GOOD magazine have unveiled a “platform” on ideas and action in cities. As part of this, they put together the short, entertaining and informative video below describing initiatives from around the globe to reduce carbon emissions and make cities better places to live. The piece mentions bus rapid transit in Bogota, bike sharing in Rio, trash collection in Curitiba and the creation of an urban stream and linear park in Seoul, Korea.

Savannah’s Squares: a Model for Today’s Planners?

An AP reporter takes a trip to Savannah, Georgia, the historic city on the Atlantic coast and provides some background on the its famous network of public squares:

But the reason for those public spaces might surprise modern visitors: British General James Oglethorpe designed them as part of a military grid so his troops could set up camp and have shaded meeting spots. The soldiers were there to keep the Spanish from advancing north to the English colony in Charleston, S.C., and Oglethorpe’s statue faces south, as if still keeping a watchful eye on things.

Originally the city had 24 squares. It’s a remarkable feat of preservation that 22 are still in existence and one more is being restored.

Today the squares are home to great old Oaks, benches for people to sit, gardens, meandering pathways and attractive fountains that invite people in and make the city such a pleasant place to be.

Much of their success also has to do with the street layout, in which the squares usually occupy a square block and streets intersect but do not pass through — essentially encouraging through pedestrian traffic. (See figure below.) Via PPS, a submission on the squares quotes Allan Jacobs, author of the definitive book Great Streets, who wrote “. . . [T]he grid pattern of Savannah . . . is like no other we know in its fineness and its distinguishable squares. . . . [O]nce seen it is unforgettable, and it carries over into real life experience. See it . . ., in person, on the ground, and it is not difficult to draw. See it in plan, on a map, and you will recognize it on the ground.”

As cities have rebounded, and walkable urbanism has emerged again as a priority for planners, creating the day-to-day park experiences found in the pedestrian green spaces of Savannah is surely one model to consider.