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A Different Kind of Tragedy of the Commons?

606lineThe new 606 is open in Chicago – a mix of 2.7 miles of elevated trail with four ground-level parks along the route. Amidst the excitement of this new linear park, which will bridge four neighborhoods historically underserved by parks, is the familiar cautionary tale about its potential gentrifying impact. Like New York’s High Line, the badly needed park amenity is being viewed partly in light of its negative effects on the neighborhood it was designed to serve. (The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said about the High Line, “As a catalyst of neighborhood change, the High Line has been to usual gentrification what a bomb is to bottle rockets.”)

But the issue of the impact of a new park on property values – and the resulting displacement of longtime residents by the rising cost of housing – is worth a thoughtful analysis. Are we blaming parks for increasing property values, or might that be better explained as the result of the state of the housing market and public policy?  Continue reading

A Public-Private Partnership for the 21st Century

Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. The program identifies city parks that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges faced as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay. In recognition of its innovative practices in partnerships and sustainable funding, Brooklyn Bridge Park has been named a Frontline Park.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is the product of more than 20 years of extensive community planning and advocacy.  For years after shipping activity ceased at the piers, the land sat empty and was isolated from surrounding neighborhoods.  Developing the site into a park was not straightforward or simple, given the waterfront location and proximity to a major highway.  Planning and design was further complicated by the need to consider the integrity of the shoreline, and to ensure that the park could withstand major floods, storm surges, and any rise in sea level, which would drive up future maintenance costs.  With a limited amount of public money available, other revenue streams would be necessary to ensure the park’s future viability.   Continue reading

Brooklyn Bridge Park: New York’s Latest Innovative Harbor Attraction

One of New York’s newest parks, Brooklyn Bridge Park blends the historic with the latest in landscape innovation to create what the weblog Gothamist calls “the most spectacular and stunning addition to the city’s parks system in recent memory.” Located on the site of a former port that shuttered in the 1980s due to dramatic shifts in shipping practices, the work-in-progress park opened its first two sections in 2010, the culmination of more than 20 years of sustained community advocacy to persuade elected officials at the city and state level to support and implement an 85-acre park plan.

Sunset on the pier. Photo Credit: Julienne Schaer

The resulting master plan mixes active and passive recreation in a sustainably designed site that incorporates vestiges of its industrial past and capitalizes on the singular vistas to the harbor, bridge and Lower Manhattan skyline. With a 50-yard-line view of nearly every architectural marvel and monument New York City has to offer, it’s no wonder the park averages 60,000 visitors per summer weekend, even though its first phase of development won’t be fully completed until 2013.

Beyond the views, the park has also drawn favorable attention for its lush plantings and innovative playgrounds. The park is further distinguished by its self-sustaining financial model, which uses carefully selected development sites within the boundaries to generate revenues for its ongoing maintenance.

At this summer’s Greater & Greener: Re-Imagining Parks for 21st Century Cities, the international urban parks conference being presented by the City Parks Alliancefrom July 14 to 17, park professionals, environmental advocates and attendees from all over the world will get to see all this first hand, with several featured events taking place at Brooklyn Bridge Park to show off its various aspects, including a guided tour with planners and designers, and an outdoor screening of the documentary “Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks.”

Jane's Carousel.
Photo Credit: Julienne Schaer

New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has stated a particular fondness for Brooklyn Bridge Park, referring to it as a “true 21st Century park model,” and praises the partnership behind it. “It [the public-private model] doesn’t work in all applications, but particularly in the case of Brooklyn Bridge Park [and Hudson River Park on Manhattan’s west side], the properties were formerly shipping piers, so they used to be income-producing. So when the city and state no longer needed them, the land could have been just sold off to the highest bidder. But we didn’t.  We have parks instead…. Hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment [was spent] to build fabulous waterfront parks. And when you see a beautiful park, you also see growth in property values, and then that spurs more new development.”

To learn more about Brooklyn Bridge Park, visit www.brooklynbridgeparknyc.org

For more information on how to register for Greater & Greener: Re-Imagining Parks for 21st Century Cities, please visit www.urbanparks2012.org.