Public Spaces: Hall of Shame

Public Spaces: Hall of Shame

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Public spaces have been on my mind lately, mostly because of the kerfuffle around the planned Washington Square Park renovations, but also because I can’t get Paley Park out of my head. (Though I seem completely incapable of getting myself on the subway and up to midtown so I can spend some time there.)

As I’ve mentioned before, The Project for Public Spaces is a fantastic resource for these kinds of things. Today I was delighted to stumble upon their Hall of Shame which takes poorly executed spaces to task on a variety of criteria: Empty, Unsafe, Dysfunctional, etc. Bryant Park gets dinged for being “ever more privatized at the expense of thousands of everyday users.”

I agree that the tents for Fashion Week and other private events are guilty of making it less accessible to the general public – how can I not? But in my mind (perhaps incorrectly) it seems an ok price to pay for the Bryant Park of my childhood not returning. I grew up in the city, and that park was iconic in my household as a place not to go. It was a spiritual cousin to the seediness of Times Square rather than its far closer neighbor, The New York Public Library. It was the place my parents’ friends went to look for their daughter who’d fallen in love with a drug dealer and run away from home.

That was a long time ago, though, and I think that the population of the city is far more hip to the ways that welcoming public spaces enhance the quality of our day to day lives. I’d like to think that we could cut back on the privitization and not have it be at the expense of the park’s role in the community.