IDEA #124 Work across city agencies to create public spaces that are accessible, inclusive, and just
Setha Low, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Psychology, Geography, Anthropology, and Women’s Studies; Director, Public Space Research Group, CUNY Graduate Center
In theory, public space is equalizing space. Anyone can visit a public park in New York City to exercise, play, picnic, connect with neighbors, and more. But while the city boasts ample green space—more than 16,000 acres—it’s unfairly distributed. The average park size is 6.4 acres in poor neighborhoods, compared with 14 acres in wealthy neighborhoods. While some live within minutes of sprawling athletic fields and waterfront views, others are forced to walk much longer distances or face smaller, more crowded spaces with no amenities. To ensure everyone has equitable access to green space, the Parks Department should launch a collaboration with the Department of Transportation, the Department of Design and Construction, and others to advance accessibility across the five boroughs. A cross-agency perspective could help generate new ideas for how to create new green spaces and refurbish existing parks in neighborhoods like Bensonhurst, Jackson, Chinatown, and Parkchester. Investing in higher-quality, more accessible green space would pay ten-fold: improving air quality and cooling temperatures, boosting physical and mental health outcomes for residents, benefitting local economies, and ultimately creating a city that’s more equitable, sustainable, and cohesive.