New Yorkers have a life expectancy three years longer than the average American. Why? Parks and greenspace. 29,000 acres in New York City are dedicated as greenspace. That is larger than the city of San Francisco! Every New Yorker is within a ten minute walk of a park. It may sound idealistic but its true.
Mayor Bloomberg has devoted much of his administration to revitalizing parks and overall beautification of the city. The past four days the city hosted the Greater and Greener Urban Parks Conference, bringing together the world’s city park and urban planning leaders. Since the city has undergone such an impressive transformation in recent years, much of the conference was held in the field touring new and revamped additions to the city’s open space. I had the opportunity to join few of the tours and see the developments from an insider’s perspective.
I toured Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governor’s Island, Gantry State Park, McCarren Park, East River State Park and Bushwick Inlet Park. The later is a series of parks in North Williamsburg in Brooklyn that hosts a variety of cultural events. During the tour we were even able to go backstage at a Counting Crows sound check! These concerts obviously drawn a huge crowd and create a great sense of pride in the close-knit community.
All of the new parks have brought an overwhelming amount of free and affordable events to NYC. It is one of the many perks to adding large greenspace to such a condensed city. Buildings are typically far too expensive to rent for crowds of more than a few hundred so public open space is the perfect alternative. Outdoor movies, concerts, yoga, comedy shows, musicals, plays, art exhibitions and even small community groups take advantage of the parks throughout the city. It is the availability of these spaces that makes New York City so attractive. The big lights draw people to the city and the quality of life makes them residents.
My favorite piece of trivia from the conference:
What is the NYC parks mascot? Pearl the Squirrel!