From my previous blog, I advised visitors of New York to walk, walk, and walk some more. Walking allows you see something new and interesting at every turn. When my husband and I walked the 44 blocks from Little Italy back to Time Square, we were delighted to find an H&M at every turn (good shopping is a favorite pastime.) But all the more interesting were the parks, plazas and pocket parks sprinkled throughout the island of Manhattan. Like small oasis in the middle of the ‘concrete jungle’ these open spaces were like a breath of fresh air amidst the urban scene. Picture Alice in Wonderland, and her encounter with the Cheshire Cat or the impromptu Tea Party with the Mad Hatter – these happenstances while odd and off-putting, added whimsy and excitement to her trip down the rabbit hole. Much like Alice, this Planner in urban wonderland was confronted with concrete waste lands turned into active plazas, lush parks with landscaping so think it silenced the hustle and bustle of the city around it. Then there was the pocket park, placed strategically amongst the shops and businesses with just the right amount of solitude and playfulness for reading a book or entertaining a child. Finally, the ‘height’ of the trip, the Highline, an abandoned elevation train repurposed into a linear open space and tourist attraction. Ironically, the city offered a different open space for every inhabitant of this urban jungle.
(Public Square in the Soho area)
When Innovation Meets Necessity…
New Yorkers love their open space and I could see why. When living in a vast land of concrete, buildings and commerce, having access to spaces provide room to ‘breath’ becomes even more important. The city’s leadership understood the need of its residents and took a creative solution for repurposing abandoned areas of concrete into enjoyable plazas with moveable tables and chairs. (Although later I would learn when reading a Vogue article covering a prominent New York politician that everyone was not happy with the Broadway ‘chairs’). Nevertheless, Broadway and a few other exceptional streets that run at an angle in the grid system would be subject to pavement reclamation. At certain intersections those streets would create an awkward triangular space that was dedicated to travel and turning lanes. The City reorganized several intersections to enhance pedestrian movements, and provide plazas in the remaining triangular space.
The plazas were buffered with large rocks and planters. Amidst travel lanes, the simple planters and rocks created a safe buffer between pedestrians and cars. The design of the intersection (angled with strategic turning movements) also served as traffic calming measures (traffic that is slowed due to perceived or actual impediments in the travel lane). The plaza itself was denoted by green pavement markings. Within the plaza were movable seating and tables that allowed plaza visitors to create their own seating arrangements. The innovation inspired me to think about the unusable spaces in my own Downtown Nashville. When I cross those spaces, I now envision people reading a book or lingering on lunch breaks, rather than a vacant concrete island.
The Park Oasis
My husband and I visited two parks on our walk; Washington Square and the famed Bryant Park. Both parks were like the Alice in Wonderland experience; we had no idea that we would run into each park. But despite the surprise, we happily engaged each space.
Washington Square was a lush green oasis in the middle of the large intersection. Once inside the space, it had a great sense of intimacy with brick walkways, seating areas, and dense foliage. We felt completely surrounded on all sides with beautiful park space, and for a moment I forgot we were in the ‘big city’.
(Washington Square's cozy pathway)
Bryant Park was an interesting space, because for years I’d never associated with…a park! To me it had always been the corner stone of New York’s Fashion Week and Project Runway, NOT trees or lunch time visitors. As quickly as we stumbled onto Bryant Park, the admiration I’d had for ‘the tent’ just as quickly transferred to Bryant Park’s large green and historic landscape. There was ample seating and chic navy umbrellas branded with “Bryant Park” so that you don’t mistake where you are; as if you could. The space was as grand as my favorite Nashville park, Centennial Park; although I’d trade wooden picnic benches for chic nave y umbrellas and wire-mesh table and chairs. Just like mom jeans, picnic benches have their place, but there is always a better jean and fit to assist in looking more polished.
Bryant Park was more than just a fashion destination, it’s a people destination. It’s the kind of space that made you want to linger for hours. Whether your past time is people watching, working remotely, meeting with friends, or taking a quick lunch break, Bryant Park was designed for all those activities.
Going to New Heights at the High Line…
The HL situated above property on New York’s West Side transcended its primary use as a linear park; it was also an attraction that is now a must do for New York site seeing. With crowds aligning the HL it was easy to distinguish the tourists from the residents. The residents were lingering carefree with nothing more than a book, a set of keys or in some cases a stroller with baby in tow for an afternoon stroll. The tourists (like myself) were walking around wide-eyed taking photos of the most mundane and typical park amenities (yes, I have a picture of a bench in my photo catalog). With rain in the forecast, us tourist were also well equipped with our umbrellas and tour bus ponchos. But you know what – who cares. Who cared if we looked like crazy urban planning groupies (I actually heard a woman talking to a group … “we can do this same thing on the elevated rail track in our city – its totally doable!”). The work that went into creating this wonderful space deserved the drooling that it received that day. A round of applause for the HL, its staff and supporters for providing NYC with an attraction that fits nicely in the itinerary between Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Plaza.
More information on the High Line http://www.thehighline.org/
New York City Wrap Up…
I have to say – I truly LOVED my first trip to New York. My husband who’d purchased the trip for my 31st birthday didn’t fully realize the impact that this trip would have on my professional and personal life. Would I love him for it – of course! Would he get extra brownie points for it – definitely! But would he know that it would help be truly believe that I could be and DO anything in this world – nope. Even that revelation surprised him. For me, visiting New York opened me up to new possibilities. I always thought living and working in New York would never be possible for me, much less visit. But it was. I never though that one of the largest cities in the world could feel so warm and welcoming; but it was! It definitely opened up my mind and spirit in ways even I didn’t expect. But I’m so grateful that it did.
Now I have a new appreciation for this thing called Planning. I have a renewed since of my purpose within my line of work. The unspoken theme at this year’s American Planning Association Conference (APA) was ‘Fall Back in Love With Planning’. Well this trip definitely helped me do that. And now I operate in life, in love, and in career with a New York State of Mind.
(The Writer and her Husband) :>