Fine, here’s a short article from WNYC on New York’s newest huge open lawn that nobody will use, Bushwick Inlet Park. Everyone‘s been talking about it (despite the name, it is on the Williamsburg waterfront) and gushingly praising it. “More open space!” exclaim the do-gooders. But what use is open space nobody uses? Have you been to New York’s waterfront parks? They are isolated, boring, and crime-ridden. Lest we forget, public housing projects essentially are lavish parks with a small residential component — and they are a nightmare of human desperation.
This particular piece analyzes population and park acreage statistics to determine the alleged deficit of open space per person, which is a typical citation used by park advocates in agitating for more parks, and envy-driven activists agitating against new development, especially if it’s dense. The zoning commission has decided that 2.5 acres per 1000 people is the optimal open space. But the problem is that we are not automatons, with identical preferences for open space that can be tallied up. We don’t require a certain acreage of grass to live like we do an amount of water.
What we do need is, as Jane Jacobs advocated, lively, interesting, and safe streets. Bushwick’s streets are poorly zoned — long blocks with few commercial uses on their length where they are most needed, and even most of those close at night, leaving the street vacant. In addition, cars have far too much run of the roads — Central Avenue, for example, is a major one-way thoroughfare with few stop signs, and people are mowed down by cars every few months along its length. What Brooklyn needs are friendlier streets for playing on sidewalks, in the view of adult neighbors and where it’s easy for parents to supervise. That means traffic calming, sidewalk widening, and more permissive zoning so that all streets become mixed-use and thus safer and more entertaining — negating the “need” for endless vacant rolling hills of nothing that we supposedly crave.
The greatest open space in a city is its streets. We don’t need more gazillion-dollar green ghost towns.