Parks and recreation
Later this summer, residents of Little Village–Chicago’s most park-starved neighborhood–will celebrate the opening of a new, artificial turf soccer field.
Rowing on the Bronx River
It won’t even mean more green space (the field replaces an old, nearly useless natural turf one). But the level of enthusiasm for the new field (with lights!) reflects the value that parks and recreational space play in community redevelopment. In short, you gotta have ‘em.
A recent story by New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman doesn’t make that exact case, but it elegantly describes the value that parks–in this case along the south end of the Bronx River–bring to underserved communities. He writes about the importance of the space for healthy citizens, for recreational space, for local beauty.
He also chronicles the complicated, tortured and nearly endless paths that advocates must follow to make these projects happen and the essential involvement of government to see them through.
By the end of the piece, it’s clear that most of what Kimmelman says about the creation of these pocket parks in the Bronx can be applied to community development projects anywhere. Does this sound familiar?
"The South Bronx illustrates how government, although it can be obstructionist and infuriating, is also indispensable to urban improvement."
“The transformation of the banks of the Bronx River has involved an alphabet soup of public entities and local organizations like Rocking the Boat, Sustainable South Bronx, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Partnership for Parks and the Bronx River Alliance. The Bloomberg administration has made the project a special priority. The South Bronx illustrates how government, although it can be obstructionist and infuriating, is also indispensable to urban improvement. Different federal administrations have mandated cooperation by often competing agencies. Dozens of community groups have subordinated their own pet interests to cleaning the river and creating parks.
“The results aren’t complete or perfect, far from it. The new parks are still piecemeal and disconnected, plagued by good intentions, half-measures and bureaucratic foul-ups. Boat launches don’t work; green spaces aren’t always kept clean; sites are created without adequate programming. Progress is painfully slow. Still, what’s happened, under the circumstances, is hardly short of miraculous.”
Telling the “story” of comprehensive community development, if there is one, is complicated because the business takes so long that no one really knows where it’s going while it’s happening.
Now that the dust has settled on these Bronx River parks, Kimmelman’s excellent article and the accompanying video tell a story–40 years in the making–that is compelling indeed. There must be more of them.
Posted in New York, Parks, Open Space & Greening, Thinking Out Loud