Design Trust for Public Space and a dozen of other NYC-based civic design organizations, including Gehl Institute, The Horticultural Society of New York, Institute for Public Architecture, Municipal Art Society, New Yorkers for Parks, PAU, Project for Public Spaces, Regional Plan Association, Street Plans, Transportation Alternatives, Van Alen Institute, and WXY Architects, recommend seven steps to ensure that our civic commons are available for public engagement and dialogue.
December 15, 2016
Dear Mayor de Blasio,
We truly appreciate your forceful defense of New York City’s most deeply held values. Your call for appropriate public demonstrations to protect our rights and freedoms is the correct response to the encroaching threat that so many New Yorkers now feel.
As more New Yorkers take to the streets in the coming weeks and months, we see a powerful opportunity, and an urgent need, to make strategic improvements to our public spaces – our civic commons – that would make these vital gatherings of free expression safer, more effective, and even welcoming to all New Yorkers who want to participate in civic action.
You have demonstrated your commitment to make our public spaces more accessible and equitable through Parks Without Borders at the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency. The significant steps that you and NYC Department of Transportation have taken to enhance our public plazas, particularly those in high-need areas, are already paying dividends for free expression. On November 11th, just three days after the election, the “Rally for Unity” in Jackson Heights’ Diversity Plaza drew hundreds of New Yorkers desperate for a locale in which to connect, and was followed by a successful letter-writing event. That same day, Avenue C Plaza in Brooklyn was the site of a powerful display of unity with Kensington’s Muslim community.
We recommend seven steps that your Administration can take to ensure that these events of free expression are welcoming and successful, as New Yorkers come together in greater numbers to celebrate and protect our rights. All of these steps will alleviate pedestrian congestion, and many will alleviate vehicular congestion.
We would like to meet with key members of your team to discuss these and other opportunities to enhance public expression during these challenging times. We could also consider starting an ad-hoc interagency task force that collaborates with our civic organizations, and potentially with community groups, as well. Our partnership can make our city a beacon to the majority of Americans who reject hate and embrace the exciting complexities of living in the most proudly diverse nation in the world. With your strong leadership, our model for civic spaces can promote the spirit of tolerance and the basic generosity that constitutes the core of what it means to be a New Yorker, and serve as a source of our collective strength.
Susan Chin, FAIA, Hon. ASLA
Design Trust for Public Space
The Horticultural Society of New York, Neighborhood Plaza Program
New Yorkers for Parks
Project for Public Spaces
David van der Leer
Van Alen Institute
Institute for Public Architecture
Municipal Art Society
Paul Steely White
Regional Plan Association