What Is an Urban Park, Anyway?
April 22, 2013
Some of the most pressing questions regarding urban parks address how our urban environments can incorporate nature and how these parks can promote community. NYLCVEF’s symposium “What is an Urban Park, Anyway?” cohosted with the Yonkers Committee for Smart Development and Groundwork Hudson Valley looked to address these questions and more . This public symposium featured six speakers–Meg Walker, Vice President, Project for Public Spaces; Rick Madger, Executive Director, Groundwork Hudson Valley; Yvette Hartsfield, Yonkers Parks Commissioner; Rose Harvey, the New York State Parks Commissioner; Christopher Rizzo, Board member of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park and New Yorkers for Park; and Dart Westphal, board member of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park; who sat for a Q&A panel session in the second half of the event. NYLCVEF President Marcia Bystryn moderated the panel.
In their presentations, the speakers addressed several topics including:
- Questions of balancing active and passive parkland spaces
- Means of coexistence with wildlife
- The role of the community in neighborhood parks
- Ensuring that parks are accessible to all
- Creative methods of funding city parks, including the role of private/public partnerships and non-profit managers such as conservancies
Rose Harvey and others highlighted the new Saw Mill River Daylighting Park, and many spoke to the success of The High Line as a model for future park creation.
The audience of over 50 community members asked thoughtful questions that addressed local issues such as – How do we enjoy the waterfront if it’s covered in old industry? How do we prevent property prices around parks from skyrocketing? How often does the Parks Department mow?
So what IS an urban park, anyway? The symposium started with an image of Central Park, often thought of as the “ideal” urban park, but as the audience learned about parks throughout Westchester, New York City, and even Detroit, it was emphasized that parks are open spaces for community gathering-they can be “natural” as many of the parks in Westchester are, or be created around abandoned rail lines and covered up rivers, infrastructure like the Old Croton Aqueduct. Perhaps the most important key to Urban Parks is community involvement, which Yonkers residents showed through their attendance and engaging questions.
Thanks again to our co-hosts, Groundwork Hudson Valley and the Yonkers Committee for Smart Development, as well as to our panelists, for making a great event.
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