Times Square used to be gridlocked with yellow cabs and black S.U.V.s., it had no square — even though, for decades, pedestrians vastly outnumbered motorists passing through the area: 90 percent of the users were being squished into just over 10 percent of the area. This was also the case for cyclists who since the early 90s chose this same very spot in Times Square to raise their bikes over their heads and claim for safer bike infrastructure – bike lanes, bridge access and green infrastructure that most cities around the world already were enjoying.
Eventually, after much persistence, a big portion of Times Square is now an auto-free zone. The pedestrianization of Times Square was the flagship to get many of the city’s parks and plazas in far better shape than they were before, but reclaiming space alone is not sufficient to create the sort of vibrant public plaza we’d all like. That requires real stewardship. Civic culture needs cultivating and curating. Unless we do so, public space can become a public nuisance.
The Times Square Alliance was founded in 1992, it works to promote the creativity, energy, and edge that have made the area an icon of entertainment, culture and urban life. In addition to providing core neighborhood services with its Public Safety Officers and Sanitation Associates, the Alliance promotes local businesses; encourages economic development and public improvements; co-coordinates numerous major events in Times Square (including the annual New Year’s Eve and Solstice in Times Square celebrations); and advocates on behalf of its constituents with respect to a host of public policy, planning and quality-of-life issues. The Alliance is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, accepts tax-deductible contributions, and is governed by a large, voluntary Board of Directors.
The Alliance’s public space programs are aimed at improving the street level experience, reducing pedestrian congestion, encouraging high-quality private-sector design, and exhibiting exciting temporary public art – reinforcing Times Square’s status as the Crossroads of the World.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is not like other city parks. It exists only because of an extensive planning and community advocacy and it operates through a hybrid public-private model. After the close of its cargo operations in 1984, the plan was to sell that area for commercial development, but not-for-profit organization Friends of Fulton Ferry Landing fought for space and conceived the idea of the park.
A continuation of this battle is the constant conflict among private development and plans to establish affordable housing, which continues to divide neighbors and neighborhood associations.
Strategies and tactics
Reclaiming space – Inclusive & Dynamic Governance – Member-run organization
334 Furman St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Lagged behind the great development of Hudson River Park, the East River waterfront is a patchwork of varying widths and quality. Fortunately, its glaring mile-long gap in Midtown will start to be filled in 2019, as mayor De Blasio just approved the budget.
Manhattan’s East Side waterfront is the result of real estate deals, park restorations, reclaimed piers and construction of new esplanades.
Strategies and tactics
Reclaiming space – Infrastructuring – Scaling
The Hudson River Greenway is the longest greenway in Manhattan and the most heavily used bikeway in the United States. Almost one continuous esplanade from the George Washington Bridge on the north, south through Harlem, past the Hudson River Piers and the site of the World Trade Center to the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan.
New York City has been piecing together existing walkways, esplanades and streets into one pathway. Since 1993, the Department of City Planning (DCP) has been active in the planning, design, promotion and implementation of new greenways.
Strategies and tactics
Reclaiming space – Infrastructure – Scaling
The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space is located on Avenue C, between East 9th and 10th Avenues. The Museum serves as an archive, documenting the history of activism in the Lower East Side, East Village, and Alphabet City. Through its exhibitions, community workshops, and guided tours of the neighborhood, the Museum preserves the history of grassroots activism and promotes environmentally-sound, community-based urban ecologies. The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space celebrates local activists who transformed abandoned buildings and vacant lots into vibrant community spaces and gardens. Many of the neighborhoods’ innovative, environmentally sustainable concepts have spread to other parts of New York City, and the rest of the world.
155 Avenue C, New York, NY 10009