Linear Parks: Emergent Opportunities For Green Links
Due to the recent redevelopment of the High Line and Hudson River Parks, great attention and excitement is heating up around the idea of linear parks. These spaces are particularly interesting in that they often augment or re-use existing infrastructure of different scales and types, like railroad tracks, canals, natural waterways, highways, and arterial roads. This often has long-standing economic, social and environmental implications.
Designers of Hudson River Park and the High Line took areas that had been at the heart of the city’s manufacturing-based economy and retrofitted them to serve as nodes for recreation, a form of “soft” infrastructure for the city, making it more attractive to new information-economy workers. Linear parks are also unique in that they do not just turn underused paths into pedestrian-friendly green space, but they also serve as great catalysts for change and investment in large stretches of the city, benefiting multiple neighborhoods along their routes.
Several By the City/For the City ideas highlighted corridors prime for the redevelopment into linear parks. Anandi in South Ozone Park wants to see “the old, abandoned LIRR running from Forest Park to Rockaway Beach turned into a simpler version of the High Line with native plants, an edible garden, along with a bike and pedestrian path.” The Long Island Rail Road traveled south along the Rockaway Beach Branch from Rego Park all the way to the Rockaway Peninsula as late as the early 1960s. Today, rusty trestles remain, with tracks elevated along much of the route. This could serve as a prime location for a linear park that capitalizes on the line’s old, industrial foundation.
Tony from Greenwich Village wants to see “the parks restored to Park Avenue,” a thoroughfare with a long history of oscillation between serving as a major arterial for traffic and an accessible green space for pedestrians. As of today, the medians of the malls have been narrowed to accommodate for greater car access, but with adequate design attention the malls could be restored to their 1920s grandeur, not only beautifying existing infrastructure, but also incentivizing activity.
More than a few New Yorkers expressed interest in seeing parks along the East River linked and expanded to create an accessible recreational waterfront, following the model of Hudson River Park to the west. Prior to the 1930s, the East Riverfront was dotted with slaughterhouses, glass factories, power stations, and railroad yards. While the stretch along the Lower East Side was redeveloped into the 57-acre East River Park following the construction of the FDR and a string of public spaces exists up the river, connections between them are often tenuous, creating a huge opportunity to improve the city.
Want to take on the challenge of designing a new linear park for NYC? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!