Public Seating Beyond Parks and Playgrounds
We’ve all been there: exhausted, hot, annoyed, and just looking for a seat! With over eight million people calling New York City home, finding a place to sit outside of parks and playgrounds can be a bigger challenge than one might imagine. Megan in Clinton Hill wishes there were places to sit in public space besides in parks: free, public resting spots on every block for a coffee, lunch, and conversation. Ultimately, she wants the city to be “more free and open to all! Not limited to only people who eat at outdoor cafes, etc.”
In order to ensure more seating, new options for public space must be explored. Of the 305 square miles that New York City occupies, 27% is dedicated to open space and recreation: public parks, playgrounds, nature preserves, cemeteries, amusement areas, beaches, stadiums and golf courses. Open spaces serve specific functions (recreation, relaxation, etc.), but the introduction of new elements to streets is changing the way that we understand New York’s public realm. One day, we may include streets and sidewalks in the count of public open space.
In 2008, the New York City Department of Transportation released World Class Streets, a report that presents new policies for the function and design of streets in New York. Cases such as the transformative plan for Broadway are setting precedent in the reclamation of major streets for pedestrian use, ensuring new social, economic, cultural as well as seating opportunities. The plan seeks to pedestrianize a large swath of Broadway in Midtown Manhattan. The intended goals are to improve motor vehicle traffic flow, enhance safety and provide more and better public space to pedestrians. Within this new public space, more potential space is secured for seating and relaxation.
To take matters further, IfUD Fellow Linda Pollak wants to see some kind of seating that does not require maintenance. That’s a serious challenge! How do designers come up with maintenance-free public seating that could be easily installed in streets and sidewalks? Such a solution could directly help to create more inclusive public spaces, as well as address environmental and economic concerns, as cleaning fluids and maintenance can be two negative expenditures the city may want to avoid. Also, seating opportunities could directly address one resident’s desire for adding beautiful color to their neighborhoods! New public spaces deserve new seating that is fun, smart, and creative, as well as sustainable.
Got a great idea for incorporating more seating into New York’s frenetic streetscapes? 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!
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