Sustainability and public design in neighborhoods in transition
For the last seven years, my husband and I have lived in Harlem. We decided to move because we had friends in the neighborhood, there was good, convenient transportation and most importantly there was affordable housing that provided us with the luxury of space in New York City.
Our neighborhood is in transition. Where there were once empty lots and houses, now there are new/renovated buildings, bringing more and more people into the neighborhood.
After years of living in the neighborhood, it is clear that development can be a good thing to bring people into the neighborhood and physically re-build the neighborhood and its economy. However, it is also clear that development needs to focus on its sustainability.
From my conversations and personal observations, residents are tired of the quick and one-off “fixes” to problems. They understand through their experiences that money and/or initiatives can have unintended negative consequences.
For example, it’s wonderful to talk about the need for green and open spaces, but who is going to maintain and care for those spaces? Is money allotted to maintain them? What is going to happen in those spaces if no one cares for them? What would motivate people to care for them?
These types of questions were raised in a proposed green space plan within the community that did not move forward. Yes, that's right, it did not move forward. Part of the sentiment was why create something new that the government won't necessarily take care of, why not put those funds towards fixing the old existing spaces?
On an intellectual level, across the board, there is an understanding of the benefits of greening neighborhoods supporting health and wellbeing, but what are the realities for the population if only the space is created?
I support and use green spaces every single day, I was disappointed with the outcome of the community meeting, but I also see and hear what happened/happens (crime) in spaces that have no long term sustainability plans that include community by-in/voluntary/monetary support.