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The Future Of Parks And Public Spaces

Justin Glanville hosts a virtual City Club forum.
Justin Glanville hosts a virtual City Club forum.

We create community in shared spaces – in parks, libraries, gardens, and museums. By design, public spaces are meant to be the crux of a democratic society; however equitable access to these spaces has never been a reality.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, these spaces – especially outdoor green spaces – have become increasingly vital not only to communities, but also to individuals’ physical, mental, and social well-being. Yet, the same barriers that have always challenged the nature and accessibility of these spaces – economic issues, social and cultural segregation, huge real estate investments, privatization trends, and gentrification processes – continue to threaten not only the democratic nature of public spaces, but now also the health of citizens. A study conducted by the Trust for Public Land across 14,000 U.S. towns and cities concluded that low-income neighborhoods have parks that are, on average,  four times smaller and four times more crowded than parks in high-income neighborhoods.

In an era where public spaces are not only essential to the health of our democracy, but also to the physical health of our residents, how do we ensure equal access to these spaces? How can they becoming welcoming and lovable? How will COVID-19 change the nature of our public spaces and how we utilize them?

Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP
Commissioner, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Kimberly Smith-Woodford
Founder, Journey on Yonder

Brian Zimmerman
CEO, Cleveland Metroparks

Justin Glanville
Reporter/Producer, ideastream®​


Natalia Garcia is a digital producer for the education team at Ideastream Public Media.