Oculus - Spring 2014 - (Page 22)

©NYC Parks and Recreation A DIFFERENT TALE OF TWO CITIES BY BILL MILLARD ©Bill Millard At NYC's Tompkins Square Park and several sites in Columbus, Ohio, public-space renovations to improve quality of life show that the traffic in urbanist ideas isn't always one-way N ew York City and Columbus, Ohio, occupy opposite poles on urban America's density/sprawl spectrum. New York's decline-reanimation-gentrification rollercoaster may set precedents for processes driving other cities toward livable streets, diversity, and arts activity. It's a powerful, problematic model, often pivoting on changes in public space. As for "how much that happens organically versus how much with planned intervention," says Columbus planner Terry Foegler, AICP, "the jury's still out." TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK: HOMELESS OUT, DOGS AND TRACEURS IN The Lower East Side has what Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, calls "a long tradition as an area where people continued to press the boundaries" as well as "a density that lends to vibrancy." The Tompkins Square Park riot and later reconfiguration were a physical and symbolic clampdown on an anarchic moment. On August 6, 1988, during an anti-curfew rally, the New York Police Department came down hard on Tompkins Square's protesters, squatters, bystanders, and journalists. Videos documented that police officers used excessive force; more than 100 brutality complaints resulted, along with personnel shakeups and payouts to the injured. "That was a watershed moment," says Berman. "What happened in the aftermath had a profound impact on the park and surrounding area." Closed after another uprising and then reopened in 1992, the redesigned park had more fences, a dog run, playgrounds, and paths wide enough for police cars. Gone were a homeless encampment, a totem pole, and the treasured bandshell. Tompkins Square became more recreational, less capable of hosting unruly populations or turbulent dissent. Since then the East Village has traded edginess for livability and the double-edged sword of gentrification - an ironic condition for an environment that "was mostly 22 Oculus Spring 2014 developed in the 19th century as an immigrant labor ghetto, less a desirable location than a necessary one," notes Rob Hollander, Ph.D., co-founder of the Lower East Side History Project. The transition from slum to pioneer zone to hotspot, he finds, reflects shifting perceptions, readily accommodated by the prevalent tenements scaled "not too low and not too high: the Goldilocks building," well-suited for youth and close to favored amenities. An Alphabet City resident and activist, Hollander can explain evolving spatial gradations in safety, the "Slavic corner" becoming chess players' and homeless people's turf, and dog walkers' and parkour practioners' effects on atmosphere. He downplays artists' role in gentrification, separating correlation from causation: "The same thing happened to the Bowery in the 1950s to '60s: every interesting important artist lived on the Bowery. Property values stayed rock-bottom. When the neighborhood began to gentrify, most artists were gone." COLUMBUS: SEEKING POST-SPRAWL "SPIZZERINCTUM" Columbus, capital of a political swing state, has long been seen as representative of the so-called heartland. Dubbed "the All-American City" by Mayor Maynard E. Sensenbrenner (1954-1960, 1964-1972), who exuded a manically boosterish quality he called "spizzerinctum" - and who tripled the city's area by annexing suburbs - it is regarded as a center for testmarketing because, "As goes Columbus, so goes the nation." David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries (2010) describes Columbus's "landscaped industrial parks and weird nonspaces that evoke nostalgia for the nonexistent." Metropolitan Columbus, with nearly two million residents, has no rail transit and is unserved by Amtrak. It is low-density and easily traversed by car, while pedestrian life, by New York standards, is minimal. The city's population is diversifying; its north side includes two buildings by Peter Eisenman, FAIA, plus an award-winning highway-cap project by David Meleca, AIA; Civic Spirit: Civic Visions

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2014

Letter From the President
Letter From the Editor
Center for Architecture
Some Blocks Over
Opener: Open to the Public: Civic Space Now
The Search for the Soul of Cities
A Different Tale of Two Cities
Public Space Reasserts Its Political Role
Gatherings of One
Time to Welcome Woonerfs
Redesigning the Crossroads of the World
A Magical Place on the Water
How to Remember a Plague
Sustainable Models for a Just City
In Print
50-Year Watch
Last Words
Index to Advertisers

Oculus - Spring 2014