Gone will be the miniature civic history lessons that punctuated ribbon-cutting speeches made by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. With yesterday's announcement that the commissioner is moving on to the non-profit Trust for Public Land (TPL), the plaudits are pouring in. But as the Bloomberg Administration begins is slow-motion wind down, New Yorkers should be wary of comparisons to the "good" Robert Moses, builder of parks and playgrounds, despite the scale of public works undertaken under Bloomberg. But in terms of Parks, there is little doubt that Benepe's tenure was historic in scope. Now, one of the mayor's signature initiatives—that a park be within a ten minute walk from every home—is about to go national. But will what flies in NYC fly in Louisville? "If I’ve learned one or two things in this job it's that no one model will work for every situation," he said in a telephone interview yesterday. Last month, TPL launched ParkScore, a platform that rates park systems in America's 40 largest cities, with the "ten-minute test" as one of the major criteria in ranking the cities. While widely lauded for drawing attention to the need for accessible park space in cities, there has also been some grumbling about the survey's methods, or even its effectiveness in helping draw attention to the plight of urban parkland. D.C. blogger Richard Layman worried that DC's respectable 5th place position might take the pressure off leadership to make improvements. But Benepe said that the ParkScore is a good way of "spreading the news." The commissioner added that the city's data differed from that of the Trust's when it came to accessibility. The Trust found that 94 percent of New Yorkers live within walking distance of a park, while the city's more conservative estimate places it at about 84 percent within the ten minute range. "It's a ten percent improvement and that has largely had to do with the Schoolyards to Playgrounds initiative," said Benepe. The initiative to turn moribund schoolyards into after school playgrounds was funded in part by the Trust ($200 million in land purchases and design). It's an initiative that might work elsewhere, "within limits," he said. Funding will, as always, prove to be the central challenge. "Most cities don’t have the density that New York has and most don’t have great wealth," he said, adding that while he believed that the Obama administration would do more if they could, the days of FDR-level federal support for parks dissipated in the seventies. Nevertheless, the public/private model widely touted in New York may well become the national way of doing things. "New York didn't corner the market in creative wealth," he said .
Posts tagged with "Accessibility":
John Liu, New York's City Controller, is set to reject the much hyped "taxi of tomorrow" because it is not 100% handicap accessible. In rejecting the new design Liu claims that it if adopted as the standard taxi for the city it would become "a symbol of exclusion by telling wheelchair users ‘find another ride.' That's not what New York City is about.” I guess Liu is not talking about the present taxi standard the ubiquitous Crown Victoria which has become an iconic symbol of the city for the past decade but is barely accessible by the public. The design for this taxi of tomorrow—the first purpose-built vehicle designed and engineered to serve as a New York people mover—is really the result of three pioneering initiatives from the Design Trust for Public Space: Designing the Taxi, Taxi 07 Exhibit, and Roads Forward. The Design Trust fought to have the design address a whole host of irritating design features of current Gotham taxis but Nissan Design America, the creator of the car, seems to have forgotten about styling and delivered the ugliest mini van imaginable. Lets hope if they do go back to the drawing board and provide an entirely ADA-compliant passenger vehicle they come back with something more stylish. A Turkish car company Karsan has proposed building—in Brooklyn—a wheelchair-accessible taxi that is far more stylish! Cars manufactured in Brooklyn sounds like a great idea!
In speaking to wounded veterans and their families, the Wounded Warrior Home Project found that soldiers returning home face a cumbersome and costly adaptation to their environment. A private-public partnership, including Michael Graves and Associates, global design firm IDEO, and Clark Realty Capital, has unveiled two universally-accessible prototype houses at Fort Belvoir in Virginia where every element is designed for ease of use. Sinks and stovetops are on motorized lifts, halls and doorways accommodate a wide turning radius for navigating wheelchairs, sliding doors open with a light touch. Architect Michael Graves, who was left paralyzed after an illness almost a decade ago, wanted the space to offer independence and dignity to returning soldiers. For example, the design team concluded through conversations with wounded veterans that the therapy room should be secluded from the rest of the living space to offer privacy and retreat; at the same time, the need for visibility inside and outside the house for security and to keep track of playing children necessitates wide windows and clear doors within the house. These homes are intended to be both starting points for future dialogue on accessibility and laboratories for continuing research as more accessible homes are built.