After a late winter snowstorm a week or so ago, I walked along Central Park and paused to admire the landscape art of Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. For a moment, the world seemed quiet and calm. I felt a closeness to nature and forgot the everyday thoughts and worries haunting my mind. Those two gentleman designed the park to have just that effect.
One might not expect such an experience to be found in an urban area, especially a city with the density and ferocity of New York. Yet, many older American cities offer such surprises. These cities were designed for people–not automobiles–with the intent to build a shared civic culture. Beautiful parks belonged to that project.
As Americans rediscover cities and become re-enchanted with urban life, historic public spaces such as Central Park will likely attract attention, investment, and resources. At the same time, new public spaces should be created for the enjoyment and pride of generations.
American city leaders–elected officials, businesses, and citizens–need to think well beyond the present. This includes creating quality public spaces.