Loeb Fellowship Program Lecture: Inga Saffron LF ’12, ” Urban Parks: The New Battleground in the…

Loeb Fellowship Program Lecture: Inga Saffron LF ’12, ” Urban Parks: The New Battleground in the…


Good evening, everyone. Good evening, everyone. It’s wonderful to see so many
familiar faces in this crowd. I feel like I’m back in
New Orleans, suddenly. I haven’t seen many
of the Loeb alums since that wonderful
weekend back in October. And of course, I’ve met
many more alums since then. And, it’s also great to see a
terrific showing from the GSD faculty and students here. So thank you,
everyone, very much. My name’s Mark Mulligan. I have the distinct
honor of being the interim curator of the
Loeb fellowship this year. It has been a fantastic year. I can’t tell you. I’ve been teaching at
the GSD since 1996, and I think this was
the funnest year ever. I really appreciate
how– thank you. This is called “warming
up the audience,” and you’re warming me up. So I really felt embraced by
the Loeb family this year, and I can’t tell you
how much it means to me to be part of
this incredible program, and part of this
incredible outreach to the world– the professions,
and to the problems of the world today, and the
amount of creativity that’s brought to bear in the
meetings of the Loeb fellows, has just been an
overwhelming pleasure for me. So tonight I have
the distinct pleasure to welcome you all to the annual
Loeb lecture of 2015, featuring this year’s honored
speaker Inga Saffron. Now I’m going to
put on the glasses. Inga will be a familiar name
to most of this audience, both because she’s a recent
alumna of the Loeb Fellowship class of 2012– a
very good year– and because she is one
of the most prolific, admired, and recognized
architectural critics active in the US today. Coincidence? I don’t think so. So we are very honored that
Inga has accepted our invitation to deliver the annual Loeb
lecture, which also serves as a kind of keynote address
for the Loeb Fellowship Alumni Council weekend, which
obviously you also know doubles as our spring
orientation weekend for the incoming class of
Loeb fellows, class of 2016 And now, before I actually
continue introducing our guest speaker, let me take a few
moments to briefly introduce the new Loeb fellows who
will start their fellowship year in August. You’ll have the opportunity
to speak with each of them at the reception
immediately following this lecture in
the portico rooms. So I’ll keep this very brief. But could I ask each
of the new Loeb fellows to stand as I read your
name, and to remain standing until all the
names have been read? We have Neha Bhatt from
Washington DC, Liliana Cazacu from Romania– our
first Romanian Loeb. Janelle Chan from Boston. Kimberly Driggins
from Washington, DC. Alejandro Echeverri
from Medellin Columbia. Shane Endicott from
Portland, Oregon. Arif Khan from New York. Brett Moore from
Melbourne, Australia. And Euneika Rogers-Sipp, from
Atlanta by way of Alabama. OK. So. It’s wonderful. And while people
are standing, let me also just ask– should I
read the names individually of the current class? Shall I do that? Yeah, let’s do that. OK. So we’re going to start
off again alphabetically. Gisli Marteinn Baldursson
from Reykjavik, Iceland. Jamie Blosser from
Santa Fe, New Mexico. Scott Campbell from
Colorado Springs, Colorado. LaShawn Hoffman from
Atlanta, Georgia. Andrew Howard from
Dallas, Texas. Maria Jaakkola from
Helsinki, Finland. Marc Norman, from New York. And Thaddeus Pawlowksi
from New York. And Kolu Zigbi from New York. OK. We have one 10th
fellow, Shahira Fahmy, who could not be
with us tonight. But I want to just say
to the class of 2016, you have some very
big shoes to fill following this amazing class. You guys have made my life
wonderful this past year. Now I’m looking for one
more person in the audience, because I don’t know whether
everyone has met him, although he should be
very familiar to you. There he is. Let me make a very brief
but important introduction to this assembly– the newly
appointed curator of the Loeb fellowship, John Peterson,
Loeb fellow of 2006. So you’ll be hearing
more from him over the course of this weekend. But I want him to
feel the warmth of this body, and the applause
that you can bring him. So now back to our
guest speaker tonight. Inga Saffron is the
architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer. For more than 15 years she
has written a weekly column called “Changing Skyline”
that offers an insightful look at the urban design issues
facing Philadelphia. She is the winner of the 2014
Pulitzer Prize in criticism. Only seven architecture critics
have received the Pulitzer Prize in criticism since
it was introduced in 1970, and Inga is the first
architecture critic to win the award since 1999. Yeah? How about that? The prize– no,
please, continue! The prize citation reads,
“Awarded to Inga Saffron of the Philadelphia Inquirer for
her criticism of architecture that blends expertise, civic
passion, and sheer readability into the arguments
that consistently stimulate and surprise.” We’d like to think that it
isn’t a coincidence, again, that Inga received the
Pulitzer Prize immediately following her Loeb
year, that this was just part of her [inaudible] curve. And for the class
of 2016, you’ll need to read up on that
[inaudible] curve thing. During her year at the GSD
as a Loeb fellow 2011 to ’12, Inga explored issues related
to place-making, alternative transportation, and
rammed earth construction. Now I’m going to quote
now from her Inquirer bio. “Pushing beyond the
usual boundaries of architectural criticism,
Inga Saffron’s weekly columns focus on the buildings
and public spaces that Philadelphians encounter
in their daily lives. She applies a reporter’s
skills and sensibilities to explore the
variety of forces– political, financial,
cultural– that shape the city. Her columns on waterfront
development, zoning, and parking issues have
led to significant changes in city policy. “This year, Saffron launched
Built, an innovative new web page that allows her
to curate Inquirer stories on architecture,
development, and transportation. By packaging this related
content together, and updating it daily, Saffron
has focused attention on a group of
interconnected issues that are crucial to
Philadelphia’s future. “Before assuming her
current position, Saffron spent five
years as a correspondent in Eastern Europe and the former
Soviet Union for the Inquirer. She covered wars in the former
Yugoslavia and in Chechnya, and witnessed the destruction
of Sarajevo and Grozny. It was in part because
of those experiences that she became interested
in the fate of cities, and began writing
about architecture. “Saffron began her
journalism career as a magazine writer in Ireland,
and worked for the Courier News in Plainfield, New Jersey before
joining the Inquirer in 1985 as a suburban reporter. She’s the author of
Caviar: the Strange History and Uncertain Future of
the World’s Most Coveted Delicacy, published by
Broadway Books in 2002.” And to give you an idea about
the diversity of her stories in the Inquirer
and elsewhere, let me read a sampling of a
dozen recent headlines. I think this just
gives you an idea about what she’s investigated. From the New Republic,
the headline, “America’s Billionaires
are Turning Public Parks into Playgrounds
for the Wealthy.” And from the Philadelphia
Inquirer, a long list here. “The Real Problem
of Gentrification is Over Success in Development
Hurting Philadelphia.” “Awful Architecture Meets
Terrific Urbanism.” We can probably find
some of that at the GSD. “Preserving Philadelphia’s
Black History.” “New Focus on Pedestrian
Safety.” “Ten Worst Streets.” “City Says it Wants Family. Does it Really?” “Stern Rebuke:
City Tells Museum Architect to Try Again.” I don’t think you pull punches. “Curb Parking More by
Tackling Demand.” “Including Neighbors in Planning Process.”
“Philadelphia’s Zoning Board Undermines Planning Vision.” That’s just a sampling. Since her Loeb
year, Inga Saffron has been an active
contributor to the fellowship and to the GSD. In fact I saw you here
just two weeks ago as part of Jerold
Kayden’s conference on design competitions. We’re thrilled to
have her back again to address this gathering of
past, current, and future Loeb fellows, and to speak about the
passions that drive her work. So please join me in
extending a very warm welcome to Inga Saffron. [applause] Well, thank you. That was really lovely. And I have to say,
it’s a little daunting to be here on this side of the
podium, because of all that time that I was on that side. And it really does feel
like almost yesterday that I was coming to Cambridge
for this weekend, which, went by in a blur. I was just trying to
remember some of the details in talking to some of the
fellows from my class. And I can hardly remember,
because it’s so packed. And to the new class, I just
want to say congratulations. And this is going to be
a life-changing year. And also, that it will
always be like this weekend. There will always
be too much to do. And to the class, to
the departing class, I want to say that
it’s not the end. And what my class used to say,
it was like West Side Story. When you’re Loeb, you’re
a Loeb all the way. And you’ll be back. So when I wrote my
Loeb application, which is quite a few
years ago now, I do remember that I devoted my
main essay to our growing reliance on private
funding to run city parks. And I thought it
was a problem then. And now that some
time has passed, I think it’s even
more of a problem as the chasm between
rich and poor widens, and really, I think,
really threatens to undermine our democracy. So I wanted to
start by just asking this pretty simple
basic question of who are urban parks for? And I’ll answer the
questions, I guess. Are they for office workers
to relax at lunch time, or protesters to highlight
injustice and exercise their democratic
right to free speech? Are they green enclaves
for children to play? And what if those children
are skateboarders? Is it OK to have food
trucks serve meals in parks? And how do we feel about serving
meals to the homeless in parks? Are they for people
who exercise? Or are they for
people who need a nap? Is it OK if we use parks to set
up tents for black-tie parties? Or tents for food
farmers’ markets? Or are we OK with
tents for protests? So obviously, we all
bring a lot of baggage to this conversation. And I know that I do. We want to believe that our
parks are open to everyone. No one ever says, oh,
well let’s just fund parks in wealthy neighborhoods. Yet we know that not
all parks or park users are treated equally. There are many
urban neighborhoods where the schoolyard is an
asphalt lot, where there are no swings to be found. Where the only open
space are vacant lots that are strewn with trash. And it’s no wonder that
there’s an obesity epidemic among children
growing up in poverty. But our expectations
are changing about parks and cities. And over the last
two decades, we’ve really cleaned up
a lot of blight, and banished drug dealer
dealers from parks. At the same time,
we’ve entrusted many of our public spaces
to private managers. And that’s really what
I want to talk about. And even those parks that remain
fully under public control are increasingly expected
to generate revenue to support their existence. We’ve come to see parks
not just as places for kids to play, but as a tool
to leverage revival in cities, to bring
back the middle class. We want our parks to serve
as stages for programming so that we can
create 24/7 cities and make people feel safe. And these added
responsibilities, they stem from worthy goals. But they can also raise issues
about access and equity. And which parks do we fund? Who decides? Who gets to enjoy the results? I feel that the way we think
about parks and public spaces today is shaped by the history
of the last half century, when the condition of our
cities and our parks deteriorated in tandem. When the cities
went into decline, and parks became unkempt
and unwelcoming places, they became magnets for
crime, and drug use. And the poor conditions
of public spaces was itself a reason that
people began to flee cities. And so in case you’ve
forgotten, I just wanted to show you what Central
Park looked like in the ’80s, which is not so very long ago. That’s the Belvedere Castle. But in the last decade, it’s
been a really amazing time. I just think about my
still short lifespan, how I have lived through the
decline and rise of cities. And we’ve been witnessing an
amazing revival– cities that have been hemorrhaging
population for decades have started
to see people return to hollowed-out neighborhoods,
and lots of cities are increasing in population. We’ve had an immense amount
of housing construction. That’s in Washington, DC. Not Philadelphia. So a lot of the people
moving back into cities, as we all know, tend
to be millennials, and very tech-savvy folks. And we’re always
hearing predictions about how technology
is going to make us go into our own little
caves and never come out. But in fact, I think it
makes people more social, because they want to get
away from their screens, and they want to go
outside, and they want to interact with
people, and dogs. And so I think what
technology has done, has given people
a lot more freedom to choose where
they live and work. And that means that people
can be very picky about where they decide to live. And in a lot of cases,
they’re making those decisions based on the quality of the
public spaces– amenities like parks and trails. And I think this explains
why we’re actually living in this golden
age of park-making, because cities realize that
these tech-savvy millennials can live anywhere, and
they want to attract them. And so they are competing for
them to live in their cities by building great parks,
and upgrading old ones. We’ve invented whole
new categories of parks to please them, and you probably
know this pop-up on Broadway in Manhattan, at Times Square. So we have this
whole new vocabulary of pop-ups and parklets,
the High Line in New York. That kind of park
never existed before. Even more ambitious
cities like Dallas are capping highways that
separated neighborhoods, and they’re turning them
into public squares. This is Klyde Warren
park in Dallas, which is a really interesting
and effective park. But just because we’re
building all these parks doesn’t mean we’re actually
spending more public tax dollars on urban parks. In fact, we’re not. In many, many cities,
the parks’ budgets haven’t increased in decades. And this is
Philadelphia, where I think we’re spending
about a mere $3 million more than we spent in the 1980s. I think the budget increased
from $12 million to $15 million for the whole city
of Philadelphia. And so in real dollars, that
means that the parks budget has been cut dramatically. And so people have to find other
ways to maintain their parks. You have to find the
labor where you can. So what have cities done? Well, if they’re not going
to raise their parks budgets, most cities have
figured out that they can court private donors,
and they can outsource parks to private entities. And that’s really
kind of troublesome, because so much of our urban
life is being privatized. But I think it’s especially
troublesome for parks, which are really the
essence of publicness. Once you turn over
control of public space to a private entity, is it
still actually public space? So I just want to go back
and give a little history. I’m sure many of you know this. We know that as cities declined
in the ’60s and the ’70s, parks declined along with them. There are famous
stories about how bad Central Park in New York,
was how bad Bryant Park was. And then the
turnaround actually has been dated to 1980, which is
only four years after New York City almost went bankrupt. And that was the year that a
woman named Elizabeth Barlow Rogers founded the Central
Park Conservancy, which, it was a new idea to create
this nonprofit friends group. And she had a lot of friends,
a lot of wealthy friends. And she was able to raise
tremendous amounts of money, and really transform
Central Park, which was so badly deteriorated. And when you go there
now, it is really the gem of parks in America. It’s the crown jewel
of New York City parks. And because it
was so successful, this conservancy model has
been emulated by cities all around the country. And really, hundreds
of dilapidated parks have been remade by this. But not all parks. This is another park in New
York City, in Corona, Queens. And this could be 1980, right? The private park
managers tend to come in a few different forms. There are conservancies,
there are friends groups, there are trusts. There are business
improvement districts that sometimes run parks, and
there are nonprofit development corporations. And they have been
very, very effective at transforming parks, as I
mentioned, like Central Park. The High Line was created
by a nonprofit– not really by the city. A lot of downtown
parks have been remade by these kinds of private
managers, the kinds of downtown parks that are an expression
of municipal pride– a lot of parks in neighborhoods
that are more affluent, and where people have the
capacity to form organizations, to form friends groups
and hold fundraisers. So they have done
really incredible work. But at the same time,
not every neighborhood has the capacity to
form an organization, or many neighborhoods
don’t even have people they can hit up for money. They don’t have a company
headquartered there. And so one of the results
has been a increase, or a kind of a two-tiered
system where we have have and have-not parks. And so why does it matter? And this is a sign that was
put up after a new park opened in Philadelphia. And I guess I felt a little
offended by the tone of it. So even though these park
managers do great work, it’s easy to forget that their
interests are not necessarily the same as the
public’s interests. Often they see parks as a tool
to spur private development and investment–
not a bad thing. That’s especially
true when parks are run by business improvement
districts and development corporations. They have a more corporate way
of thinking about public space. It’s not about can kids
just let off steam here. They have other goals. And the other thing about
these private managers and private agencies is
they are now often setting the agenda for
public space citywide And this was very
much starkly revealed after the billionaire Barry
Diller announced a proposal to build an entirely new
park on the Hudson waterfront in Manhattan. Diller, who was one of
the biggest contributors to the High Line,
has actually offered to foot the bill for this pier. It’s called Pier 55. $100 million he’s
donating to build it. Not just build it,
but to landscape it and to program it as
an entertainment venue. And it’s not an accident that
it’s across from his office in Chelsea. And when you look at it,
it just looks so fabulous and fun and interesting, and
you say, why would you look that gift horse in the mouth? But I think it’s
worth drilling down into some of the details
of how it came into being, and its effect on other
parks in New York City. So this is Pier 40,
which is a very big pier just a few blocks
south of the pier that Diller wants to build. And it’s run by the
Hudson River Park Trust, which is an
independent public agency. And it has ball fields. It has all kinds of indoor
athletic facilities. It’s incredibly popular. When school lets
out, it just becomes a hive of kids doing all
kinds of athletic things. But the Hudson River
Park Trust which runs it, amazingly, runs this incredibly
popular waterfront park– it receives no money
from any government. It was formed by the state. And at that time,
it was expected to live on the revenue it could
generate from concessions. So it does own Chelsea Pier,
but when the trust was formed, and then when the
contract was negotiated with Chelsea Pier, which
is an amusement venue, they got a great deal. And so it hardly generates
any money for the trust. So what happened was
that the trust has not been able to maintain
all its holdings. It’s responsible for most
of the Hudson waterfront south of about 59th Street. And it had to shut
down one of its peers because the pilings were rotted. It had no money to
turn to fix them. This pier, which is used,
also has a lot of problems. It’s estimated that it needs
about $100 million in repairs to its pilings. So about two years ago,
the head of the trust approached Barry Diller and
told him its song of woe– that the pilings were
rotting on these piers, it really needs some
money, and would you be interested in
contributing something? And like many donors,
he was not interested, because it’s not very
sexy to contribute money for maintenance, and especially
when that maintenance needs to happen underwater. But Diller didn’t
exactly close the door. And there were conversations
with the trust. And as those went on
he got more interested. Rather than repairing
the existing piers, he said I’ll build
another pier, and I’ll fund that entirely myself. And the result was
Pier 55 which is designed by the British
landscape architect Thomas Heatherwick. And here he came up with this
really over-the-top design of this very naturally
landscaped park that would include several concert venues. And it’s sort of like a
Central Park in a giant planter floating off the water. So naturally, people are
very excited about it. It is really pretty. But consider what it is costing
the citizens of New York. So even though Barry Diller
is giving $100 million, and even though he’s
going to program it, and he’s going to pay for
the maintenance for 20 years, New York State and
the City of New York had to contribute an additional
$30 million for access and to repair parts
of the waterfront. And this is going to be a
really, really expensive park to maintain, because if you
have any plants in containers, you know how in the summer
when it gets super hot, they’re very, very
thirsty, and you have to constantly water them. Well, imagine if you
had a two-acre planter. It’s going to suck
up a lot of water. And yes, Barry Diller will
maintain it for 20 years. But 20 years will
go by pretty fast, and then it’ll be the Hudson
River Park Trust’s problem. So it is a very generous gift. But it’s also creating a
park that the trust never planned to build. There’s still no plan
to fix the other piers. And so there are
a lot of unknowns. Meanwhile, I think it’s
an interesting number. So the total cost of this
is said to be $130 million. That is the same
exact same number of that Mayor Bill
de Blasio announced he was going to spend to repair
neighborhood playgrounds in New York. So I think it’s
30 or 40 of them. And this same budget
for this one park. This is a new boardwalk
in Philadelphia. And it’s part of the Schuylkill
waterfront development. There wasn’t enough land, so
the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, a nonprofit
development corporation, decided to build this
boardwalk out in the water. And it’s another
wonderful thing. You’re a little like Huck
Finn out there on the water. And so I want to
talk about this park and this model, this nonprofit
development corporation. For years, Philadelphia talked
about developing its Schuylkill waterfront, and could never
get it off the ground. And then this
corporation was formed. And it’s built several
miles of trails, and it’s done a lot of planning. It’s a public-private
partnership. And cities like these kind of
public-private partnerships, because as I said, Philadelphia
tried to do this on its own. It couldn’t get
it off the ground. These private groups
are way more nimble. They’re better at raising
money from private donors. Yet they still qualify
for public money. This boardwalk was built almost
entirely with public money. The partnerships,
they’re somewhat insulated from politics that
complicates life in a big city. But they’re also
much less transparent in their operations,
because they are private. So this group, it has
a board of directors, and that board
includes executives from Sunoco, the
University of Pennsylvania. Several large developers
are on the board. There’s a couple of lawyers. I think the city has one
representative from the city commerce department. But there’s not a single
neighborhood resident on this board. And this park is about
one block from a very dense row-house neighborhood
in Philadelphia. Everyone loves the park. It’s been very successful. And it’s even been successful
in what the board wanted, which was to spur development
along the waterfront, where there is a ton of vacant land. And one of the interesting
things about that development is– I did not do this picture. I stole this from somebody. But what’s interesting
about this picture, I think you can see some of the
low-scaled houses that are just one block in from
the waterfront. And this is the
kind of development that is being built
on the waterfront. It tends to be way out of scale. But even worse than that–
I mean, the high rises don’t bother me that
much– but everything is being built on
these garage podiums, which, when you have several
of these projects, what you get is this massive wall running
along the waterfront. And because this park is run by
a development corporation, when these projects came through
planning and zoning, they did not say
a peep about them. It’s a very complicated
relationship. And they did not take a stand. And I think that’s
because their interest is to get development–
not necessarily to protect this park. So I think that’s another
example of the conflicts that exist with private managers. And I want to talk about
another Philadelphia example. This is Dilworth Park, which
was designed in the late ’60s, and probably finished
in the mid ’70s. It’s right in front of
Philadelphia’s City Hall. A really fantastic,
Beaux-Arts city hall. Was the largest masonry building
in America before the Pentagon. I’ll just put in
a plug for this. Designed by John McArthur. Took 30 years to build. Incredibly corrupt. That’s why it took 30 years. So in the ’70s this plaza was
opened in front of City Hall. And it was meant to be
sort of the front door for the city to
City Hall, and sort of the living room of the city. And in a typical
’60s design– there are all these level changes. And it’s pretty hard,
a lot of hardscape. And of course, the city
didn’t maintain it very well. And it became a
place where there were a lot of homeless
people, and drugs. And also, for some reason, had
this terrible, terrible bird problem. And at sundown vast flocks
would circle overhead, and they made a big mess. But despite all those problems,
a lot of Philadelphians thought of this as
a place to gather to celebrate citywide events. So if Philadelphia
sports teams ever won anything– which
they never do– this is where they would go. And I remember seeing Bill
Clinton when he was campaigning for president here. And so it did have this. It was the place where
the city came together. It was also the site of
the 2011 Occupy protest. But because it was
in such bad shape, and because people
really didn’t like seeing a lot of
homeless people there, there was a move to clean it up. And the city decided that
it couldn’t handle that. And at the same time,
right around City Hall, a lot of older office
buildings were being converted into apartments. And so there was a kind
of push from the owners of those apartment buildings,
and from real estate interests, to take over this plaza. And the Downtown Business
Improvement District, which is called the Center City
District, said, give it to us. We’ll renovate it. We’ll run it. We’ll take it off your hands. And so I think this is a
kind of amazing thing, where the city outsourced the park at
the front door to City Hall– the most public space of all
public spaces– to the Center City District, which indeed
did raise $55 million, and hired OLIN to redesign it. And again, because it was
done by a private entity, there was no public involvement
at all in the redesign. I don’t mean that the city
didn’t look at the drawings. The city did look
at the drawings. But there was no
public engagement. There were no public hearings
before the design was done. When the design
was all done, they went in a sort of formal way
to the City Art Commission, and the City Art
Commission says, great. The design, I think, reflects
a lot of the current thinking about these kinds of parks. They’ve done away with
the multiple levels that used to exist here. They’ve made this very
flat, kind of bland surface. And the reason for that– this
is incredibly popular right now in parks– is when you
have a bland surface, you can have all
kinds of programming. You can have movie nights. You could have concerts. This park has a fountain. They turn the fountain
on in the summer. In the winter they can
replace the fountain with a skating rink. And when it opened, people
were really, really excited. It was very new and fresh. The Center City District
installed a cafe there. They have a very large crew
of maintenance workers. It’s always clean. It’s actually become
kind of a destination for leisure-time
activities, where no Philadelphian would go there
just to hang out in the past. So definite improvements. But I’m concerned,
because I think there are ways in which the
space is less welcoming. So there are large,
large numbers of uniformed security people. And it was kind of funny,
because the first week they started throwing out people
who were seen taking videos, until they were told that
they couldn’t do that. That that was a First
Amendment right. You had to let people
video in the park. I also think the fountain
acts as a kind of form of crowd control. It’s so big. And technically, they can
turn off sections of it. But they keep it on. And there’s actually very
little surface area of the park where you can just sort
of do what you want to do. Since Dilworth opened,
there have been two major demonstrations here. And I thought the
way they were handled was pretty indicative
of this problem. This is a protest that
took place last week in solidarity with Freddie Gray
after the events in Baltimore. And I was pretty disturbed
that the manager– the private manager– did
not turn off the fountain, and that the demonstration
was kind of forced literally into the corner of this park. After about an hour,
there were a lot of people tweeting
about what’s going on? Why won’t they turn
off the fountains so that the demonstrators
would have more space? And they finally did
turn off the fountains. But it’s not clear. There are a lot of reasons
given for why they didn’t do it from the beginning. But it has the
appearance of being a way of controlling the crowd. Something similar happened
when a protest was staged here after the events in Ferguson. That was during the winter. And the skating rink was here. And I thought it
was kind of amazing that they didn’t stop the
skating during the protest for Michael Brown,
and that there was this weird juxtaposition
of the Zamboni going around and around in circles
while people were chanting. So there’s this kind of
disconnect between whose public space is this. I want to turn to
another issue I think that’s really important
and increasingly prevalent in parks. And this is Washington
Park in Chicago, which you may have been
reading about recently, because this is, I think, the
leading site for President Obama’s library. And there was a
lot of controversy over it, because
the city was going to give the land to the
University of Chicago. So it’s going to give up
part of its parks system to build this library. Which of course is a good
thing, and has its benefits. But I think there is a
tendency among cities that have so much parkland
they can’t maintain it all. And it’s easy to treat it as
a kind of fungible commodity. We’ll just slice off
this piece, and we’ll give this piece to this entity,
and they’ll take care of it. And I see this a
lot in Philadelphia. And this is FDR Park
in Philadelphia, which is the only Olmsted
park in the city, way, way in the south of a
Philadelphia near the sports stadiums, and another big park
that the city can’t maintain. And so recently,
some nonprofit group came along that wanted to
build a bicycle velodrome, because this happens to
be right across the street from the sports stadium. So they thought,
what better place to put another stadium
than in the park? So they petitioned the
city parks department to give them this land. And I have to say to their
credit that there is a board, a citizen board, the
Fairmount Parks Commission, turned them down. But there’s several
other agencies that have jurisdiction. So we don’t know how
it’s going to turn out. But in recent years
Philadelphia’s given up a part of Fairmount
Park for a high school. They wanted to give half of
one park to a cancer hospital. You know, these are good causes. But basically people
come to the city and say, can I have a piece of your park? And the city treats
it like, well, that’s a reasonable request. What do you want to do with it? Maybe we’ll give it to you. And so there’s a lot of pressure
on cities to give up this land. Another big pressure
that I think has a lot of impact
on older neighborhoods is on community gardens. Lots and lots of cities
with vacant land, like Philadelphia, and plenty of
other cities, over time people took ownership of
that vacant land. And they would make it
into community gardens. And they would really put
their heart and soul in them. And they often became
community enterprises, and sort of
community-made parks. And now as cities
revive, you know there’s a ton of housing development. You can see that in the bottom
right there’s even a house being built right
across the street from this community garden
in West Philadelphia. And a developer went to the
local city councilperson– that’s Jannie Blackwell–
and asked her to transfer it for a housing development. And the neighborhood
put up quite a fight. It looks like they’re winning,
but it’s still hard to tell. When these kind of
community gardens are lost, it really hits communities
that are poorer with very, very little open space. and it also, for people
in this community, this is a way to get fresh
vegetables, a way to be outdoors, a way to be active. And so as we lose these
community gardens, we lose this really
crucial bit of open space. I’m not saying it’s not a hard
choice, because communities really do need development. But I think maybe it’s a
little too easy to say, OK, you worked this
land for a little while, but now we’re going
to do something more important with it. And this is a very different
kind of situation, also in Philadelphia. That sort of bump out on that
building that says 1700 Market is now a plaza, and
probably a plaza that was a created as
part of a zoning bonus. But they want to
enclose it and create retail, and in a part of the
downtown that is booming. And so this little open space
where there was light and air is now threatened
with being closed in, because there’s just
so much development, and the pressure is enormous. So I thought I would
add in my talking what can be done to make sure the
limited funds are distributed more equitably,
and what can we do to make sure that all
neighborhoods have access to good parks? One of the good things
happening in Philadelphia– and I think in a
few other cities– is that there have
been the creation of these citywide conservancies. And in Philadelphia it’s called
the Fairmount Park Conservancy. And it’s trying
to position itself as a clearinghouse
to distribute funds to all neighborhood parks. So rather than a
single, wealthy park that has access to donors just
spending money on that park, the citywide conservancy
will filter the money to neighborhoods that don’t have
the capacity to raise money. And I think that’s one of the
best solutions that I’ve seen. One of those parks that
has received money, this is Julian Abele
Park, which was just created in what’s called
the graduate hospital section of Philadelphia. And it was completely
organized by the neighborhood. There was a vacant lot. They were able to
get title to it. They convinced the city to
let them build this park. They raised all the money. They enlisted the help of
the city water department. And because the water department
is concerned about run-off, they were able to get some
money to build this park. And I just want to give a
plug for Julian Abele, who was the first black
person to graduate from the University
of Pennsylvania architecture program. And he grew up in
the neighborhood. And so this is a pretty nice
addition to this neighborhood which had no open space at all. And now there are block
parties, and movie nights, and some other good stuff. This is the 11th
Street Bridge project in Washington, DC, which has
been getting a lot of press. And it’s an interesting
story, because it connects the neighborhood of Anacostia
and the more affluent Capitol Hill neighborhood. And so this park would be
built on a former highway bridge that’s being replaced
by the bridge right above it. And so when they
decided to do this, they knew it would have
a big, gentrifying effect on Anacostia. And from the very beginning,
the organizers of this project really engaged with
the neighborhood. And it became a joint effort. And it is literally a bridge
between these two communities. Or it will be a bridge
between these two communities. And I think involving
the public early and being transparent
about the planning I think helped prevent it from
becoming just a park for one group of people. I think another good
thing that’s happening, and this again involves, well,
in Philadelphia, the water department, and that’s the
greening of schoolyards. So often in cities, schoolyards
are just asphalt lots, and maybe they would
have a climbing frame. I think there was a period
when school districts did not want to have any playground
equipment, because they were afraid of liability. And so you got these incredibly
cold, harsh schoolyards. And now I think that
position has shifted. And Philadelphia
started a program to green some of
the school yards, and using water department
money, and other money. And if that’s the only open
space in a neighborhood, that’s the real
opportunity to create real parks, usable
parks, and green space in neighborhoods that
might be pretty far away from the nearest sort of
professionally managed park. But I think ultimately,
when we talk about how to make
parks more public, I think we really have
to own up to the fact that we can’t have them
unless we pay for them. And that the idea
that we’re only going to spend a minuscule
amount of our city budgets on parks, and expect them to
be public, is unrealistic. And we can’t just
keep outsourcing them to private managers. So I think there has to be
a shift in city budgets, more money spent on them,
and more responsibility taken by the city parks department. They can’t just push it
off on private managers. So to answer my original
question of who are parks for, parts are for everybody. And everybody has
to support them. So thank you very much. [applause] I guess I could
take some questions. We have some microphones. Want this microphone? OK. Wonderful Are there questions? I cannot believe the Loeb
Fellowship does not have questions. Thank you, Charles. Well, I work for New York
City Parks Department. I’m Charles McKinny. So Inga, the core issue
is that the cities have to invest in the parks. I agree, yes. And that you
wouldn’t say that it was wrong to restore Central
Park with private funds. Oh no. No. I don’t say that. So having run
Riverside Park, and not having the benefit of
those sorts of funds, we use volunteers. And it really connected the
park to the neighborhood. And although I was mad that the
city wasn’t paying, in the end, the energy that I got
from real volunteers made it the park
that it is today. So I’d just like to re-frame
the argument that philanthropy makes more money
available to other parks. I’ve heard that argument. OK. Thank you. But I’m not sure I fully buy it. I mean, that’s the argument
for Central Park, and the High Line, is that the city doesn’t
have to spend as much money. But I think we still see cities
not committing as much money as they should to other parks. And I totally agree with
you, that the people have to be involved with their
parks, and that’s a good thing. But they can’t do everything. They can’t do
capital improvements. So, we did have a
change in the mayor. And he put $130
million of city funding on parks that haven’t had
city investment in the past. And that’s a really good thing. Yeah. Yeah. So you talked about the need
for cities to fund parks. In most of the cities
I’m familiar with, the challenge is that
the police and fire are increasingly larger and larger
parts of the municipal budgets, and parks almost always get
cut when there’s a need to cut. Rarely get increases. I wonder if you have any
thoughts about how that plays into the current
situation in this country, with people becoming afraid of
how the police are taking over? Yet we have, as a society,
demanded police protection. And that’s, I think, what’s
led to the set of priorities that we see. Well, that’s a good question. I’m not an expert in
municipal finance. I think the pension
problem– what you’re alluding to partly is the
pension problem, that’s really going to be a killer for cities. It’s already sucking up 30%
of some cities’ budgets– maybe more. So a lot of those
pensions are being paid. Those very high
pensions are being paid to police and firefighters. And so I don’t even
begin to know how cities are going to deal with that. But it’s a really huge problem. And so even though
crime has fallen, and people still want
police in their neighborhood to respond to crimes, I
don’t know how– I’m sorry. I wish I knew the answers. But I don’t know how to
get around all of that. But I will say I do agree
that there are so many things competing with parks
for money in cities. And it’s the easiest thing
to put on the back burner. But I think it’s unrealistic
to think that you can just have other people pay for it. Or it’s unrealistic
to think that there’ll be no consequences
if you outsource it to private managers. And so I think cities need to
own up to that responsibility. I’m Susan Chin, and I’m from the
Design Trust for Public Space. And Inga, public space
belongs to everybody. And yet it belongs
to nobody, right? So unless you have built a
real advocates kind of network, where you have civic
engagement, this is why we need
journalists like yourself to help the public
really understand that that place belongs
to them as well, right? So they need
ownership, and to be able to speak up
and be advocates. Politicians respond
to their citizenry who are going to vote for
them, or not vote for them. So it’s not just a matter of
distribution of resources, but it’s also that strong
citizen voice saying that this is a valuable
resource to us, not just we want
police and security. We want quality,
quality open space, and some place for
our kids to play, and for us to be together
as families, right? So it’s really about building
this other, larger social network as well. Yeah, I agree
totally, completely. And I think there are voices
that do demand those things. And that’s why I was
talking about neighborhoods with the capacity to
organize friends groups, and to lobby for parks. They often get them. That doesn’t cost more, right? It’s not only the rich
neighborhoods that have this. It’s also the poor
neighborhoods. Right. But they might not be as
effective at organizing. And that– I’m [inaudible]. And I’m from Portland, Oregon. And it seems parks have
some similarities to school districts, in that those wealthy
communities figure out some way to support the schools,
and other districts just can’t raise resources. And in Portland
we have one scheme where if you raise private
money for a public school, then a certain
percentage of it has to be redistributed to a pool
for other school districts. And the concern, of
course, is that donors in wealthy districts
won’t donate in that case. But that’s not proven
to be the case. So I’m curious whether New
York City or other park systems have the same system. This doesn’t solve the
private management issue you raised, where funds raised
in well-off neighborhoods for well-off parks have to get
redistributed– some percentage of them– to other parks. Yeah. No, I think that’s
pretty interesting. And I have heard that
discussed in Philadelphia for various things. And in New York City, I believe,
also, that’s been discussed. Is that right, Charles? Well, it’s been discussed, but– [laughter] Parts of the High
Line are now going to be given to various
community parks. [inaudible] Yes. One of the things that the
Central Park Conservancy contributed to New York City is
the degree of professionalism. New York City had just given
up on taking care of its parks. And a citizen, you know,
Betsy Barlow Rogers, demonstrated that you
could keep a park nice. And that real
professionalism lifted up, challenged the entire parks
department to do better. Because they, well,
we are the union, and no, you weren’t doing it. Now Central Park has a program
now where they actually help the parks department do better. And they have little
groups of experts that will help parks all over
the city with their tree care, with their lawn maintenance. And they even manage some
of the capital projects at Riverside Park, because
they can do it better than the government can do. So they can deliver
some services. I don’t that it’s the same
thing as distributing money. But I have to say that it
does encourage the grassroots people to help people to
do better by themselves. Now Susan has some
knowledge I don’t. Yes, thank you, [inaudible]. But what are you talking about? I do know that the High Line is
providing money in other parks. But I don’t know that other
groups are doing the same. I don’t know. I do know [inaudible]. So I have two points,
I wanted to make. I think one of them is kind of
illustrated by your last slide here, which is that you
mentioned the multiple benefits that parks can provide. And I think that a lot
of cities are attempting to monetize some
of those benefits to pay for parks, because
they’re not just spaces. They manage stormwater. And that’s actually a service
that’s worth something. They basically reduce the
urban heat island effect. And that’s worth something. They might increase the
exercise that people get, and maybe lower
rates of obesity, and that’s worth something. And so now I’m seeing
more and more ways that people might be
willing to pay for parks, and different types of
groups paying for parks. Because one of the
weird things about our country is that we have
this crazy capitalist society. And we have philanthropy that
no other country has, right? And so I think it’s
only fitting that we bring some of those resources
from lots of different places, and apply it in civic
spaces in the public realm. But New York and Philadelphia
might be kind of an exception. The secret ingredient that seems
to be missing from so many city parks is design. That the parks and recreation
department is recreation. And they minimize
the maintenance that they have to do. And they like huge parks,
because then they can just bring one crew in the
morning and mow it, as opposed to having
all these little parks that they have to
mobilize around. So if we were going to bring an
external force to city parks, I think the most
critical thing is design. You talked about Central
Park and Bryant Park. Their biggest issues were
they were unsafe by design, Bryant Park in particular. And that even now,
we know so little, or the people who are
practitioners– again, I won’t say anything about
New York– not in this room. [laughter] But we designed them very badly. In DC, where I work
and live, we just built a new city park that
literally everything around it has its back to it. How is that even possible? Is this the Anacostia? No, no, no. It’s a city. It’s designed by the Parks
and Recreation Department. And it’s next to a school. But Kim knows the
park that I mean. It’s the back of every place. It’s going to be unsafe
from the first day until we tear it down
and start all over. So, I think design is the
biggest missing ingredient. Love for you to talk
a little bit more about how do we
bring a better design sensibility to
the public realm– especially in places
that can’t afford it. Well, I do think
public engagement can help that process. I mean, it’s a big subject. It’s a very big subject. And there’s a different
story for every park. I’d be curious to
know the reasons why that park that you’re
referring to does turn its back on
the neighborhood. Is that what you’re saying? That’s the land they had. Uh-huh. Right. So I think talking through
those issues– having a lot of eyes on the project
can help you avoid some of them. I don’t know if this
is always a problem. Sometimes it does become
a committee project, and then you don’t
get real design. So I think that can
also be a problem. But I don’t know if there’s one
answer of why designs are not better. The Dilworth Park
that I criticized, I really feel like that
would have benefited from a lot more
public engagement and a different sensibility. Especially if it’s
a neighborhood park, how could you not engage
the people who live there? The only thing I
would say about it is what private
investment has brought is a much higher
level of design. You can quibble about
that particular park. But if you look at waterfront
parks along the Anacostia, or even the one that you
showed, the bridge park, that was an international
design competition. It brought a higher
standard which at least the city-designed
parks of the last 50 years, in my city and a
lot of other cities don’t come anywhere close. Because the budget
is more towards the actual physical buildings,
towards the recreation spaces. And as you see, the public
engagement is there. It’s really around the building. It’s not really
around the open space. And so that’s really
part of the conundrum, is that parks and recreation and
open space, it’s all together. And the focus in DC has
been on the building, not the space– open space. We have time for
one last question. And Luis has been
patiently waiting up there. So, Luis? Hi. Good night. thank
you for the lecture. It was very nice. I’m Luis Valenzuela from Chile. We have very few
public-private partnership. And we’re looking into
these models pretty much. So it was a very nice
lecture to attend. I would like, if you could,
go a little bit deeper in commenting a
certain differentiation that I see between what
is private-public-private partnerships in terms of
investment and design, towards putting up
a park, versus what is the private and public
partnership in terms of management of the park. Is it that because you
have a private investment, then the management
will be adequate? Is it a way to
look at management in terms of following up
how you keep the park, how you dedicate spaces, how you
participate with community in it? Can you do it even
though it was privately invested from the beginning? So is there a
difference between that? Do you see that difference? Could it be separated? Because at the end,
you’re saying that cities need to put more money. So it seems to be that’s a
problem of the first investment on the public space. Thank you. So it’s a complicated question. So we use these terms
kind of broadly. I try to use this term
“private managers.” But there are many
different forms of private support for parks. So there are friends groups. So the city would maintain
ownership, and responsibility, and maintenance, but
the friends group would be an active
participant, or a conservancy, like the Central
Park Conservancy. But the parks
department is still ultimately responsible
for the park. But the Conservancy
has an office, and raises money, and has a
very big role in the park. And then, going toward
the completely other end of the spectrum, what I’ve
seen is nonprofit development corporations. That’s a really fully
privatized model where the development
corporation would have total responsibility
for building the park, managing the park,
maintaining the park. And they would have a board. And maybe they would have a city
representative on the board. But there’s a
pretty big distance. There’s a further distance there
between the public control, because it becomes
a responsibility of the management, of the
development corporation. And the same I think is true
with these business improvement districts. So I’m not opposed to
private philanthropy. I agree that we need that,
because there’ll never be enough money to keep parks
the way we want them to be. But I guess I do have issues
when cities totally relinquish their responsibility. It’s really easy to say,
let this development corporation run it. It takes the burden totally
off the hands of the city. They just have to send a city
official to the meetings, or maybe interface
over some event. But I think it’s too easy
a solution for cities, and it lets them off the
hook in not spending money that– and not taking
responsibility for how do we want to manage it. When this protest took
place in Dilworth Park, I wondered if the
city was running it, would they have turned
off the fountains? I don’t know the answer
to that question. [applause] OK. Thank you. Thank you, Inga. That was wonderful. All right. Thank you everyone. There is a reception
now in the Portico Room. So we’ll see– excuse me. Oh! Excuse me! Wait! Before people disperse,
Deborah has asked to have just a word or two. Thank you. Good evening. I just found out have
diligent Mark is as an MC, because he wanted to know
how I want to be introduced, and what I was
going to talk about, and I wouldn’t
tell him what I was going to talk about, because
I’m going to talk about him. So, Mark. Mark has been– I’m
going to be really quick. Mark, as you know, has
been our interim curator. So, “In grateful appreciation
for the enthusiasm, energy, and personal commitment
invested in the Loeb Fellowship during his term as
interim curator, the alumni of the
Loeb Fellowship welcome into our lifelong
fellowship Mark Mulligan as an honorary Loeb Fellow. [applause] Thank you so much! And thank you. For later– something
from the council. Thank you so much. The Fellowship is
very grateful for you. OK. Thank you so much. Now we have a reception!

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

1 Comment

  1. Aside from reducing the heat island effect and stormwater runoff, what are the other benefits of "greening of school yards"? When I was growing up, we used our paved school yard as a blank slate to play football, soccer, roller hockey, and baseball competitively as well as to skateboard, roller skate, and freestyle bike. We can't just "green" every single open space on impulse; I believe that the greening of school yards would only limit the amount of energy that children could exert, compared to the ceaseless spirit involved in competing and enjoying the freedom of uninhibited motion on a large paved school yard, designated for and possessed by children, yet designed by the prevalent thinking of adults.

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