While the coronavirus pandemic has many wondering if New York City will ever be the same again, many more argue that the city is going to be back and better than ever once all this is over. In Jerry Seinfeld's op-ed in the New York Times titled, So You Think New York Is Dead, the comedian writes in response to a viral article about how everyone will leave New York now that they can work remotely saying, "Energy, attitude and personality cannot be 'remoted' through even the best fiber optic lines. That’s the whole reason many of us moved to New York in the first place."
There's simply no place like New York City and there never will be, and as the city turns streets into European-style outdoor dining spaces and art galleries begin to reopen, Urban Design Forum is working to ensure the city that never sleeps will be a stronger, healthier place to live.
The nonprofit launched a new inquiry, "City Life After Coronavirus," with the intent to gather world-renowned experts to establish global responses to the crisis and collaborate on a road to recovery for a healthier, happier city for everyone. One of the most fascinating urban planning submissions comes from global design firm WATG, with their "Green Block," shaping a greener vision for the city of New York, particularly in the Flatiron district.
Led by the firm's master planner and landscape architect John Goldwyn, the firm's urban planners, landscape architects, and designers conceptualized a new purpose for this iconic urban city block to become a lush, urban green space.
"Our cities have long been overdue for transformation and, as some people flee for greener landscapes in the wake of COVID-19, Green Block proves that you don't need to sacrifice one for the other—we actually can, in fact, have both the urban and the green lifestyle," Goldwyn says.
Green Block reclaims an urban city block from cars and pollution back to the people and environment using a maintenance-free system created from 100% recyclable materials. Not only does this plan add verdant greenery to adorn local businesses and buildings, it also attracts revenue for these shops, restaurants, and other stores while helping clean and filter city air. WATG believes Green Block would bring limitless value to the cities and destinations where it is installed—from reducing car noise to providing homes for endangered bees to simply being a beautiful place to take a leisurely walk or grab a drink. Food service operators could even use the extra outdoor space to grow local produce and herbs for their menus.
“People who are all too often disconnected from nature should be allowed respite on their streets," Goldwyn says. "The pandemic tapped into an underrepresented desire in urban dwellers to connect with nature. That desire is a human right, and the city needs to address it. Green Block is in the best interest of New Yorkers and New York City’s standing in the world."
While it's unclear whether or not this plan will actually be implemented in New York City just yet, WATG is working with private landowners in the U.K. to deploy Green Block on several London streets. Goldwyn says planners and designers have a responsibility to help communities become more self-reliant and create systems that help the generations of today and tomorrow thrive. He hopes Green Block will do just that for the greatest city in the world.
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