Conversations on Public Space, is a weekly series of conversations I had with graduate students from Pratt Institute's Urban Placemaking and Management program, in New York. Coming from diverse professional backgrounds and from different parts of the world, these aspiring Placemakers share their thoughts on their profession, interests and the public spaces they love.
The cultural and democratic life of the city depends on viable public space. Together, we can truly make NYC public for all and help create more dynamic, healthy and happy neighborhoods. Tell us what your favorite public space is and why, using #PublicForAll to help us spread this message.
This week's conversation features Molly Greenberg from New York
Dhanya: Describe the city you're from. What's your favorite public space from your home city and why?
Molly: Although I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 7 years now, I’m originally from New Rochelle, NY, located right above the Bronx and Pelham Bay Park. My favorite public space is the Nature Study Woods, a winding, New England woods environment, home to secret marshes, ponds, and old dilapidated stone buildings. It was the best in the fall — all those crunchy brown leaves and crisp air!Dhanya: What is your background in? What brought you to a career in design and placemaking?
Molly: My academic background is in art theory and practice, Spanish, and political geography, which is quite the smorgasbord! However, I’ve been working in the service industry in New York City for the past five years, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to do something creative and design-y, but also something that kept me involved in government and politics — which is what led me to pursuing a career in placemaking.
Dhanya: What are your areas of research/design interest?
Molly: Parks and open space design, environmental advocacy and education, public art programming, community planning and design in post-industrial cities (a recurring theme in NY and other parks of the country). My ongoing thesis research is on the creative placemaking phenomenon that is shaping the public realm in New Mexico.
Dhanya: What/who inspires your professional/academic goals?
Molly: Besides the Queen, Jane Jacobs — I’m really inspired by my fellow classmates that I’ve met at Pratt. They’re a hardworking, focused, dedicated, and whip smart bunch of people from all over the world, and I learn so much from working with them.
Dhanya: What is your favorite public space in New York and why ?
Molly: I don’t think I could choose a favorite park in New York, but I’ve always loved the city streets and sidewalks. There’s an energy buzzing up from the concrete that is like nowhere else I’ve ever felt in the world. Also, you can sing, skip, dance, cry, scream, nap, eat, and kiss all over them, and for the most part no one cares or gives you any lip.
Dhanya: What do you think is missing from the conversation around public spaces?
Molly: I think there needs to be a much larger conversation about public space is for. People assume that it’s for everyone — but many times it’s not, and there’s inequities in public space that we talk about all the time as professionals and academics that hasn’t quite hit mainstream consciousness yet.
Dhanya: What according to you is the biggest challenge with respect to public life in the city you're from?
Molly: The biggest challenge with respect to public life in NYC by far is funding. Right now, a lot of new public space projects are getting private funding, or money from conservancies, which is awesome for those projects — but this type of public/private investment creates such an inequitable landscape. Cities are starting to understand that investing in public space leads to a healthier city in the long run, but there’s still not enough long term comprehensive planning and investment that goes towards it.
Dhanya: What are your aspirations after graduation?
Molly: My most dreamy aspiration would be to work for a public arts and design firm, and help design/curate public art exhibitions and programming around the world. I would also love to move to the western part of the United States, or Mexico, or Sweden — I think traveling and working in other cities besides NYC will strengthen my placemaking practice.
Dhanya: How do you envision the future of your profession 10 years from now?
Molly: I hope that there’s a Placemaking division in city governments all around the work. I hope Placemakers are effective liaisons between the public and design and planning professionals. I also hope that we can change and rehabilitate cities that need it — to make them feel more like home.
I’ve always loved the city streets and sidewalks. There’s an energy buzzing up from the concrete that is like nowhere else I’ve ever felt in the world. Also, you can sing, skip, dance, cry, scream, nap, eat, and kiss all over them, and for the most part no one cares or gives you any lip.