A changing New York state of mind

When I visited New York in January I was worried.  Central Park had just recorded another record snow and the life in the city seemed to resemble that of pre-2007 – the only cyclists were delivery men, and the hordes of pedestrians on the City’s lively streets were only moving from A to B rather than spending time in the dozens of new city plazas created over the past 4 years . Few people were taking the time to soak up the atmosphere of the city and few women and office workers were seen on their bikes. Despite widespread support for the Department of Transportation’s Green Light for Midtown and ReNEWable Times Square projects, the pressure was on city leaders to defend the changing face of New York’s public realm.  The issues of bicycle lanes had become especially contentious – being widely discussed and debated.

Yet when I visited NYC again in May – spring had truly made an impact.  The streets were filled with diverse cyclists –

young, old, women, men, tapered jeans and dockers, as well as locals and tourists were meeting and socializing in the new public spaces of the city. Tattooed hipsters were sharing the same spaces as top-sider wearing yuppies, mid-western tourists and lifelong New Yorkers were both glued to their ipads sitting in the free tables and chairs.

Quick business meetings and office tasks have moved out into the public realm

Alone together, hordes of New Yorkers were enjoying time in the City.  City life had transformed from a lifestyle of ‘A to B as quickly as possible’ to a more relaxed ‘enjoy the journey’ . The outdoor café life of Gansevoort had spread to the rest of the Meat Packing district – and beyond.  The streets of New York have begun to rival the City’s fantastic park’s as places to spend time in the city.

City life is unfolding from inside shops and cafes and out into streets and spaces

All forms of non-motorized transport are utilizing the new bicycle lanes

All forms of non-motorized transport are utilizing the new bicycle lanes

Why check e-mail inside when comfortable free seating is available along Broadway?

Rather your grabbing lunch, or just relaxing Mad. Sq. Eats Mark't is a great way to enjoy city life

From highly visible and meticulously designed projects like the High Line, to newly created temporary Madison Square Park Eats, the economic benefits of investing in the public realm and prioritizing the needs of people in the city are beginning to be understood.  In fact, the High Line is heralded as an Economic Dynamo – creating thousands of jobs, boosting real estate values and spurring private investment.

The newly created food market at Worth Square showcases independent food artisans. With fantastic views, great subway access and close proximity to Madison Square Park, it is surprising that Worth Square was never utilized before.

As I noticed that the number of baby carriages had begun to compete with the number of leashed dogs, I realized that the city was again re-inventing itself.  This time not only as a place to get rich, inspire the next Jay-Z, and visit as a tourist -  but also a place to spend free time, feel healthy, and raise a family.   The culture of New York City is changing.

New York City has always been a great place to raise a family, but it seems that even more young families are spending time in the city's streets as well as parks.

After years of smaller west coast cities leading the charge toward high quality  urban living, the Big Apple is back.  NYC is again leading the charge of American cities into the second decade of the 21st century.  It’s about quality of life, mobility, and happiness. It’s about a sustainable future, but also a livable today.   New Yorkers get it and now they have the platform to again lead the charge.

Old and young, male and female, the profile of the New York Cyclist is expanding.

Old and young, male and female, the profile of the New York Cyclist is expanding.

Part of the reason more and different types of people are biking has to do with new amenities that improve the comfort and convenience of cycling in NYC

…. Now if that bikes on the subway issue can just be simplified
1 comment
  1. Jonathan Baker said:

    As an American living in Copenhagen, this is inspiring to read. As a foreigner, one is always comparing life where one happens to have ended up to how it is back home (often looking back with slightly rose colored glasses). For me, one of the greatest things about living in Cph. is the ability to use a bike — for nearly anything. I have moved a bit outside the city now, but I still appreciate the use of bicycles that has become a trademark for Copenhagen world wide (“Copenhagenization” right?). So I am very glad to see that it seems these ideas (which really do make the city so livable) can cross the Atlantic. Now if the same thing could just make it’s way to the West coast (where I’m from)….

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