Former city commissioner of NYC Amanda Burden told this story on our latest episode about cities. Listen to the segment here: Full episode:
  1. In the 1980’s, Bryant Park was one of the greatest drug dens in New York City.
  2. Burden says the overgrown hedges and trees made it a perfect place for shady business because you couldn’t really see into the park or see out of it.
  3. As a result, the surrounding neighborhood suffered. People didn't even want to go the nearby New York Public Library, because they were worried about being mugged.
  4. Enter urbanologist William “Holly” Whyte.
  5. He proposed to take down all the hedges around the edges of the park. That way, everyone could see easily into the park.
  6. He also put in movable chairs instead of fixed benches. Whyte believed the simple act of moving a chair before you sit down makes you feel like you’ve claimed your own space.
  7. Attention to detail helped transform Bryant Park into a place people wanted to take lunch or read a book. It also helped increase the real estate values in the surrounding neighborhood.
  8. According to Burden, great public spaces help cities thrive. Bryant Park is proof that thoughtful design can make a big impact.