Five Big Apple ideas for our Royal City

    I spent last week in Manhattan. Although it is a very different place than New Westminster, I couldn’t help but notice a few things that our little burgh could borrow and make our own. With blistered feet and starry eyes, I’ve put together a wish list of five ideas I wish the Royal CityRead More

  

Manhattan’s Chinatown, as seen from our hotel window
 I spent last week in Manhattan. Although it is a very different place than New Westminster, I couldn’t help but notice a few things that our little burgh could borrow and make our own. With blistered feet and starry eyes, I’ve put together a wish list of five ideas I wish the Royal City would borrow from the Big Apple. Maybe not all of these are doable here, but a girl can dream!

 

Supporting cycling through protected lanes and bike share programs improve traffic flow, and increase safety for both cyclists and pedestrians.
 5. A City bike-share program – Prices are reasonable, you don’t have to worry about your bike being stolen, and since you can drop it off anywhere, you don’t have to commit to making a return trip. I saw blue bike share bikes everywhere, used by both tourists and locals. Notably, for a city notorious for its gridlock, there are protected bike lanes throughout the city. The effect of these bike lanes on traffic? On some streets travel times are actually faster because cars turning left now have pockets to wait in without holding up traffic, pedestrian injuries have dropped an average of 22% on streets with bike lanes, cyclist injuries are down (by 65% on one particular avenue!), and local business has seen a boost in retail sales, new jobs and more tourists.

 

Sailing remote control toy boats in Central Park. You can see a cafe on the other side of the lagoon where you can get a surprisingly tasy burger and enjoy a glass of wine or cold beer overlooking the lagoon.
 4. Mixing business with pleasure – Throughout public parks there are spaces for small businesses to offer refreshment and fun. In even the smallest park there are buskers and food carts, and in larger areas like Central Park, there are a variety of relevant businesses that enhance the park experience: boat rentals, carriage rides, gift shops with relevant books and souvenirs, cafes and activities. There are also many adjacent businesses, museums and attractions. On our walks Central Park we also stopped for a glass of wine at a cafe overlooking one of the lagoons, rented a remote control sailboat, visited two large museums and bought snacks. We have small concessions in Queens Park and Pier Park, but currently New West parks tend to be removed from our commercial areas. It would be interesting to plan to create more relevant opportunities for small business that can add to the park experience. 
 
We stopped to listen to these fellows play some excellent bluegrass. Their brand-new band is called The Sidemen. Talented folks!
 3. Street performers and public art – Crooners playing guitar on the subway. B-boys breakdancing in public squares. Cellists busking in Chelsea Market. Part of what makes the city come alive is the random discovery of talent as you move through the city. Parks are full of statues and wonderful art installations that make your walk through each area more memorable. New West could fill our streets with music in the summer with a call for performers, and support more murals and art installations in parks and commercial districts. We should do more to support emerging talent and strengthen our own base of local artists. 

 

High Line Park, in New York’s Meatpacking district.
 2. Neighbourhood parklets – There isn’t a lot of space for large parks, so NYC has found space in some unusual places. All around town, the City has reclaimed road space to create public places to sit and eat lunch or people-watch. People bring their brown-bag lunches or food cart finds and enjoy a bit of sun while they rest their feet. There are also many small public squares, playgrounds and teeny parklets where people can find a patch of green in the city. The most unusual one I have seen is Highline Park, which transformed an elevated train track into a narrow walkway above the city, lined with greenery and public art.

 

In some areas, like SoHo and Little Italy, there are so many pedestrians that they spill over into the streets. Cars are a decidedly second-tier way of getting around the city.
 
1. A walkable city – New York is the ultimate walkable city. Cars are a decidedly second-tier way of getting around unless you have a really good reason to use one. Pedestrians rule at crosswalks, and the city has done a fantastic job of supporting this through the creation of many public seating areas (to rest your tired feet), supporting distinctive neighbourhoods that can only truly be enjoyed on foot, and maintaining a fast and efficient subway system that makes it easy to zip across town when you need to go somewhere fast. In New West, we already enjoy a culture of walking but we could do more to make it more pleasant. I would like to see more cafe tables (public and private), more treed boulevards (especially in lower apartment blocks where green space and shade is lacking), and a pedestrians-first traffic policy. 

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

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4 comments

  1. A walkable city is a terrible idea. Downtown Vancouver used to be pleasant to stroll, but since they started getting people out of their cars and onto the sidewalks, it’s just unbearable. Uptown New West is already pretty clogged with the walking undead….go past the library on any given day to see what I’m talking about.

  2. I feel like I’m beating the drum to death, but we have a perfect opportunity to have a Highline Park in New Westminster on the parkade. As most people know city council refuses to reconsider the demolition of the a large piece of usable space.

  3. New Westminster has a golden opportunity to have its own Highline Park – with small retail and food offering connected by small raised walkways on the parkade. Unfortunately, after much consultation, all of it before the development of the Highline Park, city council is ignoring the possibilities and going ahead with the demolition of the parkade.

  4. Re he Parkade / Highline park commentary, I see where you are coming from but…

    The Pier Park IS the New West equivalent of the HighLine park. That was essentially the intent and what all of the accolades and awards for this development refer to.

    Sure, we could have a bunch more “highline park” built but it would be a bit redundant as it is immediately adjacent to the just-completed riverside Pier Park. Crucially, it would still leave a (potentially) very vibrant street-level retail and entertainment area buried, dirty and ill used.

    Just my opinion of course. I think the parkade should go.

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