In the article, How Much Public Space Does a City Need?, by Gregory Scruggs displays an argument about public space within cities. When we think “public space” the first thing that comes to mind is parks and outdoors. For example, when we think public spaces in New York City we think Central Park, Highbridge Park, Inwood Hill Park, Marcus Garvey, Bryant Park, etc. New York City is 49 percent public space; however, all these parks only add up to 15 percent. “When we think about public space, we picture parks and greenways, but overlook the largest single public space asset in any city’s rolls: streets.” New Yorkers walk these pavements everyday including it in the public space percentage for the city. These statistics are according to the researchers at UN-Habitat’s Global Urban Observatories Unit and was published in their report, Streets as Public Spaces and Drivers of Urban Prosperity. “Manhattan, with 36 percent of its area is dedicated to streets and a booming economy, has the largest street grid in the world thanks to a 1811 plan that prioritized a reliable street pattern.”
Among many other cities in different parts of the world, the cities with the most public space dedicated to streets are Hong Kong, with 34 percent and Tokyo, with 29 percent. Bangui, Central African Republic; Yerevan, Armenia; and Dhaka, Bangladesh are under 10 percent. “Clos argues that these cities look more like the Phoenixes of the world than the Manhattans and Barcelonas.”
“It is not just the amount of public space, but its quality of potential use, the process through which it is created and owned, and its governance,” says Ethan Kent, Vice-President of Project for Public Spaces. Comparing cities based on their percentages of public space isn’t important, but what is important is what the city and residents choose to do with them.