New design shows what a greener NYC could look like

A new design shows a Flatiron District with no cars and grass.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
Editor, Time Out New York

While the quarantine kept us all inside, New York City's green spaces and waterways flourished as emissions from traffic eased. Soon, we turned to our parks for a bit of peace.

Inspired by the return to nature we all experienced on some level, global design firm WATG held an internal design competition to transform urban spaces in a post-pandemic world for the better. Its team of urban planners, landscape architects and designers were able to come up with a "green, car-less, al fresco-hopping" streetscape vision for New York’s streets with a focus on Manhattan's Flatiron District. The firm says the area and the Flatiron Building itself is an iconic symbol of New York City, which is why it chose it for its concept.

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The concept, titled "Green Block," is led by John Goldwyn, who worked with the team to "claw back" space from roads and "reclaim it" for the people and the environment, WATG says.

"Our cities have long been overdue for transformation and, as some people flee for greener landscapes in the wake of COVID-19, Green Block proves that you don’t need to sacrifice one for the other — we actually can, in fact, have both the urban and the green lifestyle," Goldwyn said.

How would this design actually be implemented? WATG says it could be done through a "kit-of-parts system" that is maintenance-free and created from 100% recyclable materials. 

Paved sidewalks would be replaced with lush plants, where restaurants could even grow vegetables, herbs or fruits to serve on their menus. 

Adding in greenery would help clean and filter city air while beautifying streetscapes, reduce car noise and pollution, provide a habitat for the decreasing bee populations and increase open space for people to exercise and relax. 

flat iron building watg
Photograph: Courtesy WATG

"People who are all too often disconnected from nature should be allowed respite on their streets," Goldwyn said. "The pandemic tapped into an underrepresented desire in urban dwellers to connect with nature. That desire is a human right, and the city needs to address it. Green Block is in the best interest of New Yorkers and New York City’s standing in the world."

WATG is actually working with property owners in the City of London to identity select streets where Green Block could be implemented. Its concept has also been recognized by Urban Design Forum as a solution for their "City Life After Coronavirus" series.

The concept isn't that off-base—New York City has been shutting down streets to traffic this summer for residents to cycle, run, and just generally enjoy the open space while we all try to socially distance.

What do you think of the concept? 

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