SINGAPORE--New York City typically conjures up images of a hip, cool city; one born and bred in innovation and creativity. However, it is the city's efforts in creating a sustainable urban landscape for its 8.1 million residents which won it the Lee Kwan Yew World City Prize 2012.
Presented at the World Cities Summit here Monday, the award is given for interesting and innovative urban planning in cities around the world.
Accepting the award on the city's behalf, Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of Parks & Recreation, New York City (NYC), relayed thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's leadership, noting that it has become an international center for ideas and policies aimed at building vibrant green urban communities.
One of these ideas, PlaNYC, is an action-oriented agenda for creating a greener and greater city. The plan focuses on six key aspects of the environment: land, air, water, energy, climate change, and transportation. Its goals include planting 1 million trees by 2017, restoring great regional parks and ensuring all New Yorkers live no more than a 10-minute walk from a park or playground.
Highlighting the NYC Department of Transportation, Benepe said its commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, and the department have made New York's streets safer for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists through the creation of pedestrian plazas and bicycle lanes. For instance, to increase safety for cyclists, more than 475 kilometers of bike lanes have been installed in NYC since 2005. In addition, protected bike lanes were built to move cyclists out of harm's way.
Benepe also acknowledged the work of the NYC Department of City Planning and its director, Amanda Burden, who worked to reshape New York City through reimagining its waterfront and the identification of former industrial sites being reclaimed into public parks.
The adaptive reuse of old infrastructure into beautiful public spaces includes two significant projects: Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the High Line. Brooklyn Bridge Park is a recycled park where abandoned mid-20th century piers and warehouses are being converted into a waterfront park with beaches, fishing piers, canals, paddling waters, and restored wetlands. The High Line was built on an abandoned elevated freight railway and as one of New York City's most popular public parks, Benepe said, describing it as "a mile-and-a-half-long recycling project".
He said one of the key factors to NYC's success was the emergence of strong community partnerships, as well as the Central Park Conservancy which is a private-public partnership model established in 1980, which had raised over US$470 million in private investment and "radically transformed the landscape of the park".
Clement Teo is a freelance IT writer based in Singapore.