Thursday, February 25, 2010
Judyta Banach Activity #3
For our third activity we had to determine what is public or private in the borough of Manhattan. For me public spaces are places where all people are welcome, and private ones I associate with lacked or gated communities. I had a feeling from the beginning that this activity is going to be confusing because I feel like everything in NYC is private. People buy houses and practically become the owners, but they can’t move walls, cut tress, or have any kind of construction in their own house without city permit.
For my trip I decided to walk down on Lexington Ave from 68th to 59th Str. Hunter College and the area around it, looks very public to me because even to get inside the college, one doesn’t have to prove that he or she is the student. From what I heard that is going to be change next semester and students will have to swipe their hunter college id. Also, the subway entrance next to the West lobby is a very public space, where not only students but random people like to hang out, especially when is warm outside. From the nine blocks that I walked, this area was the first where I saw people, mostly students, gathering to have a cigarette, or to have a brake form their classes.
The first couple of blocks from 67th to 65th Str. look quieter than the rest, where all the stores and shopping areas are located. Between 62nd and 61st street there is a puppy store, where the small and cute dogs are “displayed” behind the glass windows. I noticed that this area, which is more of a private space, always attracts people passing by. This place was the second gathering place where people stopped to admire beautiful puppies. Many times I find this part of Lexington very annoying because people take the entire sidewalk and it is really hard to pass by them.
The space around 61st and 59th street is where the big shopping area starts. Stores like Diesel, Bloomingdales, Aldo, and Banana Republic are just few on Lexington Ave that attract local people and tourists as well. I always thought that stores are consider public spaces because basically everyone is allowed to shop in there. On the other hand, they are owned by people that can pick their own clientele. Usually these few blocks are very crowded because of these stores, but on the day of my observations it was raining and there were less people. Also another two public spaces in this ten block radius, that are usually very crowded, are subway stations, one located directly on 59th street, and the other one on 63rd street. After walking for some time on Lexington Ave, I decided to change my route and went to observe 67th street. The street looked more private because the apartment buildings were all gated.
After reading few chapters of “Geography of Nowhere” written by James Howard Kunstler, who describes how America developed from coherent communities into a land that looks the same, I was trying to imagine Lexington Ave without all the car noise and big buildings. The author of the book mentioned that many years ago: “roads were practically nonexistent between towns” (Kunstler, p.21), which makes me think how peaceful were towns back in the days. Today most of us can’t even imagine living without a car, somewhere far from civilization. Kunsltler argues in his book that cities became the way they are, where private became more important than public because of the economical reasons.
Even thought the trip helped me in some ways to understand the difference between public and private, I still feel that most of the places in NYC are private and that many of them are only allowed for wealthy people.