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Building Places that Belong to Us All:
a Recap of on Placemaking Weekend NYC

Our inaugural Placemaking Weekend in New York City brought placemakers from Mexico, Canada, Norway, Costa Rica, Spain, France, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Denmark, Singapore, and across the US to learn from cutting-edge practitioners creating places in one of the world's greatest cities.
Things kicked off at Social Life Project headquarters, where PlacemakingX hosted a full-day placemaking training. Attendees heard from Fred Kent, Steve Davies, Kady Yellow, Guillermo Bernal, Madeleine Spencer, Ethan Kent and others about their participation in the early days of the modern placemaking movement and how global networks and agendas are at the forefront of today's battle for place.
The next morning, we went on a walking tour of Rockefeller Plaza, Bryant Park and various corporate bonus plazas along the Avenue of the Americas. Fred Kent, who helped reclaim these spaces for people, explained how programming and making a few simple modifications to the design (mainly adding seating, removing cars, and improving visibility and access) sparked the vivacity we observe there today.
In the afternoon, Mike Lydon of Street Plans, walked us along the Broadway corridor from Greeley Plaza through the Flat Iron District to Union Square, and we saw an amazing progression of temporary plazas, squares, and walking paths taking over Broadway's carrying capacity for cars. Along the way, we met with area business improvement district directors who have been working on this conversion for 20 years. They explained that the process of temporary-to-permanence, new materials, funding, and incredible will and perseverance has led to a transformation that is 99% invisible to most, but was made apparent to us through this ingenius walking path engineered by Lydon. 
On Saturday morning, we switched gears and headed up to the South Bronx for breakfast with MacArthur Fellow Majora Carter at the Boogie Down Grind. Majora's talk and tour were the an extreme highlight for most of our visitors as they were moved by her passion for improving the places in her community that she instinctively knew could go from places of trauma to places of health and wealth creation. She showed us the first waterfront access to the Bronx river that she helped placemake into reality and the train station she has turned into Bronxlandia: a community hub and popup shop in honor of her father, a Pullman Porter on the railroad.
The group had to split up Saturday afternoon among a variety of options. Some of us stayed in the Bronx to join a Place Solutions workshop with the Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. We participated in a charrette around reusing a decrepit train station and the area around it for community programming. Others headed to Brooklyn to attend Pratt Super Saturdays, an end-of-semester studio presentation showcase in urban design, architecture, and place management. The rest attended Jane's Walks put on by the Municipal Arts Society.
At sundown, we regrouped for a picnic in Washington Square Park with Nate Storring, the co-executive director of Project for Public Spaces and an editor and biographer of Jane Jacobs. Nate shocked us by explaining that Washington Square Park's grand fountain used to be surrounded by traffic and cars before a temporary closure led to the plan to infill the park. In this spot, Jane Jacobs famously defeated Robert Moses' plan to raze the area for an expressway. It was great to hear more about Jane Jacob's persona, but the conversation's passion and energy centered more on whether Jane is still relevant today in a world much different than the one she was writing about before the pandemic, the spread of cell phones, and the evolving conversations around race reconciliation, globalism, AI and violence.
On Sunday morning, we went to Cobble Hill Cinemas for the Friends and Family Premiere of The Place Man, a 20-minute documentary about the life of Fred Kent produced and directed by Guillermo Bernal. We had a wonderful discussion about prioritizing place funding and centering place through stories before proceeding to Fred and Kathy's house for munching and mingling amongst new and seasoned movement leaders.
In the afternoon, we were lucky to check out the incredible NOoSPHERE Arts located in (and on top of) a former Exxon oil plant amidst a sparkling new sewage waste treatment plant and a corona of antiquated, heavy industrial properties sloshing in a sea of superfund ecological degradation. But at the NOoSPHERE, Greenpoint rooftops provide foundational plant life for the area's restoration of pollinators and birds as well as serving as a one-of-a-kind backdrop for dance performances: "Imagine an orange sunset with whirling dervishes dancing through these gardens," offers our artist in residence tour guide, Sol Kjøk. We were glad for this unique stop which featured the power of arts and nature to regenerate places and society.
We wrapped things up at the Public Theatre with a performance of the Earth Church featuring Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir. This pro-science, pro-community, pro-Earth gospel-style musical could have been written just for us: the narrative centered around our connection to nature and the people around us. The show was dedicated to Jordan Neely, a young black man who experienced a mental health crisis and was ruthlessly choked to death amongst a crowd of cheering onlookers just before our visit to New York. Our young black placemakers urged the entire group to take seriously this transgression and to spread the word about the state of exclusion and vulnerability of people from public places due to race, mental health and gender. And truly, the placemakers in summary said they were most inspired and most excited to go forward and build places together that belong to us all.

Catch us Down the Road

Didn't get to NYC? Let's converge at one of these upcoming events/festivals or let us know what's happening in your neck of the woods!

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