Jenna Witzleben

Ecology School blog

Welcome to the Ecology School blog, where I document my ongoing self-education in ecology, landscape design, and urban design.

Open Space Dialogues - Active Park Design


Last Wednesday, Jan 9th, I attended an event hosted by New Yorkers for Parks as part of their “Open Space Dialogues” series. This particular event was titled “Healthy City, Active Places” and through presentations and a panel discussion, explored the role of parks in promoting the physical activity of urban residents. Many topics and lenses were addressed as part of this event, but I wanted to capture and share three of my primary take-aways:


01 / Research shows greenery makes spaces more welcoming

This may seem extremely obvious and common to those of us who are already advocates for greening in our built environment. However, I found the study conducted by Center for Active Design (featured in their Assembly Civic Design Guidelines) showing a 10% increase in how many people perceive a building as welcoming when a few trees and a bench were added to be extremely exciting. Just a few days after this event I shared the study with some of my colleagues as we have been discussing how to respond to critique that our current design for a project seems cold and not welcoming. It has helped me provide those who are less enthusiastic about ecological design and biophilia with the motivation to incorporate these critical facets of design. This study provides a platform to stand upon to champion these efforts in otherwise non-landscape projects.

Image: NYC Department of Parks and Recreation

Image: NYC Department of Parks and Recreation

02 / Parkour Parks coming to NYC

The new designs for the Harold Ickes Park in Red Hook, Brooklyn were discussed as the first in an emerging class of NYC parks to feature infrastructure for parkour and skateboarding. Check out the big climbing rocks! I love this part of the design. I feel the rocks expand beyond common design features of trees and grasses found in biophilic and ‘wild’ park design. It’s a creative way to both encourage activity and movement, and to foster physical interaction with natural elements.


03 / Importance of attending community board meetings

The event closed with an important call to action - one which I’ve been hearing more and more frequently as I investigate pathways to urban greening: get involved with your community board. Community boards in NYC are able to take the concerns, requests, and proposals from their constituents and incorporate it into their advisement on land use, zoning, and budgeting. Their monthly meetings are open to the public! If you live in any of the five boroughs, you can find out more about your community board and when their meetings are scheduled here.

Special thanks for this wonderful event to Lynn Kelly and the New Yorkers for Parks team, as well as the speakers, panelists, and moderator: Sheila Barksdale-Gordon and Dionne Grayman (Co-Founders, We Run Brownsville), Joanna Frank (President & CEO, Center for Active Design), Martin Maher (Brooklyn Commissioner, NYC Parks), Michael Schnall (Vice President, Government Relations & Community Investment, New York Road Runners), Mike Silverman (Director of Sports, City Parks Foundation) Paulette Spencer (Community Engagement-Policy Analyst, Bronx Community Health Network), Jeff Coltin (Staff Reporter, City & State).

Jenna Witzleben