Crowdsourced Ideas Show New Yorkers Are Thinking Sustainably


Photo: Leo Newball Jr. under a Creative Commons license.

In the last few years, New York City has banned smoking just about everywhere, lit the Statue of Liberty with wind power, and put forward a plan to renovate its waterfront, and much of it is thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

But the mayor isn't the only one with ideas, as has been proved by By the City / For the City, an ongoing call for suggestions from New Yorkers for ways to improve the Big Apple. In April and May, more than 500 ideas came in, and they're all over the map.By the City / For the City is a project of the Institute for Urban Design and the Project for Public Spaces, designed to lead into the Urban Design Week festival in September. And while anyone can suggest an idea, the project has moved onto the design competition phase.

Until July 14, architects, planners, and other urbanists are invited to design proposals that address the ideas already proposed by New Yorkers. Once all the submissions are in, ten $500 prizes will be awarded to the best ones, as determined by a distinguished jury.

The open nature of the project has brought in ideas silly (Wouldn't it be great if... we could go back to Euclidean geometry?), ambitious (Wouldn't it be great if... we built high-tech, multi-use, environmentally-instructive, flexibly-designed library-parks in our most impoverished neighborhoods), and sensible (Wouldn't it be great if... you could actually hear announcements in subway stations).

Among the calls for farmers markets, better subway and bus service, a graffiti park, and the banning of car alarms, some issues were more popular than others. Transportation was the topic of 32.5% of ideas; streetscapes came in second at 27.7%. Third was green space (23.6%), and culture/public art came in fourth with 20.9%.

Besides the stats, a number of other themes were identified by the team behind the project compiled a list of trends. Here they are:

  • Social equity: more open public spaces, car-free and shared; community centers; affordable, mixed-income housing
  • Enjoyment: safer, cleaner parks that accommodate varied uses; more public art
  • Connectivity: physically, socially, and transportation-wise, New Yorkers want more ways to connect with each other
  • Beauty: beautify streets, improve parks, install murals, and "make NY easier to ❤"
  • Accessibility: New Yorkers want access to the waterfront, to bridges, and to fresh, healthy food

All of these play a role in the sustainability movement- a city where urbanites can interact, move around, eat well and play is a healthy, green place. Now it's a matter of making sure the good ones are picked out and implemented.

More examples of crowdsourcing at work:
Winners Selected in LifeEdited Competition To Design New York Apartment
An Ambitious Project Looks to Fix Urban America through Crowd Sourcing
Solving the Smashed Tomatoes Problem, Crowdsourcing the Perfect Shopping Bag
Crowdsourcing the Most Energy-Efficient Life

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