The Old Urbanism: It's A Wonderful Block

new haven street photo

We often write in TreeHugger about the importance of cities and of neighborhoods, about new urbanist designs that work like cities used to; Mark Oppenheimer writes in the New York Times' real estate magazine a wonderful article entitled "It's a wonderful block"- His own West Rock Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut.

truman show photo

Unlike the Seaside of the Truman Show, West Rock is the Real Thing

He walks down the street with a Professor of Architecture. "‘‘Look at these sidewalks’’ was the first thing she said, as we embarked from my house heading north toward West Elm. ‘‘First of all, you have them. Second, they’re wide enough for people to walk down two or three across, or with a stroller or a dog.’’ In other words, she was saying, it’s not enough to have a sidewalk — if it’s narrow, then when people approach, their urge is to squeeze past. On our street, I told her, I had seen children and dogs plop down and sit for half an hour on the sidewalk while the grown-ups talked. ‘‘Exactly,’’ she said. ‘‘And you have a planting strip too, and people can plant things on it.’’

Like the New Urbanist communities, there are front porches, close enough to the street that one can talk to passers-by. But mostly what makes it work is what makes our street in Toronto work: a mix of people, ages, races, politics. It is not homogeneous. One resident says:

‘‘I never have to worry,’’ Jack said, leaning forward in his easy chair, ‘‘that when my son is a teenager, I’ll get a call from a principal that my son yelled an ethnic slur at an Orthodox Jew. Or that he was upset that someone has two mommies. And the chance of me ending up next door to someone who doesn’t share these values about diversity — the chance of me living next door to a bigot — is pretty slim.’’ It really is a Wonderful Block in the ::New York Times

More Urban Design in TreeHugger:
The New School Tackles Green Urban Design Through Environmental Education in NYC
Buffalo: Where the Urban Dream is Going Cheap
Escape to New York

Related Content on