Lampoon Magazine International

Master of Parks: the gentrification matter in New York City

Manhattan, NY

February 2020

M. Silver, NYC Park Commissioner

suburban documenting reportage New York City needs green space. To promote the health and well-being of a growing population — and meet the problems of pollution and climate change head on — America’s largest city has invested heavily in expanding and improving its public parks system. But green space can also present problems of social inequality. Many worry that new parks, playgrounds, and community gardens will spur gentrification, making neighborhoods unaffordable for low-income communities of color. And high-profile green spaces can become tourist destinations that feel inaccessible to longtime residents.

Since he took office in 2014, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver has been balancing these concerns. A New York City native, Silver has been an urban planner for over thirty years. Today, through a series of new initiatives, he is attempting to rehabilitate parks in the city’s socially disadvantaged neighborhoods, expand the tree canopy into underused areas, and make green spaces more welcoming to the communities they serve. For Lampoon, Silver agreed to sit down with architect Stefano Boeri, guest editor of this issue, and discuss the present and future of urban parks and forestry — in New York City and across the globe.

On a February afternoon, they met at Silver’s offices in the Arsenal, a turreted brick building on the southeast side of Central Park. Outside the window, the foggy city skyline was visible. Spanning one wall was a pencil-drawn schematic of the park. Rumor has it, Silver told Boeri, that the conference room they sat in had been the office of Robert Moses, New York City’s fabled “master builder” and the parks commission for twenty-six years during the mid-twentieth century. Their conversation, condensed and edited here for clarity, imagines new modes for urban forestry that can address climate change and other pressing social demands of the 21st-century city.

Michael Friedrich I’d like to start with a bit of background on each of your contributions to parks, gardens, and urban forestry. Commissioner Silver, you took office in 2014.

Mitchell Silver First and foremost, over the almost six years, we’ve been able to complete over 700 capital projects. That’s probably… that’s probably the most for several commissioners going back

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