“In New York City, public space campaigns take a particular urgency. Here, it seems that everything is done in public. People sleep on the subways, connect with partners in the parks; play music on street corners, hold meetings in community gardens, and stage rallies wherever one can find a space.
In 1982, nearly one million people rallied against nuclear arms in Central Park, New York’s public commons. That was a time when Central Park was considered a public space for debate, discussion, music, and celebration…”
- Benjamin Shepard, The Beach Beneath The Streets: Contesting New York City’s Public Spaces
“When one steps off the sidewalk, one faces a fundamental choice about his or her view of the street. Is it a place for pleasure and possibility or a space in which to cower or just go to work? In recent years, a new cohort of social actors has chosen the former. And the streets of cities around the world show the difference. Much of this shift began with an impulse to play in public space.”
Steven Carr and the other authors of Public Space provide a comprehensive definition of pure public space as “responsive, democratic and meaningful” places that “protect the rights of user groups. They are accessible to all groups and provide for freedom of action but also for temporary claim and ownership.
A public space can be changed by public action, because it is owned by all… In public space, people can learn to live together.” (Carr et al. 1992, 19-20)
Another understanding involves “the intimate connection between notions of public space, civil society, and democracy.” Shepard writes, “It builds on De Toqueville’s arguments that democracy in the United States thrives to the extent that it mediates between three distinct sectors of national life: government, the market, and civil society in between. Thus, without community space, there can be no democracy (Sephard 2002). Without public space, there is little hope for community change or renewed civic engagement. Warner’s (2002) conception of a ‘counter public’ used by those excluded by barriers to the public sphere builds on this recognition.”
Tompkins Square Park Riots by Q. Sakami