STREETS / by Jason Montgomery

 Street in Queens from the elevated subway

Street in Queens from the elevated subway

Life in New York, like many other cities, has the compelling quality and richness it does due to the energy of the street, due to the mingling of people, cars, buses, due to the activity of the street merchants and the window shoppers, diners at cafes, dog walkers, traffic police giving tickets, workers off to work, students off to school, parents pushing strollers, street sweepers sweeping.

 Lexington Ave looking south from 68th street

Lexington Ave looking south from 68th street

The streets of a great city are the veins, the canyons, the trails, the collectors and channelers of life. Cities work best, achieving the highest levels of civility, when the streets are the vibrant common space of citizens and visitors alike. As the 21st century moves along, we must think carefully about the evolution of our cities. Will the street be the reinforced primary public space of the city, or will it be diminished or replaced by some new system? Should private vehicles continue to dominate, or should higher densities coincide with increased pedestrian orientation and accommodation? 

 Kees van Dongen,  Avenue du Bois , ca. 1925 Metropolitan Museum Robert Lehman Collection

Kees van Dongen, Avenue du Bois, ca. 1925 Metropolitan Museum Robert Lehman Collection

Artists have marveled at the humanity of life in the street, of the compression of people on foot and people in vehicles, all vying for space, but all expressive of life lived with intensity. 

So often, the city of the future seems to discount the critical role of streets, and the very existence of pedestrian movement.