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Humanizing the Urban-Industrial Environment

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… The concept of structuring the American city through provision of narrow green travel corridors, generally following waterways, received considerable impetus with construction of the Bronx River Parkway at the end of the First World War. Extending northward from New York City into Westchester County, the Bronx River Parkway, America’s first “parkway,” became the model for a system of parkways lacing through all of Westchester County that was adopted in the 1920s. This, in turn, inspired the Long Island parkway system realized in the ’20s and the ’30s, and the Interstate highway system that linked all of America with auto-focused greenways.

Map of George Kessler's  remarkable 1893 parkways and open space plan for Kansas City, Missouri.
Map of George Kessler’s remarkable 1893 parkways and open space plan for Kansas City, Missouri.

The greenway was a method for preserving stream beds and river bottoms from development, for assuring the continued experience of green spaces, trees and fields in the daily travel patterns of urbanites, and for providing safe limited-access travel ways connecting the far-flung parts of megalopolis. The greenway lent the appearance of “naturalness” to an industrialized America, provided recreational open space close in to urbanized districts, and softened the hard edges of an industrialized state.

There are great opportunities at the local scale to acquire greenways for auto travel, for pedestrian ways, and for bicycle paths through the comprehensive community planning process, through “dedication” requirements in land subdivision control, and through planned unit developments. The greenways given to the people of Kansas City and Boston over a hundred years ago are still giving to the people of those cities today. …

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