Action Steps to Improve Your City

As we begin 2017, HAKS would like to share Curbed New York’s suggestions on initiatives we can launch to improve our cities.  We have culled a small number from the list; you can access them all at 101 Small Ways You Can Improve Your City.

  1. Green InfrastructureGreen your parkway. Place a stormwater garden between the sidewalk and the curb to alleviate flooding and filter and clean the water.
  2. Turn empty storefronts into canvases and economic catalysts. One such initiative is SmartSpaces in New York, which transforms vacant urban spaces into public venues for contemporary art.
  3. Map a 40-minute walking circle around your house to determine how many amenities are closer than you think and within walking distance. This not only increases walking but supports local businesses. In a similar vein, move out of your comfort zone and take the bus to explore parts of your city that you typically avoid. You can also bicycle to new parts of the city.
  4. Launch an oral history project as a time capsule to document neighborhood stories and preserve its history.
  5. Set the table for community conversation to break down social barriers. Tallahassee, Florida, for example, launched The Longest Table, a 400-person meal put together by community groups followed by smaller dinners across the city.
  6. Create and preserve community murals to illuminate a street, define a neighborhood and foster creativity. Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program is an example of such an initiative that has become the nation’s largest public art program, “dedicated to the belief that art ignites change.”
  7. NYCHA LightingGet lit. Sometimes it only takes a few spotlights to transform a city block. Casting light on a forgotten building can bring a renewed sense of appreciation and community.
  8. Launch a community emergency hub to provide a centralized meeting place and a strategy for surviving weeks or months after a natural disaster.
  9. Build swing sets for adults as a means to recreate and reduce stress. The 21 Swings project in Montreal transformed a busy area into a space for fun. Each spring, 21 swings are placed in the city’s entertainment district; each seat acts as a musical instrument as people swing, forming melodies and harmonies.
  10. Start a Yimby groupthe first national “Yes in My Backyard” conference was held in 2016 in Boulder, Colorado to support the goal of making sustainable, high-opportunity cities accessible to more people by creating more places to live in them.
  11. Drive 5 mph slower to increase safety. Petition your city to implement a “20 is plenty” zone for dense urban areas—98 percent of pedestrians hit at that rate will live. Obey traffic laws—this applies to cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
  12. Just show up—practice good citizenship by attending public zoning and development meetings, especially if you don’t have a vested interest in the project under discussion.

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