Dysfunctional public spaces inhibit pride and make a community feel abandoned. Great ones can become the heart and soul of a place.
Environmental advocates have long given priority to protecting natural ecosystems and wildlife habitat. The organization I work for is called the Natural Resources Defense Council for a reason. (Never mind the lamentable fact that many people think our first name is "National.")
But I believe that one of the best ways to protect nature is to create and support great "people habitat" in cities and towns. That's where we want humans to reside and prosper, rather than building more pavement and development across natural landscapes. This is one of the many reasons that making cities strong and hospitable (as well as greener) is so important to the environment.
Few aspects of people habitat affect the character, strength, and beauty of our neighborhoods and downtowns as much as our public spaces -- the streets, parks, plazas, and gathering places that physically knit our communities together. Dysfunctional public spaces inhibit pride and make a community feel abandoned, unsafe, and unwelcoming. Great ones can become the heart and soul of a place, attracting residents, businesses, and life to towns and cities.