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The Urban Land Institute Young Leaders always promise to bring us a young perspective on how we might think about urban development or revitalization differently. In the past they’ve talked about job creation and retention, and entertainment districts, but its always interesting to hear what others are saying, during the off season. In a recent Planetizen piece by Ian Sacs, a transportation (not traffic) engineer based in New York City, we find out that what our buddy Ben is asking for isn’t so outrageous afterall.

Ian opens by mentioning “we are anxious to create communities that are vibrant, fun, and speak to the urbanity that will host future generations of our civilization.” He continues with something that we are all too familiar with saying “What we lack in experience we make up for in enthusiasm, and hope that our superiors guide us on the finer points of less crystallized aspects of critical infrastructure.” Similar to our Ben, Ian has no professional training in parenthood, but seems to have a knack of what works and what doesn’t work for parents in the city.  Ian rattles off a few good points, featured below, link to the full piece after the jump.

  • Playtime is an even split between toys at home and the local park playground.  The debate about putting our son in day care versus a nanny (that translates to social stimulation versus personal interaction for non-parents) is dramatically skewed by the fact that our community playground is a two block walk away and puts our son amongst all kinds of kids and all ages.  He meets new kids all the time and recognizes friends (or at least we do).  Anhana from India and Finn from Germany are testaments to the diverse cultural exposure urban kids have, which I feel is really important to fostering a sense of equality for children.  Sure you may find this in a day care, but the bustling urban playground is free!*
  • Transit is still not so stroller friendly.  While it is certainly possible to get around on transit with a stroller, there are often impediments and delays that make it less than ideal.   In New York City, expect to schlep strollers up/down subway stairs or find a walking route.  Across the Hudson in my hometown of Hoboken, the light rail is easy to board/alight but the PATH train still requires a tucked away elevator trip that feels like the visual accoutrement to the final audio seconds of Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” track.
  • The bicycle is the car.  It’s amazing how easy and fun it is for kids to tag along with parents on cruises or errand runs when sitting in a bicycle seat.  Open to fresh air, navigating through the mix of activities, and not staring at a car seat are all good reasons to take to two wheels with kids.
  • Unscheduled, frequent interaction with friends, neighbors, neighbors’ dogs, and new parents is an entirely unique urban experience.  This is by far the most enjoyable aspect of living with kids in the city.  A casual walk on the street or in the park is rife with casual encounters that lead to all kinds of new relationships and knowledge.  We recently made friends with a young family who was walking by our outdoor table at a pizzeria.   You simply can not and do not get the same exposure from a trip to the shopping mall or waving at your neighbors as you drive by their yard.

You can read the rest of his short piece at Planetizen.