Launched in 1996, the Greenstreets program has transformed much of New York City’s negative space into green space. Greenstreets started small — planting a flowerbed here, a few trees there — and gradually began improving existing infrastructure, like awkward intersections. What once was a concrete median or a matrix of painted lines, for instance, became a raised bed with shrubbery, sidewalks, and crosswalks — even a bench or two.
From there, it grew. Now, Times Square and Madison Square, historically two of the busiest intersections in New York, are pedestrian paradises — with potted plants, wider sidewalks, and café tables.
Greenstreets is now a centerpiece of the city’s effort to enhance inter-departmental collaboration as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s three-pronged approach to maintaining and enhancing city parks. The program brings together New York’s Department of Parks and Recreation with the departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection.
A successful Greenstreet is considered “hyperfunctional” — wider sidewalks mean a more pedestrian-friendly environment, and directing storm water onto planted beds controls runoff and provides needed water to those plants...