In one of his first public talks since his appointment by Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this year, Commissioner of New York City Parks and Recreation and Pratt alumnus Mitchell J. Silver (B.Arch. ’87), shared insights on the future of parks and public spaces on November 12 in Memorial Hall. Part of the Pratt Presents series of public programs, the talk, “Planning for Parks: What’s Next?,” was co-presented with Pratt’s Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development as part of its Democracy and Public Space series.

Following opening remarks by Pratt Institute President Thomas F. Schutte and an introduction by Associate Professor of Planning and Placemaking David Burney, Silver shared a vision for park planning centered around equity; resiliency and sustainability; innovation and technology; and planning and placemaking. He discussed key elements of New York City Parks' new “Framework for an Equitable Future,” including the Community Parks Initiative, a plan to invest in re-creating 35 New York City parks in communities with the greatest need, and efforts to increase transparency and public engagement with tools such as the Capital Project Tracker, which allows the public to monitor progress on projects online.

Reflecting his background and experience in urban planning, he spoke of looking at parks and open space in the context of their surroundings and connection to other urban systems, rather than in isolation.

Silver also discussed the role of parks in creating experiences and memories for different generations. “I think parks should be destinations. We can do simple things to make them fun and exciting, opportunities to make them fun,” he said, mentioning how even painting circles on the ground can become a way to instantly engage children, who make a game out of jumping from one to the other.

Adding a personal note to the evening, Silver recalled attending dollar-movie nights in Memorial Hall as an undergraduate, and thanked Ron Shiffman, professor in the Graduate School of Architecture and founder of the Pratt Center for Community Development, for first introducing him to planning. The talk ended with a question-and answer session led by David Burney, featuring questions that had been submitted earlier by the audience.

Image: Mitchell J. Silver, commissioner of New York City parks and recreation speaking in Memorial Hall (photo: Peter Tannenbaum)