Public Parks Should Be Occupied

Lurking at the end of an article about how McPherson Square is a more friendly tent camp cite than Freedom Plaza, Lydia DePillis offers a more provocative point:

Regardless of what you think about their politics, both occupations are a vast improvement over the typical state of those parks. They’re much more public spaces, put to excellent use as hubs of 24-hour activity rather than dead zones.

New York City doesn’t have this problem, but Washington, DC and some other American cities really do seem to me to be plagued with excessive useless parkland. If you had a park featuring a playground no kids were ever on, or a basketball court that was never in use, people would be asking “what went wrong here?” That’s not to say that every park should have a playground. But every park should be used for something. If there’s not going to be any regular programming on your patch of publicly owned land, it makes more sense to sell it and let people put up buildings. Do an unusually wide sidewalk to make room for some extra trees and benches if you need extra trees and benches.

That’s not to say we should pave all the parks. But we should be thinking of something to actually do with them. Cities are full of people, and most of the country doesn’t have Southern California weather. There’s limited practical demand for just sitting around outside.