Public Spaces and Public Life

Public places have always been an integral part of the social life since the times immemorial. In the 21st century, when people are involved in scientific and technology process, some public places regarding these processes remains inactive. Public spaces activation is a challenge for contemporary society that has to face a number of ethical, political and fiscal issues regarding the topic.

Public space is a social area that is actually exposed and accessible to each and every individual within a city or country. Central park in New York is a renowned public space in the United States of America. It is one of the most fascinating spots in the New York City, and it has numerous visitors. However, there are various infrastructures that are considered as public spaces such as beaches, parks, pavements, public squares, and roads. Nevertheless, the word public space is also commonly misinterpreted to illustrate other things such as gathering places, which is actually an issue of the bigger aspect of social space (Sandercock, 2003). In the cities, the non-governmental malls are part of the private spaces, although they bear the appearance of a public space. Nowadays, it is worth emphasizing place making: a movement directed on extending public space, which involves transforming and improving of public sector. In addition, this activity embraces the community-based participation because it is aimed to improve the city's infrastructure and society's well-being.

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Inactive Public Space

Despite the processes of globalization and urbanization, inactive public spays remains an important problem. According to recent findings, there are a number of inactive public spaces that cause economic losses for the country. Transformation of inactive public space is extremely significant as it affects physical and mental health of the citizens. For example, it is common knowledge that most of contemporary widespread diseases depend on people's lifestyle. Modern cities planning reduce physical activity and provide the society members with polluted air instead of clean air.

However, it is necessary to find out the essence of inactive public spaces, which allows finding accurate reasons and making right decisions to improve the situation accordantly. Public space is the sphere, which is tightly connected with all the members of the society and representatives of different categories of citizens. Public sphere is a result of all branches of power's activity: it is reflection of current social, political and economic issues of the nation. There is a disagreement between the representatives of federal power and the ones, who aim to make public places belong to the private sphere. Therefore, it is difficult to promote the activation of public spaces, though the significance of this process is clear to everyone.

It is worth pointing out the main reasons of inactive public spaces problem. Public space planning is developed with consideration of the needs and wants of local population. Frequently, local activities consult municipalities and representatives of federal power in order to activate transformation of public spaces. The role of municipalities in this process is rather considerable because the entire planning and transformations must be agreed with the government, which allows or forbids the citizens' initiative. According to Kent,

"Independent public space management organizations often represent the current leading edge of Place Governance, still working with minimal coordination with government... Project for Public Spaces continually finds that management (including maintenance, programming, outreach, etc) accounts for 80-90% of the success of a space, and those spaces need to be designed in a way that supports management-not the other way around" (Kent, n.d.).

Thus, social activities lack coordination with the government, though government's involvement guarantees the success of activating program. In addition, public sector determines the economic situation of both local and national budgets that makes the issue of activating public sphere a priority. It is not worth analyzing the public spaces of the USA globally, because the reasons of inactive public sphere are rooted in a certain city's problem. In order to solve the issue of public sphere activation, it is necessary to analyze every city's position separately, though some general factor influence public places throughout the country.

Existing Policies Aimed to Activate Public Spaces

As it was mentioned above, policy directed on public space's implementation and activation should be analyzed within a context of some region or city. A number of federal and social policies are directed on exploring inactive public sphere and transforming it in accordance with the society's demands.

Seattle's public spaces including accessibility factor, crossings, walking flow, bicycling, waterfront, public transit, traffic structures and other aspects have been analyzed. It has been concluded that city "has a fine physical base for inviting more people to walk, spend time, and bicycle in downtown. The streetscape and the public open spaces basically have the factors that are needed for creating a livelier city" (Department of Planning and Development, 2009). Moreover, the researchers identified three main factors, which influence the condition of public spaces. These factors are: sense of identity, pedestrian networks, as well as safety and comfort.

 

Neighborhood Grant Program in 2013 gave to the neighborhoods opportunities to activate public sphere and build gathering places. City of Madison has significantly contributed from this program: 250 neighborhoods managed to realize more than 250 projects with 15,000 volunteer hours. Though this process included the participation of the population, the program was initiated by Fred Kent in 2012, "the neighborhood conference was the start of thinking anew about lighter, quicker, cheaper methods to activate public spaces" (Hovath and Cnare, 2013). The program is supported by the citizens every year, which witnesses its success and high level of the citizen's participation. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that the program begun by the Mayor's initiative, which means that the role of government includes motivation and activation of the society that is interested in public paces' improvements.

The New York City Public Plaza Program "works with selected not-for-profit organizations to create neighborhood plazas throughout the City to transform underused streets into vibrant, social public spaces" (NYC Plaza Program, 2014). The program demonstrated both positive results in public places transformation and reliable partnership for similar programs and non-profit organizations. Projects for Public Spaces mentioned that this program promoted the growth of public spaces in partnership with NYC Streets Renaissance Campaign (Kent, 2014).

Policy Options for Activating Public Space

The city council actually encourages the active employment of public space through a wide variety of organizations within the city. Basically, in a city the Council's Public Spaces Local Approvals Policyoffers a structure for efficiently coordinating requests and approvals to employ footways, roads or other public areas for commercial and non-commercial operations. Basically, the aim of the policy is to supplement provisions of Local Government Actthat has regulations such as identifying the events, in which an individual is not allowed to acquire a certain approval from the council and also identifying the mode, which the council should consider when deciding whether to offer approval to a certain activity. Also, it identifies other issues relating to approvals not handled through the Act or regulations. Still, the PublicPaces Local Approvals Policy is considered to be relevant to all the public parks, footways, and roads in the cities.

Moreover, the policy covers various activities within a city such as community celebrations, commercial operations on public footways or roads, and street stalls. The street stalls are actually conducted by renowned organizations such as local schools, religious organizations, community groups, political groups, and commercial groups in order to offer basic information that would enhance awareness of the community, vending food for charitable reasons, and fundraising operations. On the other hand, the community celebrations are directly conducted by council or created in partnership with other renowned community groups. The commercial activities in the public spaces include outdoor dining, development of promotional banners and posters, retail trading, and advertising signage (Mitchell, 2003).

Political Implications

As public spaces are irreplaceable aspects of the citizens' well-being, it is extremely important to consider the public spaces activating program as a strategy that promotes improvement of economic condition of the cities. Therefore, activating program should be supported by politicians and other officials in order to extend the quantity of participants of the similar programs. He lawmakers should pay inactive public spaces much attention in order to initiate and motivate the civilians and other influential people, which may become the sponsors or even patrons. For example, the New York public space could also be used for political rallies, where people meet to listen to a political leader. It is important to realize that the public space has a great influence on the nature of urban life within the Central Park. Also, the political billboards and posters are put up in this public space in order to create political awareness among people. Basically, the public space has a great influence on the political stability of the city. (Pile, 2005)

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Groups that Are Likely to Support Public Spaces Activating

Generally, there are numerous groups that support the activation of the New York public space within the city. The groups believe that the public space has a way of shaping the urban life into being more social and making it more human, as well. The local schools and religious groups within the community are likely to support the transformation of space in the city. Moreover, the political organizations encourage the activation of public space since they aid in getting people together especially for political rallies. Also, they use the public space to put up the political billboards and posters. Other groups that are likely to support the public space are the community groups that also participate in different operations to improve the image of the city.

Groups that Are Likely to Refuse Public Spaces Activating

On the other hand, there are various groups in the city that are not likely to support the activation of the Central Park. Basically, in the New York smoking is banned in the New York public place to avoid public discomfort. The group that is addicted to smoking is not likely to encourage the activation of public space because the areas allowing smoking are limited. Basically, the government encounters financial challenges in activation the New York public space because there are numerous facilities and natural settings that require advanced maintenance. Moreover, the government requires funds to keep maintaining such facilities in the public space as the fountains, museum, the carousel, caf?, and the lake. They need to be continually maintained to avoid poor hygiene or poor image that could be detrimental to people's health, which negatively affects their popularity.

Ethical Issues

The new and old strategies that include public spaces activation should meet the ethical considerations. Principles, options and perspectives of public sphere activating should follow ethical norms and views of the society in order to avoid any difficulties and harm towards the citizens. Ethical criteria should be considered during decision-making process and follow the rules of humanism, rationalism, equality and justice. The needs and desires of all the groups of people within the city should be emphasized, as the improvements for one group of people should not resist the interests of another group.

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Conclusion

The above-listed facts and theories prove the significance of activating public spaces, which directly affect the citizen's lifestyle and health. Inactive public places result from various social and political circumstances as well as the economic condition of the city. It is worth analyzing public sectors activating within a certain city as it depends on the local factors. Usually, public spaces activating programs are initiated by the government or the officials, though the citizens actively participate in the cities' improving and transforming. Activating public spaces should meet ethical criteria as well as current financial and social position of organization or city.

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