Wonderful Schrebergartens


SimCity 2000 (1993)

From the Guardian:

I love cities as much as I hate borders. But city-dwellers have suffered in the past year: stay-at-home orders and housing shortages have exacerbated problems that have existed for decades. I have three ideas to improve our cities, which were borne out by the experience of the pandemic: increase diversity and promote migration; give everyone access to a patch of nature; and create common spaces for communities to expand, engage and interact.

Cities aren’t fixed. A vital city is also a mobile city. Movement can revive down-on-their-luck neighbourhoods with fresh money, talent and energy. You have no right to live for ever in your childhood home, but you do have the right to live somewhere in the city where you can make a new home for your child. A fair and just city should ensure this for every citizen.

To those who said, “Can New York survive the pandemic?” I have two words in response: “Jaikishan Heights”, the south Asian way of pronouncing Jackson Heights, a neighbourhood in Queens. When my family first came to New York in 1977, we found a dangerous, bankrupt city. I got mugged twice when I was a teenager. Our car got stolen regularly. Jackson Heights was not glamorous or welcoming.

When we were there, most of the south Asians in the neighbourhood were Indians, beneficiaries of the 1965 Immigration Act, which lifted racial quotas and encouraged family reunification. They were professionals: engineers, doctors. Now, it’s a much more diverse mix of south Asians: Bangladeshis, Nepalis, Tibetans, Bhutanese. They are shop owners, taxi drivers, garment factory workers. Very few of the Indians I knew when I was growing up here in the 70s are still in this neighbourhood. Now these streets are attracting people from all over. Diversity is actively essential to attract the kind of people that create wealth – and revive the city.

Through the plague year, nature has been the only permitted escape: the parks, the hikes, the summer home for those who could afford it. Here is where garden allotments, like the ones I visited in Leipzig in Germany, need to be revived and expanded. The schrebergarten movement started in 1864, to give city-dwellers, even poor ones, a taste of nature.

“‘We need a new commons’: how city life can offer us the vital power of connection”, Suketu Mehta, Guardian

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