I live in Brooklyn, and have children, and in the eyes of most New York publications, that makes me a walking, whiny cliche: running people over with my stroller, insisting on breast-feeding in inappropriate locations, instructing my toddler in a loud, performative voice at every opportunity. But as a critic and a journalist, I began to wonder if we weren't dismissing mothers' complaints too quickly. Is it so wrong to want shade at the park at which you work several hours a day? Why is using public transportation so punishing?
The fruit of this line of inquiry is a new essay at GOOD: "The Moms Aren't Wrong: Why Planning for Children Would Make Cities Better for Us All."
When urban parents, particularly mothers, complain about the public realm they are often caricatured as whiny and overprotective. Your child was burned by the climbing domes at the new park? Kids are too coddled. You can’t carry your stroller and child down the subway steps? Make him walk. You can’t find a public bathroom? Stay at home. But what if the mothers, in many cases, are right? Access to safe, green open space, to accessible transportation, to clean bathrooms and places to rest are not solely the needs of children. What if catering to our youngest citizens, rather than dismissing them, would help us all live happier, healthier urban lives.Read the rest here.
An article in The New York Times this summer detailed an initiative, spearheaded by the New York Academy of Medicine and Deputy Mayor for Health & Human Services Linda Gibbs, to make New York more "age-friendly." Longer walk signals, more public restrooms, minimizing corner puddles, "perches" in stores on which to take a break.
All these measures sounded admirable — but they would improve the lives of more than the elderly. The incentive to fix New York for seniors is money: According to the AARP, a third of the nation's population is over 50, but they control half the discretionary spending. Kids don't have cash, but their parents and grandparents certainly do, and more families staying in the city would have general economic and social benefits. Seniors and juniors aren’t the only groups whose interests align, but are balkanized in their advocacy. Children could lead cyclists, developers, school officials, and health nuts to their more perfect city, if only we would listen.