As New York City struggles with the coronavirus epidemic, many are questioning the future worthiness of density. In this article, The New York Times outlines why during and after this pandemic we need to keep focus on the benefits of density.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York was blunt about the rationale behind this time of quarantine.
“There is a density level in NYC that is destructive,” he tweeted Sunday, after similar comments at one of his daily press briefings. He’d seen New Yorkers out in parks together, behaving as if this were a normal sunny spring weekend, and he was dismayed. Togetherness itself could now be deadly.
“It has to stop and it has to stop now,” he tweeted. “NYC must develop an immediate plan to reduce density.”
This has been an especially painful realization in major cities: The very thing that makes cities remarkable — the proximity of so many people to one another — is now making them susceptible in a pandemic. Density, suddenly, is bad for our health. And we are trying everything we can think of to dismantle it.
Special grocery store hours for older people — those are about reducing density. Closed schools and dispersed children — the same.
Telework is the least dense version of office life; takeout the least dense way to eat someone else’s cooking. Governor Cuomo has even suggested opening roads normally reserved for cars to pedestrian traffic. An empty street is the least dense way to walk somewhere, even in a seemingly empty city.
What feels so disconcerting about this is not just that density normally brings urban perks — diverse restaurants, rich cultural institutions, new business ideas — that we can’t enjoy right now. Even more than that, density, in the right conditions, is good for us. It even protects against other kinds of calamities.
Density makes mass transit possible. It allows for more affordable housing. It creates environments where people can walk and where children can find playgrounds. It enables us to pool risks. It supports big public hospitals and stronger safety nets. It allows us to curb climate emissions, which present a public health problem of an entirely different kind.Read More