Content advisory: this post contains reference to police violence.
Baton Rouge, four days after a police officer fatally shot a subdued Alton Sterling: protestors take to the streets to demand justice in the name of yet another black man executed by the state. Police warn protestors not to walk in the street. There are no sidewalks. Prominent activist DeRay McKesson is arrested, along with a hundred or so other protestors.
Jane Jacob’s Death and Life forewarns of the gradual erosion of public spaces, and ultimately the privatization of social spaces. Similarly, the public spaces that remain have since trended towards the exclusion of those who have not purchased membership into the club of automobile ownership—in a sense, its own form of privatizing public space.
There is perhaps no meteorological event more aesthetically pleasing than a heavy snowfall. The sense that crystalized vapor carries in it the transformative power to invigorate the mundane and ornament the begrimed is among the most wonderful attributes of winter. Yet the transformative powers of snow are not limited to mere aesthetics, for it also carries in it the capacity to transform a public space, and consequently the very essence of a neighborhood.
A street is not often understood as a public space in our current conception of the word. For our lifetimes and the lifetimes of everyone we have ever personally known, streets have been synonymous with motion—synonymous with roads. And the conflation between street and road is indeed an unfortunate one, whereby our confusion is carried through to its design, and set in place by concrete. More precisely, a road is a way from one place to another whereas a street is a place in and of itself.