Built environment in the Bronx

Bronx street

I really enjoy living in the South Bronx this summer. Besides doing my research and volunteering from time to time in the Bronx River Alliance events, I like meeting with interesting people, learning about their culture and language, and just being in this multicultural environment. But there are some things that bother me.

In the past I used to live in big cities in Russia, and also in small villages in Siberia. All those settlements had a lot of green space and natural landscapes penetrating into their heart. Urban environment in many neighborhoods in the Bronx, however, looks very different. Although some of the largest urban parks in NYC are in the Bronx, people in many communities experience every day only asphalt and concrete on the streets. The photo above illustrates a typical view in the Bronx. You can walk 20 minutes from this place and will not see any parks, community gardens, or even playgrounds. What do you feel when you look at this photograph? It reminds me of Richard Louv’s (2006) “Last Child in the Woods” book where he talks about nature deficit disorder. I want to remind you about some of his ideas:

Reducing that deficit – healing the broken bond between our young and nature – is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it.” (Louv 2006, p.3)

No child can truly know or value the outdoors if the natural world remains under glass, seen only through lenses, screens, or computer monitors.” (Louv 2006, p. 193)

Many people admire the efforts and dedication of several organizations in the Bronx that try to reconnect people with nature through environmental education and outdoor experience, reclaim waterfronts, rebuild parks, and restore urban forests and other ecosystems for the benefit of every Bronx resident.

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