Herbert Von King Park, the first ever park built in Brooklyn, is Jackson's favorite public space.

Dhanya Rajagopal

This is the first in a series of conversations I had with graduate students from Pratt Institute's Urban Placemaking and Management program, in New York. Coming from diverse professional backgrounds and from different parts of the world, these aspiring Placemakers share their thoughts on their profession, interests and the public spaces they love.  

The cultural and democratic life of the city depends on viable public space. Together, we can truly make NYC public for all and help create more dynamic, healthy and happy neighborhoods. Tell us what your favorite public space is and why, using #PublicForAll to help us spread this message.

Here is what Jackson Chabot from Cincinnati, Ohio, had to say.

Dhanya: Describe the city you're from. What's your favorite public space from your home city and why?

Jackson: I am from Cincinnati, Ohio, a city with a strong history of industry and recent redevelopment and reinvestment in the downtown core. My favorite public space here is a historic fountain called Probasco Fountain in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati. It is a landmark in the neighborhood but also a nice place to sit and relax while taking a walk.

Dhanya: What is your background in? What brought you to a career in design and placemaking?

Jackson: I studied international relations, followed by teaching Kindergarten as a Teach for America Fellow, and then working for the City of New Haven, CT. In the roundabout way I was able to identify how I wanted to help people using placemaking. When I taught, I recognized the students did not have sidewalks to safely walk to school. This is certainly a safety issue but one firmly rooted in inadequate design.

Dhanya: What are your areas of research/design interest? 

Jackson: Two of my core research/design interests are the role of art in public space and transportation equity. For my thesis however, I am exploring how public space and public realm in general, can be used by non-profits and social enterprise to share their ideas, sell their products and do community engagement. To do this, I have partnered with Reconnect Brooklyn, a Bedford Stuyvesant based organization that works with disconnected youth, to co-create a working framework for the organizations future pop-up events and engagement. 

Dhanya: What/who inspires your professional/academic goals?

Jackson: Generally speaking, seeing a design or placemaking challenge to be solved really inspires me. On a day to day basis, I am consistently inspired by the people who use public space for living, working, and playing. For example, I love seeing a Muslim street vendor doing their daily prayers or a child happily enjoying a space. In both cases, people are bringing their full selves to a public space.

Dhanya: What is your favorite public space in New York and why ?

Jackson: I like the small spaces that people from the neighborhood take care of and make their own. In terms of a place with a name, I like the Herbert Von King park in Bed-Stuy because of its classical layout, it has many different subsections to it. People can barbecue, play football, or sit on the bench and relax. 

Dhanya: What do you think is missing from the conversation around public spaces?

Jackson: I think the biggest piece missing, is placing and prioritizing equity at the forefront of the design process. Nationally and globally beautiful spaces are being designed with the wealthy class in mind but there is a lot of work to be done bringing high quality public space to communities of color and and low income neighborhoods.

Dhanya: What according to you is the biggest challenge with respect to public life in the city you're from?

Jackson: I think the prevalence of automobile oriented design in Cincinnati creates an environment that inhibits public life. Sometimes, it still has a suburban feel where people must drive somewhere to walk around.

Dhanya: How do you like the public spaces in NYC ? What would you change and how? 

Jackson: I love the variety of public space in NYC. I am particularly drawn to water so I love the amount of parks that incorporate the rivers into the design. If I could change anything, it would be to increase the enforcement of the guidelines of Privately Owned Public Spaces to ensure they meet equity goals.

Dhanya: What are your aspirations after graduation?

Jackson: I aspire to work with community based development within New York City while being involved with local politics.

Dhanya: How do you envision the future of your profession? 

Jackson: My hope is that placemaking for equity continues to grow inside of the profession of planning. I envision that the conversation around placemaking and public space will continue to grow as cities look to remain competitive and attract new residents. This general push for livable space bodes well for the profession.

Nationally and globally beautiful spaces are being designed with the wealthy class in mind but there is a lot of work to be done, bringing high quality public space to communities of color and and low income neighborhoods.

Jackson Chabot

Photos (4)

Dhanya Rajagopal

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The amphitheater seen here is a popular venue for free outdoor concerts throughout the year and is adorned by a 1999 mural by artist Jimmy James Greene.

Dhanya Rajagopal

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Located within this historic park is a STEEM Park —an interactive pop-up installation & crowdfunded community garden, designed and executed by the Sandbox incubator & funded by Steemit a social media website that works with digital currency. The park is a unique blend of history and social entrepreneurship in the age of cryptocurrency.

Dhanya Rajagopal

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The park plays a vital setting for community groups who have an active presence in the neighborhood. Once a week volunteers from BedStuy Food Not Bombs (seen here) share and give away free food and groceries for all.

Dhanya Rajagopal

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A recent addition to the park, the “(x) of many children” sculpture by artist Roberto Visani, is one of 20 installations in parks citywide funded by UNIQLO’s Park Expression Grant, which provides upto $10,000 per artist for public art.