Design | Green Space

Urban Green Space

Navigating the matrix of trees and concrete

Dawn Nelson
3 min readNov 6, 2023

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The Sunday Dispatch ~ November 5, 2023

A landscape of broken concrete, trees, and city lights. Photo by author, © Dawn Nelson.

Soft edges, hard lines, the ambient sound of traffic.

When I walk through a city, I instinctively seek the soft touch of nature. I find as much green space as possible to weave into my path. Trails, parks, corner plazas, treed pathways — whatever I can find.

Intersection corner spaces dotted with trees and park benches are wonderful brief respites from harsh concrete corners.

Throughout my city sojourns, one of my favorite places is a park dedicated to Katherine Hepburn. It is more of a retreat space from the urban bluster, a bit like a much smaller Central Park. It is tucked along the edge of Dag Plaza along East 47th Street in New York City.

As you walk through the garden gate, a stone pathway beckons you to step into another realm where time and heartbeat slow and stress falls away.

We design our cities with such harsh edges. Right angles for efficiency. Construction for construction’s sake. But how do we walk through these spaces? What makes us want to walk through these spaces?

Several years ago, I went to a concert in Central Park. I was late, so I parked my car in the first spot I could find on an upper west side street and walked over in time to catch the last half of the show.

When I returned later I realized that in my haste, I had parked illegally.

My car was nowhere to be found. It had been towed.

It turned out that it was fifty city blocks south on the tow pound pier.

Fifty blocks, my friends.

Of course I didn’t walk those fifty blocks, I took the subway like a sane person. But once off the subway, I walked through Hell’s Kitchen at night to get to my final destination.

Oh, how electrically aware was I in those moments, scanning every dark corner and listening for footsteps behind me. Walking that last block past the Javits Center to find the entrance to the tow pound I experienced some of the most frightening long moments of my life.

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Dawn Nelson

Artist, writer, strategist ~ writing creative nonfiction, memoir, essay. WIP: 0100 Series & The Sunday Dispatch.