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Discussing the many values of developing waterfront parks

Peter Harnik harkens back to the West Side in Manhattan, where he grew up, when asked to talk about waterfront parks that turned out right.

Riverside Park snakes along the Hudson River. Based on a design by Frederick Law Olmsted, it was built a century ago, in part atop rail lines laid from West 72nd Street to the George Washington Bridge. Riverside South and Hudson River Park spill out below it to the south over dozens of blocks. This strip was designed and built during the last two decades, in part after Donald Trump agreed to citizen demands that he lower the height of a planned residential high-rise project and push it back from the water’s edge – so a park for his apartment dwellers, and other city residents, could flow directly along the river instead.

Esplanades, bike trails, a dog run, soccer fields and batting cages are among features that promote healthy living, invite public use and boost nearby property values, said Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land.

Harnik – who on weekdays bikes the 14-mile round trip between his home in Arlington, Va., and his office in Washington, D.C. – will visit Buffalo next week to talk about the value a park on the Outer Harbor can bring to the Queen City. The 21st Century Park Outer Harbor group will host the free event, open to the public, at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State.

Q. What might you talk about in Buffalo next week?

The things that I tend to talk about – maybe I’ll hit on all of them – are the economic value parks bring to a city, which is a very wide range of issues. A lot of people talk about property value, but there’s also tourism and health value, direct-use value: what people save not having to join gyms. There’s also the sort of city shaping value of parks – where they do the maximum amount of good in terms of city formation, whether you’re talking about bike trails or recreational facilities or redevelopment, which of course is a big topic for Buffalo.

I frequently talk about what other cities are doing because there’s such a renaissance of urban park activity happening around the country.

– Scott Scanlon

On the Web: Buffalo sits in the lower half of the 100 largest U.S. cities when it comes to urban park rankings, according to the Center for City Park Excellence. Read more at