Monday 30 September 2013

Greening of Singapore not inferior

I AGREE with Ms Maria Loh Mun Foong that the grid system of Manhattan's topography makes navigating around the city on foot very easy ("Take a leaf from New York City's book"; Monday).

However, I find her observation that Singapore has sacrificed "what little pockets of greenery left in the city to the temples of commerce", in contrast to New York, very curious.

The land occupied by Gardens by the Bay could have fetched billions in land revenue and other taxes, but the Government chose to set it aside for an eco-friendly and futuristic park that will blossom with age.

Also, man-made Central Park opened in 1857, long before New York City became a bustling global city of skyscrapers, finance and commerce. Comparing a mature park that is more than 150 years old to one that is less than two years old makes little sense.

Manhattan is about one-eighth the size of Singapore. Perhaps it would be more instructive to compare it to our core central region, from Buona Vista and Tanglin Village down to Pasir Panjang, Tanjong Pagar, Marina Bay and Kallang.

If so, we can claim to have two world-class parks in Gardens by the Bay and the august Botanic Gardens, as well as a few smaller ones like HortPark, an urban reservoir in the form of Marina Barrage, various park connectors and walking trails, and so forth.

In short, I do not see the greening of Singapore as inferior in any way to Manhattan's.

In fact, I regard our evolving "City in a Garden" concept as among the leading models in the world.

To take this vision to the next level, I hope the authorities can consider a world-class community-related park for vertical urban farming, housed in locally inspired eco-friendly architecture right in the heart of the city.

There are two very suitable plots of land for such a project:

The huge tract framed by Orchard Boulevard, Paterson Road and Grange Road, directly opposite Ion Orchard, or

Bay East Garden or Bay Central Garden at Gardens by the Bay.

I am confident that such a project will bolster Singapore's standing as a green city, and its substance as a leisure and cultural destination, as well as provide a shot in the arm for the emerging movement to eat locally grown food.

Toh Cheng Seong
ST Forum, 28 Sep 2013

Take a leaf from New York City's book

WHEN it comes to incorporating nature in a bustling city, Singapore can take a leaf from the books of New York's Manhattan city planners.

Manhattan's skyline may be dominated by skyscrapers, but New Yorkers have the verdant Central Park as an oasis from their frenetic pace of life.

Just a few minutes' walk into the park will transport one into a lush world of birdsong and whispering trees, with nary a building in sight.

There is a veritable smorgasbord of cultural and recreational offerings a stone's throw away on its fringes, such as Carnegie Hall, the Natural History Museum, Guggenheim Museum and even a zoo, to cater to diverse interests.

The city planners could have converted vast tracts of the park into valuable real estate but, as a testament to their foresight, they preserved it as an antidote to city life.

In contrast, we have sacrificed what little pockets of greenery left in the city to the temples of commerce, for example, the land on which Ion Orchard now stands.

Even our Gardens by the Bay, though breathtaking in its own right, lacks the expansive feel of native forest and it is situated next to an expressway. Nevertheless, I am grateful to have such a beautiful - albeit man-made - garden in town.

Manhattan is organised into neat grids, which makes for easy walking and navigating, and traffic, though heavy at times, is comprised mostly of a sea of yellow taxis.

As soon as you step out onto the kerb, a taxi is at your side, which makes it an easy decision to leave the car at home.

The subway, with its comprehensive network, is another convenient alternative to commuting by car.

Times Square, the epicentre of Broadway shows, has a wide pedestrian boulevard for people to see the sights on foot. In fact, much of the city is conducive to walking.

Can we aspire to the same?

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)
ST Forum, 23 Sep 2013

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