On a walk through one of New York City’s 328 public housing developments, one could expect to encounter a lot of fences. Green spaces are cordoned off by metal bars; footpaths delineated by rows of barricades. Wrought iron, wire mesh, tall, short—all varieties of fences are fair game. They were installed to give off an illusion of safety, but increasingly, the barriers have come to represent isolation. When the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) released its first-ever design guidelines for the rehabilitation of its buildings, the fences were not spared scrutiny. Where NYCHA once would install a barricade around, say, a playground or a parking garage, the guidelines now recommend that designers consider alternatives like benches or greenery.
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