In response to a concerned letter about her last column, specifically this line: "...and the paved areas around our schools, now used, obscenely, as teacher parking, could become places for solar panels, trees, gardens and outdoor ed.," Amanda Park Taylor answered thusly: (read on, after the jump)
hi, thanks for writing.
i hate to see school yards that should be used for children to play in, or for children to grow gardens in, covered with asphalt and teachers' parked cars. if teachers must drive to work they should park on the street, not use school property. but of course, they should be taking public transportation, not driving, in the first place.
one of the worst offenders in my neighborhood is a primary school two short blocks from a subway train station. what a waste of space! and what a lost opportunity for the kids — they could be learning about food and nature, and their school could enjoy the heat-absorbing benefits of trees/garden/soil around the school (more comfortable temperatures inside the school, hugely reduced energy bills), but instead they have a sea of cars baking in the sun. and their role models are driving to work, reinforcing the idea that it's ok to drive everywhere.
with kids' obesity and diabetes rates climbing to crazy levels, kids need the space, and the opportunity, to exercise. and they need to be shown that walking, biking, taking the train or bus are fine ways to get around. i'm also shocked by the number of parents who line up outside the schools in their idling cars, waiting to pick up their kids.
every new case of diabetes costs/will cost this city $500,000 — keeping kids reasonably fit isn't just in the best interests of the kids, but also has a huge impact on every new yorker. and that's just diabetes. asthma is costing us billions, and costing kids days off their lives, days lost in emergency rooms and being kept home from school. particulates from car/truck exhaust are the leading cause of asthma. trees and plants absorb the particulates that cause asthma, and produce oxygen — so a parking lot around a school contributes to poor respiratory health, while a green space would contribute to better respiratory health.
it all depends on what the space is used for, but of course, the kids could also be growing food for themselves on that space too, dramatically improving their diets and health, (and even the diets of their families and neighbors — you can grow a lot in a little space) especially in poorer neighborhoods with little to no access to fresh produce.
as i see it, teacher parking is a terrible waste of space and resources, and ends up costing the city far too much — in poor health, in energy use, in pollution, and in lost opportunities.
hope that answers your question.
best, amanda, the conscientious objector