SINGAPORE - 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)
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