Jessica Saab is the inaugural Fellow for Great Parks in the Research & Policy Department. The Fellows for Great Parks program is generously funded by the Leon Levy Foundation. A recent cum laude graduate of NYU’s Metropolitan Studies program, Jessica is passionate about advancing equity in planning decisions across urban areas, especially in the realms of public space and transportation. She previously worked at the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy as an office assistant and junior research scholar, and has interned for the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the National Park Service through AmeriCorps. Her undergraduate thesis, awarded high honors, centered on public transit systems funded through locally-approved sales taxes. Due to her father's 24-year career in the U.S. Air Force, she grew up moving every three years across the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. After decades of nomadic life, she chose NYC as her permanent home and currently resides in Brooklyn with her sister.
Why did you join New Yorkers for Parks?
NY4P does incredible work, providing easy to use and understand tools for neighborhood groups and advocates across this great city. These tools are derived from multiple sources of data, which help others create compelling arguments for their open spaces against any encroaching threats, of which there are many. I joined NY4P to aid that effort, and to produce more tools and research that advocates lack.
What’s your favorite part of living in New York?
My favorite part is the city itself. Everything is different, unique, and of its own character, from the buildings, to the neighborhoods, to the people, to the parks. Even when one is steeped in a routine, there is always something new to notice, or somewhere different to go. The multiple islands and surrounding water make for incredible views that constantly remind me of the feat of urbanization through history, and I feel grateful to live here with my more than eight million neighbors from all over the world.
What are some of the issues facing New York that you’re most passionate about?
The unequal distribution of public resources across NYC neighborhoods is an issue that has deepened poverty over generations, creating outcomes for communities that negatively affect their health, safety, and access to building and maintaining wealth. NYC’s new prosperous era of economic vitality must mean that its agencies redress the generations of harm caused by lack of open space, transit accessibility, and other public resources by improving outer communities first before pouring funds into projects that benefit the central business districts. The goal of equity creates a lot of tension and spreads public resources thin, but advocates need to force public agencies to readjust their agendas to create a more equitable city.
Why do you think parks are important for healthy cities?
Parks are the parcels of nature that were not subjected to bulldozing and suffocation-by-concrete. Their ever-changing plants provide benefits to mental health, and create space for leisure, recuperation, and reflection. A city without parks is a lifeless thing—parks give cities life. They provide vital space to breathe.
What’s your favorite park?
I have many favorites but I think Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan is my absolute favorite. I’ve been going to it for years now to just sit under the trees above the cliffs, and to look out at the New Jersey Palisades and the expanse of the Hudson River. It is a beautiful, tranquil, and historical public space, and the Heather Garden located within is a horticultural masterpiece.
If you could be a park animal, which would you be?
I would be a peregrine falcon. Swooping and diving from the sky at incredible speeds would be my favorite past time, and nothing beats a birds-eye view of NYC’s magnificent urban fabric and the beautiful NY Harbor.