‘We want a greater sense of home’: Singaporeans

Over the weekend, The Straits Times published this story on what Singaporeans wish for a more liveable city.

 ‘We want a greater sense of home’: Singaporeans

AHEAD of the World Cities Summit that Singapore will host next weekend, The Straits Times asked Singaporeans what they would like to see in their city.

Most of the 50 surveyed long for a greater sense of home and community.

They highlight conservation of green and heritage spaces, a slower pace of life, lower cost of living, better care for the poor and disabled, and avenues for citizens to be engaged in the life of their city.

Many also hope for a more liveable city. For six of those interviewed, that means more bike paths – to encourage a healthy lifestyle and less dependency on cars.

Other items on the wish list include more green oases, farmers’ markets, urban farms, community plazas, animal-friendly places, and more variation in building styles.

New York City was cited often as a model for Singapore to look to for inspiration. That is apt, as New York is the recipient of this year’s Lee Kuan Yew World Cities Prize, which will be awarded at the summit.

Green business owner Eugene Tay, 34, wants more exchanges like the one over the Rail Corridor, where citizens are given the room to act, and where the people themselves generate ground-up initiatives for shaping their environment.

Future Cities Laboratory researcher Jason Lim, 32, raises as examples a competition in New York calling for ideas to revitalise a polluted canal, and the municipal government’s partnership with community groups to turn a disused railway track into what has become a famous park called The High Line.

Green activist Olivia Choong, 33, sees these as ideas not just for building a city, but for building a community. ‘The more citified we become, the more we disconnect from each other. We need these to make the city more liveable and the community stronger.’

Older Singaporeans like history buff Jerome Lim, 47, understand but bemoan the city’s rapid pace of change, and long for better preservation of the city’s history.

Pointing to the transformation of the Marina Bay area in recent years, he says: ‘I remember the walks I used to take there as a boy with my parents. That is all gone, replaced now by this futuristic- looking city. It has a certain appeal, but a lot of people are struggling to accept that.’

Cultural studies academic Liew Kai Khiun, 39, says: ‘Maybe the authorities should move from… ‘removing, relocating and replacing’ places to… ‘repairing, reinforcing and rooting’ communities.’

Others call for a lower cost of living and a slower pace of life, through decreased taxes, more public holidays and policies supporting work-life balance.

But for Ms Sandra Ho, 25, a teacher in a private school, and recent graduate Lin Hongxuan, 25, their key concern is for others. They would like to see better access to public transport for the disabled.

Singapore Institute of Architects president Theodore Chan, 52, thinks it is natural for Singaporeans to focus on the intangibles over the city’s built aspects.

‘We have done the hardware very well. We’re no longer talking about bread and butter pressures. Now we take a step back and talk about refinement.’

From July 1, Singapore welcomes city planners and mayors from around the world to the third World Cities Summit.

They will trade best practices and the latest innovations in city planning and management.


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