Above: A Jane's Walk tour or historic Little Italy in New York. Photos by MAS-NYC. In the past cities included in zoning plans and land use guides provision for a variety of common civic spaces and places accessible to the public such as parks, libraries, settlement houses, post offices, community centers, health clinics and hospitals, markets and public schools. These key facilities formed the backbone of any city’s “civic commons”: a network of publicly financed and managed amenities to serve the broader, collective needs of local neighborhoods and to benefit the city as a whole. They provided much-needed public services, but also opportunities to foster neighborhood identities, cultural expression, learning, a sense of belonging, and serendipity and surprise. Throughout history, the civic commons has made the city a city: It’s where we voted, where key decisions were made, we expressed our collective aspirations, and where we went to celebrate, learn, trade, play, and maybe just rest. But urban life is continually changing, and so too are people’s needs and use of the civic commons. Re-Imagining the Civic Commons is a national inquiry funded by Knight Foundation, managed by the Municipal Art Society of New York, a civil society advocacy organization focused on effective policy and leadership initiatives that foster urban livability and resilience. Our goal is to build a national provocation, and later this year to make the case for a reimagined civic commons which will be so compelling that city leaders will embrace it, and commit to new ways to create, manage and invest in it. We aren’t using the elements of the civic commons the way our parents did. Where do you see the civic commons in your neighborhood, and who is using it? Institutions (churches, settlement houses, community and cultural centers) that traditionally offered opportunities for mutual aid and interaction across differences of class, race and ethnicity seem to be less central to contemporary urban life. Many of us spend a substantial part of our working day commuting – by car, or train, or bus or subway – which not only affects the amount of time we may have to spend taking advantage of the civic commons, but also our disposition towards funding it.