Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Link to Brianna Sullivan's Senior Art Thesis  
Brianna  Sullivan 

A History of Public Spaces and Gatherings in New York City

Obstacles to Human Connection in the Works of David Levithan

David  Levithan
David Levithan’s teenage protagonists all struggle with feelings of fear, isolation, and insecurity, but by risking unmasking their true identities and attempting to connect with others, they are able to overcome those feelings of disconnection and shame. Although his subjects vary widely, all of Levithan’s novels communicate the benefits of talking to others and hearing their viewpoints on these struggles. The teenagers are willing to change their personalities so their sense of self will not be injured by those who would look down upon them. Fearful of the potential pain that opening themselves up to others might bring, Levithan’s protagonists detach themselves from society, causing them to feel safer, but also isolated. Connecting with others in public gives the teenagers the opportunity to look towards the future without fear of what others may think.

The usage of public space in New York changed from the nineteenth century in terms of the people who gathered and the reasons for gathering. Public gatherings allowed people the opportunity to get together and connect in ways they could not have done in private spaces. Public space included publically owned property, open and accessible to many. In Central Park and other public parks, informal rules about what was socially acceptable determined who felt welcomed in certain public spaces; Central Park became a space for the elite. Rockefeller Center was known as the best public square in New York and was declared a national historical landmark in 1988. Other public spaces, like parades, were less controlled, and people gathered more freely. Parades, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade became a gathering space for Americans to celebrate a holiday in public. Times Square became the public space for impromptu celebrations such as the famous gathering at the end of World War II. New York’s abundant number of public spaces allowed people to connect, celebrate and sometimes protest. Public spaces in New York offered many opportunities for human connection.

Major Work Consulted:

Diehl, Lorraine. Over Here! New York City: During World War II. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
Levithan, David. Love is the Higher Law. New York: Knopf, 2009.
Levithan, David. The Realm of Possibility. New York: Knopf, 2004.
Miller, Kristine. Designs on the Public: the Private Lives of New York’s Public Spaces. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007, ix.
Photo Credit: Levithan, David and John Green. Will Grayson, Will Grayson. New York: Penguin, 2010.


 Link to Brianna Sullivan's Senior Art Thesis