The parks, which were temporarily installed in parking spaces along streets throughout the city, were created as part of the 2nd Annual Park(ing) Day, and sponsored by organizations interested in bringing a few more parks to the people.
Park(ing) Day is an initiative started by Transportation Alternatives, a group that advocates walking, cycling, and public transportation over the more environmentally unfriendly automobile, and in its second year in New York City, it has already become one of the group’s most effective tools in demonstrating what has been lost by the overabundance of cars.
“Park(ing) Day shows the enormous impact of converting even a few square feet of parking to engaging in public space,” said Paul Steeley White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Whether its seating for 10, parking for 20 bikes, or just some much needed room to breathe, there are often more beneficial uses for a parking space than to park a single car.”
And there was no better way for Transportation Alternatives to demonstrate these uses than by using them for a variety of social, physical, and community projects throughout the city. Parking space parks in all five boroughs featured art projects, exercise equipment, neighborhood gathering places, and just plain old grass ready to be enjoyed by people passing by.
The initiative enlisted individuals and organizations that wanted to run their own park, working with the Department of Transportation to assign them parking spaces in their own neighborhood. Early Friday morning, Transportation Alternatives delivered a trailer full of live sod to each of the participants, who were then tasked with laying the sod out into the parking spaces and creating something unique in the makeshift parks.
Nowhere is the spirit of “do-it-yourself” more alive than in Williamsburg, and there were three parking space parks on Bedford Avenue alone. A small playground on North 3rd Street, a Zen garden for meditation on North 5th Street, and a geodesic dome on North 10th Street all captivated those that passed by, providing not only an extra dose of fun in the dwindling days of summer, but also encouraging neighbors to re-examine the automobile’s place in New York Ctiy.
Will Elkins, a representative of the Buckminster Fuller Institute on North 11th Street, was up early Friday morning laying sod along North 10th Street to create a park showcasing the architectural developments of his organization’s namesake.
Also the subject of a recently ended exhibit at the Whitney Musuem, Fuller’s innovative, efficient geometric structures fully utilize and reorganize existing space in much the same way as the Park(ing) Day parks.
Sitting on a chair in the park that he had only hours earlier built, surrounded by the skeleton of a geodesic dome, Elkins spoke about the positive effects of the new parks. Though he wasn’t sure exactly what the Fuller Institute’s specific objective was for operating the park, he did say that it was “partly social.”
“We’ve been talking to a lot of people,” he said. “A lot of people have been coming by to stop for a conversation. We’re more pleasant than a car!”