Saturday, October 27, 2012


Park Chelsea is meant as an alternative addition  to our existing Chelsea Parks system.  I happened upon this doctoral thesis that is congruent with the Park Chelsea way of thinking.


Traditionally, park agencies address the shortage of urban parks by trying to increase
the number and acreage of parks in underserved areas. Such an approach focuses
exclusively on physical solutions, i.e. the development of new parks, requires substantial
financial and land resources, and presumes that the parks department is the only
supplier of recreational opportunities. Given the lack of public funding and land for new
urban parks, this traditional approach is no longer typically feasible.

This paper presents an alternative approach that focuses on the provision of recreational
services through multiple-use facilities and partnerships with a wide variety of public,
nonprofit, and private organizations.  This approach rightfully recognizes parks as a
means to address recreational needs rather than an end itself, and shifts park agencies
from being producers and guardians of parks to being facilitators of recreational
services. Instead of focusing alone on developing new parks on its own and devoting
significant resources on land acquisition and facility construction, park agencies should
actively identify and pursue alternative ways, locations, and partners to offer recreational

Alternative ways could include: the joint use of school facilities; the
introduction of recreational uses on land owned by utilities; mobile gyms; transportation
of residents to outside recreational facilities; and temporary use of parking and vacant
lots, reuse of existing buildings, and temporary closure of streets for recreational
purposes. The key component of this paper is a case study to demonstrate how this
alternative approach of meeting recreational needs may be implemented in Florence-
Firestone, an underserved area in South Los Angeles.
A number of studies reviewed in the American Journal of
Preventive Medicine showed that “creation of or enhanced access to places for physical
activity combined with informational outreach” produced a 48 percent increase in the
frequency of physical activity (Kahn, pp. 87-88)
. These studies also found that easy
access to a place to exercise resulted in a five percent median increase in aerobic
capacity, along with weight loss, a reduction in body fat, and improvements in flexibility
(Ibid, pp. 87-88).

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Creating Community in our Public Spaces

One of the characteristics of a Great Public Space as defined by the Project for Public Spaces is:

 Does the space encourage communication or interaction between strangers?

In Chelsea our outdoor public spaces with  children's playgrounds, dog runs and basketball courts  encourage communication or interaction between strangers for the populations that participate in these activities. The majority of our public spaces and their uses  do not fulfill this function.

Simple Low Cost, small space solutions to this issue:

 The following activities promote Community between strangers
Ping Pong Tables
Board games
Card Games

Signage that says:
Seeking activities partners for...
Anybody interested in a game of .... join me here at...
games Volunteers
While visiting  Bryant Park  I learned that the fellow in charge of the board games would play a board game with you, if no partner was available

...But college union professionals know that people bond while waiting for elevators and gab in stairwells. They may talk while drying their hands in the restrooms. People will even stand and hold a conversation in the middle of a doorway, blocking other people from engaging in proper locomotion. People may attend a formal meeting in a dedicated space, but then engage in deeper communication with the same people on the same topics once they leave the meeting room and linger in the hallway. Since our mission is to build community, we need to optimize the spaces where self-organizing occurs in between official points of production. -link

Neighborhoods with great sidewalks may not need as many parks as those without.
Although sidewalks are not given much thought by park advocates, good ones actually
serve some of the same “people-to-people sociability functions” as parks and plazas
(Harnik, 2010, p. 40). Like parks, good sidewalks have benches and great shade providing
trees. Parks obviously offer much more than sidewalks, but the latter have the
major advantages of being closer to home and often feeling safer
-Urban Green

active and passive recreation areas

 One playground leader said that parks were appropriately called
urban “breathing spaces” because “breathing was about all one was permitted to do in
them” (Boyer, pp. 244-245).

Active recreation is based on physiology
and is defined as activities that result in a
healthy increase in aerobic rate

In contrast, passive recreation includes
those activities that do not result in increased
aerobic rates. Passive recreation
provides important benefi ts for mental
health and stress reduction.
The terms active and passive recreation
describe activities, not sites or facilities

passive recreation areas
Plazas and privately owned public spaces
Park Chelsea's plazas and privately owned public spaces with few exceptions are passive recreation areas.
One Riverside place has a playground for children, all adult activities are passive.

The seating plaza at the general post office is essentially a passive seating plaza. However some people may choose to use the stairmaster that is installed at the location to create an active recreation experience.

other than these two exceptions all of our plazas and privately owned public spaces only offer the passive recreational activities of sitting, eating, reading  schmoozing and using Wi-Fi.

New York City parks department parks

New York City parks within the Chelsea area  offer some active recreation activities, however for the most part they offer a limited range of activities.

Madison Sq., Park offers a playground for children, and active recreation activities for dogs.
Union  Sq., Park offers a playground for children, and active recreation activities for dogs

The high line offers walking as an active recreation activity.

The portion of Hudson River Park that resides in Chelsea offers water sports, skateboarding and through its associated Chelsea waterside Park a wide variety of active recreation activities.

Chelsea Park offers a wide variety of active recreation activities.

Chelsea park/playgrounds offer active recreation to children along with basketball for adults.

Herald Sq, Greely Sq and Worth square all offer only passive activities related to seating

Sunday, October 14, 2012

New York City's Unified Public Spaces Maps

“I am a planner,” he said. “And as a planner, I look at parks very differently. Parks do not sit in isolation.” Mitchell Silver Parks Commissioner
Before discussing NYC public spaces  maps , first  a few words to say on the NYC Transit system maps .

NYC Transit

From the beginning of the 20th century until 1940 New York City had three subway systems. These were Brooklyn Manhattan Transit, Interborough Rapid Transit and the Independent line. With the exception of jointly operated lines these maps listed only those transit assets of each respective company.

to find the closest station to where you were going, you needed to consult 3 maps.
BMT Map 1939

IRT Map 1939

IND Line Map 1939

In June 1940, the transportation assets of the former BMT and IRT systems were taken over by the City of New York for operation by the City's Board of Transportation, which already operated the IND system. Free transfer points were initiated in 1948.

Unified Transit map 1948

NYC Public Spaces

At the beginning of the 21st Century. NYC had 3 major agencies in charge of publicly accessible open space development.

NYC Parks Department's  parks and playgrounds, greenstreets, community gardens
 NYC Department of City Planning's  Privately Owned Public Spaces(POPS)
NYC Department of Transportation's Public Plaza , bus shelters and Citybench programs.
(additionally publicly accessible open spaces are State Parks, National parks)

Like the subway systems of the  early 20th each of these public spaces  systems are independently run and each has a different map* not listing the spaces of the other systems. 
Dept of City Planning Privately Owned Public Spaces Map
NY Parks Department  Parks Map
lists NYC parks, Greenstreets, State and National
Parks ansd Schoolyards into Playgrounds

DOT Plazas


For the Chelsea/Hell's Kitchen area the maps above  look like this:

This is the NY Dept of City Planning Privately Owned Public
 Spaces map for the
 area in and around Chelsea/Hell's Kitchen....
This is the NYC parks map for in and around
Chelsea/Hell's Kitchen,.

                                                NYC Plazas in and around Chelsea/Hell's Kitchen

 The NYC Parks map lists 26 parks and totally ignores the DCP POPS spaces, the DCP POPS map lists POPS over 60 POPS and ignores the NYC parks. To find the nearest publicly accessible open space you need to consult 2 maps (and 1 website)

NYCUPS-New York City Unified Public Spaces Maps   has created the first Unified Public spaces  maps for the Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen   neighborhoods  of Manhattan. These map consist of all open spaces (with seating ) in and around Chelsea/Hell's Kitchen that are operated by NYC parks, created under the DCP POPS program, or built by the NYC DOT Under it's plazas, Citybench and  bus shelters programs. additionally the map also lists, community gardens, federal open spaces (such as General Post Office  steps), and other private spaces that are accessible to the public. And for good measure  restroom locations are included.

Click here for Interactive Park Hell's Kitchen Map

Click here for a interactive Park Chelsea map

"The Park Chelsea and Park Hell's Kitchen  map are "Retailers" map , they  lists open spaces and seating  from all "manufacturers" (NYC Parks Dept, Department of Transportation,  City Planning, etc)" according to Arnold Bob who designed these maps. "Currently we have released maps for Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen and Midtown South. We're also working on maps for the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, West Village, Kips Bay/Murray Hill and East Harlem."

For the latest versions of the maps go to

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chelsea Snags its first Citybench

On Monday, October 1, 2012 a crew of New York City Department of Transportation ironworkers descended upon Chelsea to install Chelsea's first Citybench in front of the Fulton Senior Center at 119 9th Avenue.

In the week since the installation of the Citybench it's  apparent  it has been a great success, with a constant stream of people sitting at the bench, either to wait for a bus or simply as a place to relax,sit down and schmooze with a friend.

The $3 million dollar CityBench program is mostly funded by a $2.4 million Bus Livability Grant from the Federal Transit Administration to further their goal to "help integrate transit into a community through neighborhood improvements and enhancements to transit facilities or services, or make improvements to areas adjacent to public transit facilities that may facilitate mobility demands of transit users or support other infrastructure investments that enhance the use of transit for the community.

If you'd like to snag a Citybench for a location near where you live go to For more information on Park Chelsea: Chelsea's Age Friendly Park, go to

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

PARK(ing) Day 2012 in Chelsea

Parking Day was Sept 21 in 2012. This is the day of the year when parking spots get transformed into public spaces for a day. This year 3 Chelsea organizations participated in Parking Day. Park Chelsea, a 2011 (PARK)ing Day participant was represented by Ranger Bob, Park Chelsea Parks Commissioner who spent the day meeting  with the Chelsea participants and swearing some of them in as Park Chelsea Rangers.

Van Alen Institute at Parking Day 2012 spot in front of the Van Alen bookstore 30 West 22nd street

Park Chelsea welcomes it's Van Alen Rangers, Ranger Anna and Ranger David

Van Alen Institute is an independent nonprofit architectural organization that promotes inquiry into the processes that shape the design of the public realm.  They have recently announced the winners of their Parks for the People Competition.  They are a multiple year Parking Day participant.

20th Street Parks (Park)ing Day 2012 Logo

20th Street Park's micropark in front of 136 West 20th

20th Street Park is a coalition of East Chelsea residents  that has been advocating  for a pocket park   at the soon to be vacated Sanitation Dept site at  136 West 20th Street.

The ESI Design Food For Thought Truck at 5th ave btw 18th and 19th Streets. Seen here are ESI Design employees Debra, Shaelyn and Maria being sworn in as Park Chelsea Rangers welcome Ranger Debra, Ranger Shaelyn and Ranger Maria!
One of many local facts shared by the Food for Thought Truck during Parking Day.

Food trucks are great for feeding your belly, but what about feeding your mind?
For Park(Ing) Day NYC 2012, ESI Design created the Food for Thought Truck. It’s one day only —Friday, September 21, on 5th Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets. The “truck” offers a menu of different types of content about the Union Square/Flatiron neighborhood and the people who pass through it, including:
  •  Local Stuff: Facts, Secrets, Reflections, and Observations
  •  Non-local Stuff: Jokes, Speculations, Doodles, and Pickup Lines
Passersby create their own content, and then use it to purchase the content of others, and all of it is collected here as a pop-up, crowd-sourced, community-based resource. link

 ESI Design is one of the world's foremost experiential design firms. Founded in 1977 by Edwin Schlossberg, a pioneer in the design of collaborative public experiences and communications networks.

 see also :Chelsea to be declared Park Chelsea as part of PARK(ing) Day New York City 2011