Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Swappable Parks Catalog

-In a fixed equipment park you spend years planning and building the park.


Report Assails Parks Dept. Over Slowness in Finishing Projects

We’ve started calling these ‘legacy projects,’ because it’s a legacy you’ll leave for your successor,” said Mr. Greenfield, whose district includes Bensonhurst, Borough Park and Midwood. In the outer boroughs, we have council members who refuse to fund parks because they know that the likelihood that the project will be completed while they are in office is not very high. link

-In a swappable park you will go to a on line Parks Dept or DOT  catalog of pre approved swappable park equipment and components and pick and choose the equipment and shed housing you want to order.

-The Parks Dept  or   Dept of Transportation will each create a Internet  catalog of approved swappable park components to choose from. (or perhaps they will jointly create a Internet catalog)

View  Ping Pong Table in the  On Line Catalog of Parks Dept Pre Approved Tables

Order the Table of your Choice

-To make sure you'll have room for all the equipment your getting, There might  be an Internet application along with the catalog that will allow you to simulate moving equipment into and out of the storage shed (In San Francisco they built a new main library because the old one had run out of room. After building it they found out it had LESS room then the old library.)

each item in the catalog will list
-storage space needed
-space needed to place item in park/plaza
-Age range
-Approved for Parks Dept Use Y/N
-Approved for DOT Plazas Use  Y/N
-Approved for City Planning POPS Use   Y/N
-Supervised or Unsupervised use
-Time needed to deploy item
-Time needed to return item to shed

Designing a Swappable Park at an existing Park, Plaza or POPS   is simply  choosing equipment and a shed, both of which  can  be done quickly. Approvals both  Community Board and other approvals of standardized components will also be far quicker then when building a custom park.

Swappable Parks
The Obesity Crisis and Midtown Manhattans Lack of Active Recreation
Swappable Park Possible Locations Worth Square and Baruch Plaza
Staffing the Swappable Park
Swappable Park Equipment Catalog

Transforming Chelsea into Park Chelsea, Chelsea's Age Friendly Park that's also a park for all ages

Staffing the Swappable Park

You wouldn't run a library or senior center without staff, yet that's exactly the model of how our area parks are run. As a study by the RAND Corp said about LA's parks, "Supervisied activities draw more people to the park" I know every year the CB4 Parks committee asks for staff and every year they don't get any. Our Parks Dept is very underfunded so hiring  recreation  staff may not be possible, but  here are other ways to staff a Swappable Park...
-BID Plaza/ Conservancy  Parks 
Our BIDS and Conservancy Parks have upteen staffers for cleaning and security, add to that all their staff for events programming and gardeners and hanging baskets. . And then there's their staff who act as Art Curators.

Hanging Basket Flatiron Bid

 How about they spend a bit of money on day to day staffing for a Swappable Park ? With their Game On  Active Recreation   the Downtown Alliance BID has transformed Water Street into a Swappable Park, they also have staffed their swappable park. I talked to one of the staffers who said they had multiple staffers keeping an eye on their locations.
Game On staffer on right

-Funding by Parks Conservancies for Swappable Parks in Neighborhood Parks and Playground
Chelsea/Flatiron area BIDS and Parks Conservancies manage some of the richest parks/public spaces in the country, their combined budget is over $46 million dollars a year A NYT article quoted Tupper Thomas of New Yorkers for Parks, she met with representatives of nearly a dozen parks conservancies and said : ...All of these conservancies are more than happy to start to figure out how to get some other kinds of funding into these parks.  Jenny Gertsen director of the High Line has said "Our main priority is to the neighborhood and the community, and we're interested in seeing how we can serve them either on the High Line or off the High Line." - link
You'll find a suggestion for a Worth Square swappable  park here. Currently Madison Square Park maintains Worth Square Park. How about in  lieu of funding it, staffing a swappable park at Worth Square  would be of benefit to everyone in the community.

80/20 Staffing:
Currently maintenance workers and porters at parks do maintenance work and cleaning . I suspect these are not the kind of jobs that rate really high on job satisfaction.
How about all new hires get a new job opportunity. 80% of your job is the standard job description. The other 20% is to be a recreation specialist for a day a week. Rather then just pick up leaves all the time, suddenly parks employees will get to be part of play 1 day a week. The employees will be happier and parks users will be happier, our parks will now have staffing allowing for Swappable Parks and a greater range of activities to meet EVERYONES needs, in every age range and many more active recreation opportunities. BTW existing employees should be allowed to opt in to the 80/20 system.
If you seed a swappable park with recreation staff from the High Line or 80/20 Park employees staffing for a day or two a week, you can expect people who live in the neighborhood to volunteer also. The Jefferson Market Garden has over 50 people who volunteer to sit and greet people coming to the garden. The Oasis Garden and Clinton Garden's in Hell's Kitchen has volunteers who keep the gardens open to the public on weekends. If you give parents the possibility of better recreation opportunities for their kids hopefully they step up to volunteer. 

Volunteer at Jefferson Market garden(right)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Transforming Passive Recreation Benches into Active Recreation Equipment

Transform Passive Recreation Benches into Active Recreation Benches
Passive rercreation benches can also double as active recreation fitness equipment. Most people don't know this and need ito be told this fact. By posting instructions behind benches, we can transform our benches to active recreation equipment.

Above, we placed a graphic showing Park Bench pushups at Canoe Park in Hell's Kitchen. A few minutes after taking the above picture we were passing by Penn South Playground and found these 3 people doing park bench pushups.

We let them know that Nancy Bruning who works out of northern Manhattan's Fort Tyrone Park has create a system of 101 park bench exercises called Nancercize . We will be contacting Nancy about working together on creating bench excercise signage for our parks.


 We let them know that Nancy Bruning who works out of northern Manhattan's Fort Tyrone Park has create a system of 101 park bench exercises called Nancercize . We will be contacting Nancy about working together on creating bench excercise signage for our parks.

The Obesity Crisis and The Midtown Manhattan Active Recreation Exclusion Zone

In 1990 there was no state in the US with an obesity rate over 14%, Today many states are above 30% and no state is below 20%.” -Center for Disease Control

But while obesity may not be the Black Death, it is a severe public health crisis. Experts agree that as more and more obese children become obese adults, the diseases associated with obesity, such as heart disease, cancer, and especially diabetes will surge. That will mean a lot of sick people.”

Active park users were less likely to be overweight than those who had longer park visits and either used the park for passive activities or did not use the park at all “ link

How Fit is NYC?
New York City comes in 24th out of 50 metropolitan areas on the 2014 American Fitness Index, a report released by the American College of Sports Medicine.NY Post 
How Fit is Midtown?
These 2 maps show midtown between 2nd to 8th Aves, 4th to 57th Streets. On the left, with the exception of Bryant Park , there is no public space active recreation for adults in  Community Board 5  and  this larger area of Manhattan. On the right is shown the “Food Recreation” locations in the areas public spaces. Plenty of food recreation, essentially no active recreation.

                                              Active Recreation locations =1                   Food Recreation Locations=16

Whose responsibility is active recreation in Community board 5? Other than Bryant Park no one in CB5  has taken responsibility for active recreation needs or the  adults and seniors  of Community board 5 . What has occurred is that Community Board 4 and Community Board 6 have taken up the slack for CB5.

 Visual recreation (art exhibits) are simply not a substitute for active recreation in fighting our obesity epidemic

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).   link

 Update August 2015
A while back I wrote the above blog piece and suggested active recreation offerings in public spaces  as the solution to our obesity crisis. ,  I have now found out a few interesting facts.

 Physical activity is important and certainly helps, experts say. But studies show that exercise increases appetite, causing people to consume more calories. Exercise also expends far fewer calories than most people think. A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola, for example, contains 140 calories and roughly 10 teaspoons of sugar. “It takes three miles of walking to offset that one can of Coke,” Dr. Popkin said.  link

 Did you know that M&Ms are really football fields? To find out what this means, take a small bag of M&Ms and go to the back of the end zone at your local football field. Open the bag, take out one M&M and eat it. Now start walking to the other end of the football field and into the far end zone. You’ve just walked 120 yards and burned off one M&M.  link

 So exercise really isn't going to help most people fight obesity. What will most help people fight obesity is eating less.Unfortunately eating is a really enjoyable form of recreation and our public spaces often offer it as the sole form of recreation at their location. 

I don't think the idea of getting rid of food recreation in our public spaces is going to go over too well. What might work is to have a policy for public spaces that if you offer "Food Recreation" you also have to offer an equal amount of other healthier recreation choices. 

Recently I talked to a public space designer about food recreation and the lack of alternatives, he pointed out to me a playing field behind the eatery. he was proposing  This is not an equivalent item. 

- To eat at that location you go up to the counter and purchase an item of food or drink

-To use the playing field you have to bring your own  equipment from what may be a significant distance. 

-A wide variety of Food Recreation options  is made as convenient as possible at this location

-Other alternative  forms of activities recreation at this site are "Bring your own Bottle" , and nowhere near as convenient.

So what this public designer is offering is not equal. What would be equal is a staffed parkhouse offering active and activities recreation equivalent. An example of such a parkhouse is at Rockefeller Park a New York state Park in Battery Park City.  (see sapppable park entry below for details).

Make Chelsea your Park/Make Chelsea Your Gym


The phrase Make NYC your Gym comes from a NYC  Dept of Health campaign. Great idea but the execution was mainly at the citywide level rather then the community level. Looking at this brochure from make NYC Your Gym, you have to translate the concepts yourself to figure out how they would work in your neighborhood. . Park Chelsea's  concepts of creating Age-Friendly  Walking Trails and Wandering Parks also have the goal of Making NYC Your Gym, but inform people how to do so at the neighborhood level

Swappable Park Possible Locations in CB6 and CB5

Union Square Park -Community Board 5

Union Square Park Plaza North is a meaningless plaza 3 days a week

  Four days a week a Green market is “swapped” into this empty Space

If you can swap in food sales 4 days a week into the plaza,  there is no reason why you can't  swap active recreation equipment into this space on those other three days

Distance to active recreation

Baruch Plaza-Community Board 6 

-part of DOT's Plaza's Program
- It is maintained by Baruch College. .
- allows for Baruch College to have a outdoors campus,.
-Currently a temporary plaza exists and a permanent plaza is being planned.

Distance to active recreation

 By creating a Swappable Park at Baruch Plaza,  it will transform the area, from simply a plaza with setating  into an outdoor student center,with scores of recreation activities, useable by both Baruch Students and neighborhood residents surrounding the plaza.

Flatiron Plaza-Community Board 5

A swappable park in the Flatiron district would serve Madison Square Park, Worth Square Park and the Flatiron BID.  The best location for it might be here at the northernmost tip of Flatiron Plaza.

-It is in the middle of Worth Square Park and Madison Square Park
-There is more then enough seating surrounding it to re-purpose the space.
-Area is not used for events
-would also give Flatiron Plaza an on site HQ location 
Flatiron Plaza North is on the right

-Ping Pong tables would best be swapped from there  into MSP so that stray balls did not land on the roadway

- One of the lawns in MSP could be dedicated to a swappable Children's play area,perhaps the one adjacent to the children's playground

-The white gravel area of MSP may  be a good area for activities like jump rope that would not be good on the grass.


Recreation equipment on wheels as Foosball tables can be easily swapped into  the  adjacent spaces of  Flatiron Plaza, Worth Square Plaza or the Madison Square Park sidewalk from there.

-Board Games can be played at tables at Flatiron Plaza North or Worth Square Park

Worth Square ParkCommunity Board 5

- a NYC Parks Dept Park
-, adjacent but separate  from Madison Square Park
-. MSP has taken on the responsibility of maintaining it.

 Twice a year Madison Square Park takes over Worth Square Park, swaps in food recreation and creates   Madison Square Eats. 

 "Madison Square Eats is back and we are hungry"

Community Board 5 has said the following about Madison Square Eats:

 While we appreciate that the Madison Square Park Conservancy has taken on the responsibility of maintaining Worth Square, we consider Worth Square public parkland separate and distinct from Madison Square Park. We believe that any funds generated by the use of Worth Square should be used only to maintain and improve Worth Square , not be absorbed by the general fund of the Madison Square Park Conservancy link

-The surrounding  area  offers a great deal of passive recreation(Madison Square Park,Flatiron Plaza, Madison Green, 41 Madison), and food recreation(Shake Shack,  Le Kiosk, Baked)
-there is  no active recreation for adults in the area
- The nearest active recreation locations are over 1/2 mile away in any direction.

Distance to active recreation

If a Swap Shed cannot be placed in Flatiron Plaza North, Worth Square Park would also be a viable location for one, though less desirable the Flatiron Plaza North.

Bryant Park 6 million annual visitors
Reading Room 300-500 Readers per day, Ping Pong-90-100 People per day (2 tables)
Chess 9 tables : 80 players per day      Games 9  Tables : 110 woman 60 men per day
Total: 640  people per day: 128,000 people over 200 days

Madison Square Park 1.5 million annual visitors
Flatiron District 230 chairs 87 tables +Worth Square    (not counted )
say 200 per hour *10hours =2000 per day *200 days=400,000 per year
50000*365=18 million people pass 23rd and 5th per year

Union Square Park  Holiday market (1 month)  1 million visitors
As one of the City’s highest-trafficked retail destinations, Union
Square draws nearly 350,000 pedestrians daily and over 35
Union Square draws nearly 350,000 pedestrians daily 

Swappable Parks-Have it your way recreation

Swappable Parks
The Obesity Crisis and Midtown Manhattans Lack of Active Recreation
Swappable Park Possible Locations Worth Square and Baruch Plaza
Staffing the Swappable Park
Swappable Park Equipment Catalog

Transforming Chelsea into Park Chelsea, Chelsea's Age Friendly Park that's also a park for all ages

Make NYC Your Park/ Make NYC Your Gym

Transforming  NYC into a Passive and  Active Recreation Park

All of NYC was once a park, and one day it will be again

 A History of Parks and Recreation in NYC Past, Present  and Future

Make NYC Your Gym

Networking NYC's Parks through Walking Trails and Wandering Parks
The whole is greater then the sum of its parks.

The 26th Street Active Recreation Walking Trail
A prototype for   transformation of  the city into a park

 see also:
Midtown Lacks Active Recreation 
Swappable Park
Bird Feeders for Readers (outdoor Reading Rooms)
Age-Friendly Sidewalk Parks

Saturday, July 26, 2014

26th Street Line : Age-Friendly Active Recreation Walking Trail

NYC has done a heck of a lot to tout Biking as active recreation, but very little to tout walking as active recreation.Millions have been spent on Citybike and Biking trails. Biking is available as active recreation 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Walking trails are  available  as either parts of events or weekly meetups. Just like we have" anytime you want"  biking trails what's needed is some infrastructure to be created to tout  "anytime you want"  walking trails.  Here's one thought...

This is a proposal for NYC to add Walking  Trail Maps and  signage to 26th Street to delineate  a permanent  Age-Friendly River to River  Urban Walking Trail running from the Hudson River to the East River.

View 26th St Age-Friendly River to Riiver Walking/Recreation Trail in a larger map
(note Google recently updated Google maps, and "broke" our icons. Will be fixed sometime soon)

 - River to River Walking Trail
-25 Rest Stops (goal:within 3 block walk)
-11 Rest Rooms 
-5 Playgrounds 
-Seniors Shopping Trail
-3 Active Recreation parks

-Connects to North/South Age-Friendly Walking Trails  (Green arrows)
- Printable map
-On Line map (above) 

Park Wayfinding Signage

Along the east west axis of the park there should  be wayfinding  signage, letting people know where the next rest stop, rest room  and recreation  amenities are in either direction.
walk your city signage

other trail signage

also add signage to the trail to tout walking  link


Making 26th Street into an Age-Friendly Walking Trail 

Age-friendly Cities United Nations Report

Many older adults would like to visit the parks more often, but find it difficult because the parks are too far away from where they live, too difficult to enter or not comfortable once there.
 Older adults ask that more green space (e.g., trees and gardens with benches) be created closer to where they live.   Creating an Age-Friendly NYC-One Neighborhood at a Time,

 ". And as an inveterate walker, she is especially enamored of the benches recently installed on her block where she can stop and chat with friends. ." -NYT Aug 12, 2011

Studies have shown park usage drops drastically when parks are more then 3 minutes away.  So we aim to have a outdoor place to sit with a 3 minute walk of anywhere on the trail.
Here's how...

 -Add  Age-Friendly Sidewalk Parks  through the NYC Dept of Transportation Citybench program.

This Age-Friendly Sidewalk Park on 8th Ave near 25th St has proven very popular... is continually used

-Work with the Parks dept to add seating around sidewalk gardens .
Downtown Alliances Sidewalk Garden with  Seating

Active and Activities Recreation:

In 1990 there was no state in the US with an obesity rate over 14%, Today many states are above 30% and no state is below 20%.” -Center for Disease Control

 With the exception of Bryant Park, community board 5 and it's surroundings is totally  lacking in active recreation opportunities for adults link

    Active Recreation locations =1        Food Recreation Locations=16

Adding active recreation facilities to the CB5 segment of the the 26th Street Active recreation parkway is one way to help lessen this problem.

Store Calories to make Fat, or Burn Calories to make Energy? (Illustration | sociecity)


Expand  active and activities recreation offerings  by

-Swappable Parks Adding Active recreation to existing Parks and Plazas to meet the active recreation needs of everyone in the community

Hudson River Park is a linear park, mostly used foer passive recreation with specialized areas for active recreation throughout the park. In a similar way the 26th Street Parkway is mostly a Age-Friendly passive recreation  park. However throughout the park there are  currently a number of active recreation areas.  With a few exceptions these areas do not offer recreation staff. One of the defining features of the 26th St parkway should be the creation of Swappable Parks throughout the Parkway.

   Swappable Parks
-Swappable Park Locations  : Flatiron Plaza, Baruch Plaza 
Other swappable Park Locations: Chelsea Park, FIT,  Mt Carmel/Bellevue South park
-Staffed at least 1 day a week
- Active Recreation Parklets

Third Places
Third places are spaces where you hang out and schmooze. These should be scattered throughout the park

(show picture of 25th @10th Third place)

Restroom Additions: 
 There are never enough restrooms.  Two locations on the parkway where restroom additions could occur would be:

Penn South Playground
Worth Square Park

The 26th St Active Recreation parkway offers bikers  9 Citybike kiosks, a Bike Shop  at 130 West 26th St.  plus rest stops and restrooms.

 Institutions on the Trail with an interest in Health
 The following Institutions are on the trail. Each will be asked to create a Active Recreation Project/experiment on the trail that adds value to the Trail

4 NYC Parks: Chelsea Park, Penn South, Bellevue South, Worth Square
2 Dept of Health Facilities Chelsea Health Center, East Side Health center
4 Medical facilities  Bellevue Hospital, Medical Examiners Office, NYU Hospital
9 NYC Bikeshare
3 Conservancy parks Hudson river park, Madison square park, High Line
4 Senior Facilities: Elliot Chelsea NORC, Penn South Seniors/NORC, Senior Planet, SAGE
1 NYCHA Houses: Elliott Chelsea
1 settlement House: Hudson Guild
2 University FIT, Hunter College
DOT Plazas Baruch Plaza , Flatiron Plaza
2 DOT Citybenches
2 City Planning POPS
2 Health Committee Heads: Dick Gottfried, Corey Johnson
2 state offices: Dick Gottfried Office, Brad Holymans Office

Transportation Alternatives
Solar One
Chelsea Garden Club

Curator of Health  and Active Recreation

Madison Square Park  and the High Line both have Art Curators, A Curator of Health and Active Recreation should be the one staff member  of the 26th St Parkway .The Curator will work with public and private spaces on the parkway  to increase Active Recreation activities offerings. The Recreation Curator will spend 1 day a week at each of 5 public spaces on the Parkway and lead Active Recreation activities  at each space on that day. Funding can come from Parks Dept, High Line, MSP, and Flatiron Plaza.

Decentralized Planning
Rather then a central master plan. The plan is for block residents and businesses on each block  to plan its own  design.  Blocks may decide to plan a multiblock design together.  The Curator of Health and Active recreation  will work to make sure that, within the decentralized structure, the recreation needs of everyone are met. (signage, restrooms, seating, active recreation)
Active Design
Private buildings that are located on the Parkway should be encouraged to add active design elements to their properties. On eof the easiest ways to do so is to transform their staircases into "Stair Masters" . Make staircases more inviting by adding signage , staircase art exhibits and other elements that will get people to take the stairs more often.

 stairway gallery wall by Ilevel inc


See also:
The Street Line: 26th St Age Friendly Parkway,  Pictorial and Upgrade Possibilities
 The Swappable Park:Meeting the Recreation Needs of Everyone in the Community