Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Flatiron Playspace - Inclusive recreation for all ages and abilities



Given that there is a 21 million dollar redesign of Flatiron plaza  including Worth Square Park is about to occur it  would be great if  rather then just more and upgraded passive recreation seating areas,  that a Library Model Parkhouse and dedicated active, activities  and special needs recreation areas were included as part of the project. Here's why...

As far as I can tell except for special events programming New York City's Flatiron District offers no active recreation for its youth, adult and senior residents, nor any special needs recreation for any of its residents. 




1-Madison Square Park- Seating, Art, Playground, Dog Run , Food Recreation, Rest Room
2-Worth Square Park-Seating,  Food Recreation
3-41 Madison Ave POPS-Seating, Food Recreation
4-Madison Green POPS-Seating
5-Flatiron Plaza North-Seating, WiFi Art Recreation, Food Recreation
6-Flatiron Plaza South-Art Recreation WiFi,  Seating Food Recreation
Adjacent to Public Spaces:Food Recreation (7)
Totals: 
 Food Recreation:12
 Seating-6
Art Recreation 3
Dog Run 1
Wi-Fi 2
Doggy Active Recreation 1
Children (under about 7 years old)   Active  Recreation 1
 Children (over about 7 years old)   Active  Recreation 0
Youth Active Recreation 0
Adult Active Recreation 0
Senior Active Recreation 0
Special Needs Active Recreation 0


Other then playgrounds  for dogs and very young children  there is not much in the way of active recreation offering in  Community Board 5's Flatiron District. Whose responsibility is it to offer  youth, adult, senior active and activities  recreation for the Flatiron District? The current answer seems to be the parks of community boards 4 and 6.  Unfortunately  studies have show that usage of active recreation facilities decreases by distance so this is not fair to Community board 5 residents. 

Worth Square Park
It would be great if CB5 was able to build a new dedicated active recreation park, as other Manhattan community districts have. Finding space for this will not be easy. One option, is to upgrade the 11,000 square foot  Worth Square Park from more just more   social seating   into  CB5's first  fixed equipment  active recreation park. Half court Basketball or a senior playground are two possibilites.


                                      Senior playground?  Half Court Basketball?


link

However, rather then use  the  Worth Square Park  for just one a limited number of  fixed recreation equipment  features, a better idea would be to  dedicate Worth Square Park to CB5's firts  full time active and activities recreation area using a flexible recreation model.and do something similar  for a few areas  in Flatiron Plaza and Madison Square Park. . Here's how


Rockefeller Park's  Recreation Equipment "Library"


This is the parkhouse at Rockefeller Park a NYS park in Battery Park City. Parkgoers can go up to its window and borrow active and activities recreation equipment for all  ages and many  abilities
 

. You can play active recreation activities anytime at  most open area locations in the park
 



 


A "Library   model" parkhouse where park goers can borrow equipment can be installed  as part of the Flatiron Plaza redesign and be located so as to serve  Flatiron Plaza, Madison Square Park and Worth Square Park .Talking to people the issue of staffing money came up. To minimize cost, funding  of staff and equipment can be shared by the 3 entities. Worth Square Park is a city park without money.  Community Board 5 has said the following...


 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 

Funds generated  from Madison Square Eats and other commercial uses would be used for Worth Square Parks share of the staffed parkhouse funding.

One location for the parkhouse might be an underutilized location of northern Flatiron Plaza, which is pretty much central to all 3 entities.

                 To the right of the sidewalk the sliver of Flatiron Plaza is unused

Flatiron Playspace-Unified Park System Planning
 Capital Space in Washington DC is a project to plan for all of Washington's  park systems as a whole.so as to best meet Washington DC's open space needs.  The Flatiron Playspace is a plan for  a  shared parkhouse and the entities , it will serve  .-Madison Square Park, Flatiron Plaza, Worth Square Park (plus POPS) . By planning together the active recreation needs of the community can better be served.



I did in person surveys of Flatiron Playspace  users earlier last  year.  I found that open space users  want more then merely a place to sit. For the survey .I gave people a checklist of possible activities here's the results... 

Most requested activities
Piano, 
New York Times
Ping pong,
Exercise Bikes 
Chess
 Jump Rope,
 Hula Hoop
Foosball
Wall Street Journal
Pool Table
Air Hockey
Gian Screen TV
Horse Shoes
Scrabble
Board Games
Comic Books
Rocking Chairs
Swing Seats
Nok Hockey
Squeeze Balls
Daily News
Corn Hole (note 1)
Power Bands
Least Requested acrtivities



 Using a flexible library model, all 24 of these activities recreation items can be made available at the parkhouse. You would have   more copies of the most requested  items, and very  few copies of the least  requested  . Other items can be requested by parkgoers, and easily added to the Flatiron Playspace   recreation mix, in days, not decades as with a fixed equipment only park. This parkhouse is meant to a self organizing system, that will continually  react to parkgoers needs in weeks  not decades.

The parkhouse concept will not  only serve able people it will also make the park inclusive for people with disabilities. Here's how...


Often "special needs” recreation  equipment items  need not be special, they just need to be available . Here's a few  examples   puppets  and   Lego  for autism,  a hula hoop for the blind , Parkinson disease, and stroke victims ,   and  Bilibo for Downs Syndrome,.






 and the  parkhouse could offer "special" special equipment such as...


Audible balls for the visually impaired




Tandem Rocker





.
 Braille typewriter



  Common requested special needs  items can be kept on hand. Uncommon ones can be purchased as requested.



Dedicated Active/Activities Recreation Spaces-.The creation of  Flatiron Plaza gave the Flatiron District  a lot more passive recreation  seating and “food recreation” offerings ,but nothing in the way  of  active recreation for the community.  No public space in the area  is taking responsibility for youth, adult, senior, and special needs active and activities recreation.. While food recreation in the Flatiron Districts Public Spaces  is on tap 7 days a week throughout the day  from multiple sources, healthy recreation alternatives are relegated to  special events programs.  Given no activities to busy themselves with,  other then food recreation, public space users  occupy their time with the one opportunity they are offered-- eating. . This is not healthy. 
 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


 A dedicated board games  area at Bryant Park.  One day I  talked with  a fellow from the Bronx  who said he came to play games here because the Bronx  offered nothing like this. 


 
Worth Square Park Community Programmed Space
 Worth Square Park is .27 acres (11761 feet) square feet.
Rather then have Worth Square Park continue as more social seating, or be transformed into a fixed equipment playground. , how about it becomes a flexible  activities playspace that is jointly programmed by Madison Square Park and   community.members/groups.




Worth Street Park Community  Outdoor Art Gallery
 Madison Square Park has a art program that offers parkgoers  the ability to view fine art produced by others.  Worth Square Park's fence , could be used for a year round community  art gallery, with ever changing exhibits as chosen by people who live and work around the area.  

FIT is located a few blocks from Worth Street Park (26th St and 7th Ave) .  I talked with FIT  students and they are interested to have a neighborhood public space to exhibit their works..
                                                                     FIT Chalk Art


Worth Street Park Community Garden
  I know of no community gardens in the Flatiron area (or for that matter anywhere in Community board 5) .  Worth Square parks planting area can become CB5's first  community garden.






Worth Square Park  Sidewalk
 . It  can have embedded  Hopscotch, skully,  a maze ,and other sidewalk activities build into the sidewalk.

 link

...chalkart too!


 link



Worth Square Park Reading Room

 A portable Reading room for younger people  in Worth Square Park would be keeping with it's flexible equipment mandate




Worth Square Parkhouse/Storage Room
This can function as a parkhouse and storage room for Worth Square Park. At the point a parkhouse is opened in Flatiron Plaza, this facility will cease to function as a parkhouse and will just be use to store equipment.  .

Worth Square Park Movable Parts Play
The current Madison Square Park Playground seems to be oriented towards children under I think 5 years old. A new one that might be for older kids is still  years away. By having a Parkhouse somewhere in the Flatiron Playspace  Worth Square Park  can serve older kids with loose parts, and movable equipment play.

RMIT University researcher Brendon Hyndman found  the children were more inclusive when they played with everyday objects, compared to times when they used conventional playgrounds.

..
 A recent study of daycare-center playgrounds found that when kids had access to items like balls, hula hoops, and jump ropes, they were more active than when they had only stationary structures to play on... Typical playground equipment does help develop certain motor skills, like climbing," says study coauthor Dianne Ward, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "But kids play harder and longer when they have more portable playthings around."
link 




Looose Play-Lego at the High Line

Simpson Chess set.....



or a giant chess set



Hula Hoops and Jump ropes can be used here too


Special Needs Play



Worth Square Park's Madison Square Eats
 Madison Square Eats will continue use Worth Square Park and  be programmed by MSP, however funds from it will go towards the joint parkhouse, and other items for Worth Square Park.



Flatiron Plaza  Family Recreation  Area
Portable Nok Hockey, foosball, pool table, air hockey and other easily movable   sports equipment can be stored in the Flatiron Playspace parkhouse, and taken out by people as they want to play.  The play area could be near  the eastern most portion of Flatiron Plaza.



Nok Hockey is really popular in Batter Park City. What's interesting is you find parents playing it with their children. So it's family friendly recreation that allows parents and children to interact as equals

 
Family friendly board game playing on the Rockefeller Park Plaza

Madison Square Park Family Recreation  Area
Just to the west of Shake shack is a gravel area. I talked to a NYC parks department staffer who told me it is a active  recreation area for MSP . Great!. But  I rarely see people playing here.  In an artice the Impact of ADA on Playground Design Jay Beckwith, "one of fathers of the modern playground"  , said the following
 While many parents are savvy and motivated enough to haul toys from home, many more are not. A simple sign like the one shown can go a long way towards creating the habit and the expectation of bringing loose parts to the playground.
As a start, taking a suggestion from Jay  this area could use  a rather large sign saying  it is a play area, and to bring your own equipment




However as i said before  "Bring your own bottle"(toy)  is nowhere near as convenient as ordering a burger from the Shake Shack next to this area. So this would be a great place for a  Portable  Ping pong tables. . Balls and paddles would be available from the parkhouse. Kids Basketball,shooting, ball catch, and horseshoes are among the other actives that can   take place here.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-nBDMwMlXVt4/VkHAQK0XeRI/AAAAAAAAGRc/96e3UzxMUbs/s1600/ScreenHunter_2348%2BNov.%2B10%2B04.59.jpg

These two kids brought their own balls and gloves for use in  Madison Square Park, near Shake Shack. You can get a shake right in the park, but you gotta "bring your own bottle" when it comes to sports equipment. A while back IO saw a cooncrete ping pong table in this area, it had only one paddle, which a bright kid had dedcided to use to move gravel around with. Over several visists I never did see anybody play ping pong there.   . The creation of a Flatiron Playspace parkhouse would put  Sports recreation and food recreation access on a far more even  footing  for the area.




Flatiron Plaza Table  Game Area
Most Citybikes are stored in a linear, fashion. The Flatiron Plaza North  Citybike island  area would be far more valuable as playspace. Move the bikes elsewhere to a street or sidewalk. , One though for the area is  for a dedicated chess, checkers and other table games area.

  The authors of the book People Places  made the statement  "The natural environment of a park is not enough to attract some elderly users, but a park with many activities can simulate social exchange and provide a sense of belonging" .A dedicated table games area makes a public space more attractive to seniors.




Encouraging Literacy-Little Free Libraries for MSP and Flatiron Plaza


 One or more little free libraries for all ages  can be in the Flatiron Playspace. Worth Squares will be portable. Other ones may be fixed in nature. Shown below,  Parks Commissioner Michell Silver at a Little Free Library





Madison Square Park Playground and Basketball Area
I've  learned that MSP would like a larger childrens playground. Great, and hopefullythe new one  can serve older kids too. When  the new area comes online the old area will be re-purposed. How about a paved  half court basketball area, (CB5's first basketball court) , that could also serve other functions?


Talk to Me Seating Locations Madison Square Park/ and Flatiron Plaza


link

People don't generally talk to strangers in public spaces. Have one bench or table in the Flatiron Playspace  (and/or MSP) with a sign " If you see me sitting here talk to me" and an explanation of the concept. . If you are sitting there, it means you want people to talk to.



Inclusion and Special Needs Play
I  was talking to a woman at the Andrew Heskill Braille and Talking Book Library (40 W 20th St). I asked her what activities she would like as part of the upgrade. .I suggested as an example  to her that  the parkhouse lend a braille typewriter so she could write in the park, What she suggested  was braille signage so she could figure out what was going on in the space, rails to make getting around easier ,.another was to be "included". by sighted people.  I suggested  she have a seat where the  talk to me sign was.


here are some othher ideas that can occur given a space that allows them

 Play with Me
One hobby my visually impaired friend Charlene and I share is a love for games of practically every sort. We've wiled away many a glorious breezy afternoon at the cabin playing card games like Kaiser, 500, Euchre, and Pinochle using my friend's special pack of brailled cards. To this day I'm still trying to figure out how she cheats using that deck.

We've also played several classic tabletop diversions, like Monopoly and Scrabble, using boards that feature raised surfaces that allow Char to feel (in the tactile sense) where to place a playing piece on the game grid. In the case of Monopoly, the Community Chest, Chance, and property cards are brailled so that Char can read them without assistance from a sighted person. Similarly, the letter tiles used in Char's version of Scrabble are brailled, so you can imagine that I watch very closely when she puts her hand inside the bag to draw out new tiles. She's a slippery one, I tell you. link


Draw with Me
I go to the Art Cart in Bryant Partk at times and hold an Internation Art Jam. Along with the Art Threapist who runs the cart I put togerther a fishing line out of ribbn...
We interact with strangers who might  never otherwise have a chance to taklk with a New York Native, except wher they are buying something. I'd like tp see an equivalent internation art jam set up at the Flatiron Playspace. Just leave out materials andd a big sign letting people know

(High line art jam)

Talking to N the blind woman I met at the Hesikill Library, we talked about material with whic a blind person copuld sculpt.

Another idea I learned from MIT, Toy design Program....

It was an excercise in learning to fing paint, wheere the fingers you would use were not your own,but your partners. I think this would be interesting way for a visually disable person to be includes. Playimng the paint brush, you become partners with another person in a dance with your hands.





I've no doubt that the Flatiron Plaza upgrade plan  will meet ADA standards, I strongly doubt the organizations involved are creating activities at the space that will allow everyone  to feel included.


The Bryant Park chess and checkers area creates a space where people come regularly and meet to play games. Just as important as the games are the relationships you build over time with the other regular players. Creating spaces that allow relationships to be built over time is important. The chess and checkers area is a continual  drop in area, you drop in when you feel like playing and you connect with your friends .

What's needed is more dedicated activities areas  that allow people to create the kinds of inclusive relationships that that chess area does. 











Holding the space.
You need to hire  some poeple to hold the space too. That guy that came down from the Bronx to play, was playing with the fellow who kep the area. You need to hire people who ant to play. I have seemn some of the poeple who keep these spaces had no interest in the pople around them, others created life and energy.

Staffing

People that actually have a bacjgtround in recreatiun or athlectics showuld do some of the staffing.


FIT  offers one of 2 Toy Design programs in the United States , I think having FIT students work as staff at this park would be great for the students and the park


Inclusion and Exclusion

I'm still trying to understand what Inclusion means. Currently I think there are two types of Inclusion

Features Inclusion
An exclusive park is one having offerings for only some people not all people.  , Inclusive is having offerings for all of the people. There is a park down the block from me it has a basketball court,chess tables, a jungle gym, a volley ball court benches and several sidewalk games. It is inclusive if you play Basketball, it is exclusive if you play ping pong.   I would thing just about all fixed equipment only parks fit the definition of exclusive feature wise. Library model pakrs are inclusive for far more segments of the population..

 Social Inclusion
. My current thought is   an Inclusive activities allow anyone to join in . Exclusive activities mean you can't join in.  A soccer game using a audible soccer ball is inclusive, a soccer game using a regular soccer ball is exclusive.



Inclusive and Exclusive examples...

Exclusive-  Art Exhibit (you can  "consume"  the art, you cannot participate in its creation)
Inclusive-Art Jam, community art exhibit, chalk art

Exclusive- Horticulture plantings by professionals only
Inclusive -Community garden plantimngs by community members

Exclusive-dining with friends
Inclusive-Commual eating table


Exclusive -jungle gym swings
inclusive- sea saw,lego,  loose parts play


Exclusive- Performances based entertainent . Example having professionals put on a puppet show
Inclusive- participatory- giving kids puppets and allowing them to create their own show

Exclusive taking to only people you came into the park with
inclusive-talk to me bench

Exclusive-activities recreation for kids and dogs only
Inclusive-Activities recreation for all ages and abilities

Exclusive-Food recreation only
Inclusive-a host of alternatives to food recreation, for all


exclusive-sitting on a bench, or table with friends
inclusive-games areas open to anyone where strangers will interact (chess, ping pong etc)

A Library Model Parkhouse allows a park to be far more inclusive.


Heiskell Bralle and  Talking Book Library-Special Needs  Parkhouse
If no parkhouse is created for the Flatiron Playspace, the   Heiskell Talking Book Library at 4 West 20th Street, can act as a one.


Sign that can hang in the Flatiron Playspace
 



Community Organization and Special Needs Storage Lockers
Lockers to store recreation  equipment of community organizations and special needs individuals, can be placed at location such as the sidewalk on the  southern tip of Flatiron Plaza. Locker keys would   be checked out from the Heiskill Library. at 40 E 20th Street. Lockers might also be available on the  eastern sidewalk of Madison Square Park.

Some of the traffic protection bollards for Flatiron Playspace, might double as community organization recreation equipment storage lockers.






In addition to the staffed parkhouse and other Loose parts based recreation ideas, additional fixed equipment recreation facilities can be added to the redesign,



Fixed Equipment

Rather  then having to place  fixed exercise equipment in places like Worth Square Park, There are  alternative location for them that will "sliver spaces"

On the western edge of MSP from 23-26th Streets, equipment like exercise bikes, foosball tables, senior exercise equipment. swings and handicapped swings can be placed (swings would face north south) in a linear fashion.


 
Exercise  Equipment and play equipment such as wheelchair swings  can be placed at eastern sidewalk edge of Flatiron Plaza 23-26th st adding active recreation elements to an area with none, and doing so using essentially dead space.







Flatiron Playspace Maps
I live in Chelsea. I asked a neighbor what equipment would he like in the NYC park down the block from us. He said fitness equipment.I let him know there was a park with fitness equipment about 1/3 mile  away. He had no reason to go near there normally so had no idea the equipment he wanted was just blocks away. If you don't know an activity exists, it does not exist for you.

By creating a Flatiron Playspace Map., listing available activities on it and  and posting it throughout the Flatiron District,, residents and visitors can know where to find an activity. In addition to posting small versions of the map for sighted people.  posting braille directions, and posting several  large version of the map  for the visual impaired, will help make the park more inclusive.


                                                                   Flatiron Playspace


1-Madison Square Park- Seating, Art, Playground, Dog Run , Food Recreation,Rest Room
2-Worth Square Park-Seating,  Food Recreation
3-41 Madison Ave POPS-Seating, Food Recreation
4-Madison Green POPS-Seating
5-Flatiron Plaza North-Seating, WiFi Art Recreation, Food Recreation
6-Flatiron Plaza South-Art Recreation WiFi,  Seating Food Recreation


Note 1:Corn Hole is a popular activity, yet among the least popular items requested, I suspect part of the reason for this is that most people have no idea what its name is