Monday, February 1, 2016

20th Street Park Proposal

I will be suggesting what follows at the 20th St Park meeting .

The Problem

There's a problem with many of our neighborhood parks - they are not meeting the recreation needs of many segments of our neighborhoods populations and because of this a large percentage of people in our neighborhoods are not using them......

 I was visiting Manhattan's Union Square Park , I talked to a youth  there who told me, there's benches for seniors  and a playground for the little kids but nothing for us.” 

 This  is Clement Clark Moore Park, it offers youth, teens,  adults, seniors and special needs folks nothing but a bench to sit on, and is pretty much  underutilized and/or unused  by people in these groups.

Our neighborhood parks are not the only one with this problem...

 Contemporary American playgrounds don’t hold or inspire older kids...More and more, preteens avoid the playground altogether, choosing instead to spend time indoors, most likely sitting in front of some kind of screen...What teen will go to the playground to play a game when he has better graphics at home on his computer or anywhere on his cell phone? The Science of Play

I was talking to a senior who uses a wheelchair, she asked me if I could let her know if there were any inclusive playgrounds  in NYC. I asked her to define inclusive playground . She said a park that would have activities for her to participate in. I could only think of two, neither of which was in Brooklyn where she lives...
The Solution

The best way to solve the problem would be to have staffed park houses offering a variety of recreation equipment and activities for everyone,. Unfortunately a high parks official told me NYC cannot afford to offer staff at its parks. There is another way...- Have the NYC  library  that is nearest a park or playground act as a Recreation equipment library for that park.

This is Chelsea's new  20th Street park (red) 

The Andrew Heiskell Library for the Visually Impaired (green) is a short distance from it...

This  library can either:
a)-Lend inclusive play equipment for use in the 20th Street park 
-or alternatively if there is a lack of space or it  is too much trouble- 
b)--Lend keys to lockers in the 20th Street park  that will contain inclusive play equipment.

Outdoor & vandal proof lockers

(in scenario A-the Library would probably pay for equipment
In scenario B the Parks Department would pay for equipment ) 

In both instances signage will be placed at both libraries and parks letting people know this service is available

Here's several examples  of inclusive play equipment that could be made available

            Lego is used by people  with Autism,  Downs Syndrome , and other special needs 

                                                           Audible ball(above)  for the visually impaired

By offering a good variety of equipment like the above, this  idea can potentially do is transform most any NYC park into an inclusive park. 

This is not a radical idea ,it's done in other states/countries

In Sacramento Ping pong paddles are available at Bell Cooledge Library for use in adjacent belle Cooledge Park. The paddles are among the most popular  items that the library lends. 

7 of 17 libraries in  Tallinn,  Estonia lend sporting equipment 

Inline image 1

In Maine a good number of libraries lend unusual things including sports equipment...
“Our Library checks out basketballs to be used on the courts near the library.  We also have frisbees, jump ropes and hacky sacks available to borrow. The balls have been replaced many times through the years and have resulted in much good will with the kids after school. When they (the kids!) start bouncing off the walls, we suggest they bounce a basketball instead. .”  Maine Library 

  In Australia, most of western Australia's  130 libraries lend sports equipment. 

I have suggested the idea of connecting libraries and parks to a few cities .one of note is Miami, Florida...I recently learned that ..
as part of the Knight Library Challenge Initiative, the Miami Dade Library system put in a grant proposal...

"A partnership to create a shared physical and programmatic connection between a City of Miami Park and a Miami-Dade Public Library

 21st Century libraries aim to create unique partnerships and reach users beyond the physical walls of the library itself. While parks and libraries individually serve as community anchors, establishing shared physical spaces and gathering areas, establishing new routes for the provision of library and parks services and activities, teaching children and teens how to use and benefit from the library's many resources, and combining the core competencies of library and parks professionals in educating and engaging children and teens would serve as a model, not only for parks and libraries throughout the country, but would also serve as a model for many other locations throughout Miami-Dade County where parks and libraries co-exist."

The proposal was submitted  jointly by:
Ray Baker- Assistant Director, Miami-Dade Public Library System
Kevin Kirwin- Director, City of Miami Parks Department

So after contacting Miami with this idea,  they  "got it."  I hope NYC will "get it" also...

Do you need to build a park  to implement this idea?   No. But given that 20th Street park has   being funded it makes it easier to do this idea without looking for additional sources of funding to do so. 


As part of the project at 20th Street  I'd also like to see this concept tested at a few other area park-libraries, to fine tune it. ($5 million is being spent on the 20th Street  park, spending a small amount  of this for testing this concept at another park  as part of the design process   is not unreasonable....) Here's one idea...

Hell's Kitchens Columbus Branch Library and Surrounding Parks 

Columbus Branch Library -PS 111

On Saturday I was in Hells Kitchen. I noticed a Schoolyard into Playground was on 52nd and 10th. at PS 111 Only about 4 people were using the park. It had 2 concrete ping pong tables that nobody was using. I saw a fellow playing with his kid, and asked him if he saw people using the tables. He said almost never. . By having Columbus Library on 51st and 10th lend ping pong paddles and other recreation equipment (and/or  keys to lockers in the park  holding paddles/recreation  equipment)    it would help activate this  fixed equipment park. 

Columbus Branch Library could  also serve Hell's Kitchen Park and Gutenberg Playground

Doing this will  also have the side effect of immediately creating Hells Kitchen's first inclusive parks, for all ages and abilities. And by testing at Columbus Library and its   3 nearby parks  it will also show how a single branch library can become the community hub of recreation equipment lending for multiple nearby parks. 

(If 20th Street park is not interested in this concept, I will propose it separately at the CB4 Parks committee for implementation in Hell's Kitchen) 

Hope to see some of you at the meeting on the 12th.

More details on partnering Libraries and Parks  can be found at 

More details on Inclusion can be found at   this link