2008-09-26 - Parks Supplant Parking on Busy Chelsea Street- Chelsea Now

Parks Supplant Parking on Busy Chelsea Street
Chelsea Now
September 12, 2008
By Jefferson Siegel


New York got a little greener last Friday, if only for a day. As the second annual "Park(ing) Day" reclaimed more than 50 parking spots throughout four boroughs, mini-greenswards sprang up to provide one-day parks along some of the city's most traffic-clogged thoroughfares. The number of temporary parks set up was almost double that of last year.

On the corner of Eighth Ave. and 14th St., a park named "CB2/CB4 Eighth Ave. reCycling" found noted former restaurateur Florent Morellet relaxing on a bench surrounded by small palm trees. He was joined by Ian Dutton, the vice-chairperson of Community Board 2's Traffic and Transportation Committee, and Board 2 chairperson Brad Hoylman. Sitting with them and sipping coffee was Paul White, executive director of Chelsea-based Transportation Alternatives.

"As we were rolling out the grass early this morning, " Dutton said, "some mothers with children said, 'no honey, that's grass!'" underscoring the importance of more green areas in the city.

Morellet, who closed his eponymous Gansevoort St. restaurant earlier this year, has long supported socially conscious causes.

"All the people on the sidewalk are so bewildered and excited about what this plot can bring to our city," he said, noting, "our city could be so much more than it is now."

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also stopped by for a visit, sounding enthusiastic about the city's ongoing projects to benefit pedestrians.

"We should have more of them and even try to make them a little bit bigger," Quinn noted of the green plots. "It puts an emphasis on New York City as a pedestrian city." The speaker also praised Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan for Khan's efforts to focus on alternative modes of transportation.

When Chelsea Now wondered if the momentum from such initiatives would continue into the next administration, the future mayoral candidate replied, "Anybody who's smart who runs the city will keep it bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly."

Hoylman also supports foot and pedal power. "It's no coincidence that we were the first two community boards to support congestion pricing, and there's strong support on both boards for more bike lanes," Hoylman said.

A few blocks away, "Friends of the High Line Park" sprouted on Ninth Ave. and 19th St. In addition to a picnic blanket, books and chairs, the park was surrounded with actual blooms from the High Line, including blue foliage grass and Salvia, a species from the Netherlands.

As the 23rd St. crosstown bus rumbled across Eighth Ave., all was peaceful at "Eighth Avenue Park South," a plot organized by a group of friends who work nearby.

"We've had people say, 'I'm going to park my car and join you,'" laughed Julia Li, a film producer from Brooklyn. Organizer Eric Forman arrived with a bag of fresh bagels, and the friends stretched out on the grass for a leisurely lunch.

Down in the West Village, the environmental advocacy group Time's Up! parked their park on Seventh Ave. S. at Charles St. As Monica Hunken splayed out on the grass creating traffic cone art and Barbara Ross worked on her laptop, other volunteers offered bicycle tune-ups as well as free cookies from their sponsor, the Birdbath Bakery.

Park(ing) Day is organized by Transportation Alternatives, the NYC Streets Renaissance, the Open Planning Project and the Trust for Public Land.