Local Artists and Advocates Celebrate the History of Immigration in the Lower East Side and Chinatown
If you're free tomorrow at noon (Friday, October 1st), join us at the official opening of "Mall-terations", a project coordinated by one of our Immigrants and Parks Collaborative members- Hester Street Collaborative. This temporary art installation was created by local artists and celebrates the history of immigrants in the Lower East Side and Chinatown neighborhoods and the transformation of the Allen and Pike Street malls into a public space.
For more information, follow the link below to the Hester Street Collaborative's Facebook page (and 'like' the organization while you are at it)!
We have been involved in an exciting project we wanted to share with all of you! The Red Hook Food Vendors many of us know and love have plans to create a marketplace with existing vendors and possibly new ones in Red Hook Park. We have been working with them to make these plans a reality. Potential designs for the new Red Hook Marketplace are now on display at the Queens Museum of Art through this Sunday, October 3rd, 2010. You are welcome to join us at the closing of this event on Sunday for a full day of fun-filled events for everyone. You can even learn how to make authentic pupusas from one of the Red Hook carts. This is an event you won't want to miss! For more details you can follow this link- http://www.queensmuseum.org/red-hook-closing-first-sunday-for-families
Hope to see you there!
Despite the high population, ensuring that immigrants have equal access to the park is not an easy task, however, and two organizations work hard to ensure the park is as diverse and rich as the neighborhood that surrounds it. The first of these is Asian Americans for Equality: an advocacy organization focused on “mobilizing the Asian American community in NYC” and ensuring that immigrants are afforded an equal quality of life. To AAFE, access to public space – especially the park, as it is located in the heart of Chinatown – is an important issue, and in fact AAFE has been instrument in making the park one of the most multi-lingual signed parks in the city. Annually, AAFE sponsors the Chinatown Summer Festival in which members of the Asian American community fill the streets of Chinatown and Columbus Park to sell goods and partake in cultural activities and performances. This year, over 20,000 people attended their event.
AAFE has a very important lower east side partner in their park work in the Hester Street Collaborative. HSC works more directly towards the redesign of public spaces, specifically focusing on the incorporation of artistic design into the parks to help “add a layer of joy” to NYC’s public spaces. Like AAFE, they see immigrants as a crucial aspect of these improvements, and they incorporate immigrant issues into all three of their initiatives: education, neighborhood initiatives, and exhibitions and publications. Most recently, HSC published a guidebook for their Avenue of the Immigrants project that leads visitors down three historic streets in the lower east side with information about immigrant history and the immigrant impact in the community.
As a result of both AAFE and HSC the lower east side immigrant community is getting the attention is deserves, and the park is thriving as a result. Check it out this weekend!
Visit Sara D. Roosevelt Park! Take the J or the M to Bowery Street
To find events at this park and others, check out our Events Calendar
Putting on an event in a New York City park? Let us know! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The creation of the 78th Street Play Street was by no means a quick and easy process, however, and in fact it is the result of years of hard work and persistence on the part of Queens Community House and their partners. The efforts to create the street began in 2008 in response to the lack of the space in the park. Although the community board was supportive they were unable to immediately grant the full conversion of the street into a “play street” for traffic reasons and so – as a trial – they agreed to close the street on Sundays in July. The Play Street was a HUGE success. As a result, in May 2010 they city council officially voted to close the Play Street daily during the summer months of July and August and on all Sundays through October 31st.
Today, the play street is supervised by staff from Queens Community House and teens in their summer employment program from the street's opening until evening. The street offers activities and toys free and open to the public, and sometimes events – such a free yoga classes and seminars on bike riding.
For more information visit the Jackson Heights Green Alliance Play Street Website
Visit Travers Park and the 78th Street Play Street! Take the F train to Roosevelt Av. – Jackson Heights
Check out the events happening in this park – and others - at our Events Calendar
A quick ride on the E train brings you out to Rufus King Park in Jamaica, Queens: one of the city’s smallest but most utilized parks. “It really is a great little park” says Reuel Daniels, Project Manager at the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation - one of two organizations who work hard to maintain the park’s upkeep - “and its seriously being used by the community all the time.” Natividad Hernandez at the Centro Hispano Cuzcatlan agrees with Daniels and confirms the importance of the park within the community, explaining that a lot of immigrants who move to Jamaica miss having backyards and turn to the park to fill that void. According to Hernandez, “the park is a demand [of the community] always.”
The strong emphasis that Daniels and Hernandez put on parks might seem shocking considering the wide-ranging problems within the immigrant community in Jamaica that each of their organizations seeks to address. The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation strives to “revitalize Jamaica and strengthen the region” by buying and selling real estate and donating the proceeds to the area, enhancing the lives of those living there by running cultural activities and encouraging people to move into the community. Centro Hispano Cuzcatlan similarly aims to improve the quality of life for Jamaica residents – specifically the Hispanic community – by running trainings about and advocating for better immigrant housing, easier access to legal documentation, and more complete legal services. The question becomes, therefore, why, in organizations that strive to make such huge changes to immigrant communities, is there such a strong focus on the upkeep of the park?
The answer to this question, it seems, lies in the history of Rufus King Park, the tensions that have arisen within the community on its lawns, and how the efforts of these organizations have helped. “If you have a park in a community that’s not taken care of” says Daniels, “it sends a bad message to the community.” This, apparently, was the case in the park in the early 1990’s when the new Hispanic community living in Jamaica started to play soccer in the park. Daniels explains that “the soccer took over the park, it wasn’t managed” and that in the end it “really destroyed much of the park.” This, she adds, led to some tension between the new immigrant population and the black community already living in Jamaica. The Parks Department tried to calm this unease by placing large rocks on the main lawns to prevent the soccer playing, but this did little to deter the players and did not repair any of the already destroyed grass. In the end, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation and Centro Hispano Cuzcatlan worked together to advocate on behalf of the community, and as a result of their efforts the Parks Department removed the rocks and replaced a torn up lawn with an Astroturf field which is more closely regulated.
Although the installation of the Astroturf field did not eliminate the tensions within the community altogether, it certainly represents a start, and, for now at least, has brought conflict out of the park. It is for this reason that Daniels and Hernandez continue to focus their work on the park. The park, it seems, can represent a great public space for cultural sharing and integration but – if not closely monitored – also a point of contention within communities. As Hernandez says, “Its not easy, everyday is different, but doing something small like this every day can make a difference.”
Visit Rufus King Park! Take the E, J, or Z to Jamaica Center - Parsons/Archer
Check out our events calendar to see what's happening in this park (and others)