Last year, students at M.S. 131 and the Chinatown YMCA constructed lanterns out of colorful sheets of vinyl and battery-operated LED lights to celebrate the Year of the Rat. This year, the students constructed lanterns out of recycled plastic bags supported by adjustable wire templates and stamped with symbols of the Ox. The lanterns, hung alongside last year’s Year of the Rat lanterns in SDR Park, create a public installation that celebrates the New Year and promotes sustainability in the neighborhood.
After the lanterns were installed in the park, Hester Street Collaborative hosted an hour of design activities for local kids in its workshop at 113 Hester Street. Participants made their own paper lanterns, Chinese zodiac masks, and buttons for the New Year, and ended the evening watching a traditional performance of a dragon dance by Asian Americans For Equality’s Unicorn Dancing Team.
The Year of the Ox lanterns will hang in SDR Park throughout the month of February to be enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike. This student-created and culturally inspired installation is one more step toward sustainable, long-term community involvement and cultural expression in one of our neighborhood’s most important open space resources.
On December 6th, 2008 the Immigrants and Parks Collaborative - Jamaica Branch, held the 5th annual Jamaica Community Tree Lighting at Rufus King Park to celebrate the holidays and community unity.
Led by Immigrants and Parks collaborative members Centro Hispano Cuzcatlán (CHC) and Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) the celebratory holiday tree lighting and present give away was attended by over 300. The event has become an important neighborhood holiday tradition for Jamaica, and additional organizations have been brought into the fold as a consequence of the Immigrants and Parks initiative. This year, in addition to CHC's traditional leadership role in the tree lighting, fellow community groups like Cultural Collaborative Jamaica, Friends of Rufus King Park, GJDC, and King Manor Museum participated.
“The tree lighting at Rufus King Park is an important tradition for the community of Jamaica,” said Eduardo Barahona of CHC. “The event continues to bring unity to our diverse community and grow every year because of the collaboration between so many community groups.”
The event is a great example of a unique partnership between the community organizing-based nonprofit CHC and the local development corporation GJDC that could serve as a model for park-centered community development in other areas. CHC’s considerable constituency within the community - built up by years of organizing around immigration, housing, and park issues – coupled with GJDC’s 40 years of economic development and considerable financial and administrative resources make them a potent pair in tackling issues revolving around Jamaica’s most important open space. The two organizations’ complimentary strengths have contributed to improved physical conditions in Rufus King Park, a big increase in the park programming, and a decrease in tensions between various segments of the surrounding neighborhood.
Neighborhood residents paired with the resources of local business is a very potent collaboration indeed.
Many New Yorkers cannot. Many New Yorkers do not have access to public spaces for the simple fact that signs in parks most often times cater to only groups who speak one language.
As a country whose greatness is based on diversity through immigration, it is important to outreach to all people in the community.
Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, or YMPJ, has been working Environmental Justice issues in the Soundview area of the South Bronx for approximately 14 years. One issue is the lack of open space in our neighborhood. YMPJ has been successful in creating open spaces within our community. Concrete Plant Park is scheduled to be opened for the public during the Spring of 2009. Concrete Plant Park is located near the Bronx River, which has a problem, as all open bodies of water in New York City do, with Combined Sewer Overflows, or CSOs. CSOs occur during rain events, dumping pollution into the river.
How about a mural created by the community that doesn’t use words?
We’ve just finished a mural explaining some of YMPJ's work and why we are a part of the Immigrants and Parks Collaboration…. To improve the neighborhood by empowering the people who live here- all were at one time immigrants- of course!
It’s raining today! And although most New Yorkers associate rain with inconvenience- as evidenced by broken umbrellas abandoned along the sidewalks, delayed commutes due to flooded subways and buses stuck in traffic, and wet people decked out in waterproof boots and jackets- RAIN actually provides as an essential resource for our city’s green, open spaces. Trees, plants, and grass that we all enjoy at city parks need water from RAIN to survive. So why do we still design infrastructure that keeps RAIN from the plants that need water?
The covering of our city’s land with hard surfaces- roofs, parking lots, streets and sidewalks- prevents RAIN from entering the soil and forces this resource into the sewers. Unfortunately, our sewers cannot handle the volume of stormwater runoff created by RAIN falling on hard surfaces thereby creating one of the largest pollution sources to NYC’s waterbodies, Combined Sewage Overflow. What is CSO? Runoff combines with sewage from our buildings- think toilets, sinks, showers- in a single pipe to be treated at one of NYC’s 14 wastewater treatment plants. When too much sewage and runoff enters the sewers during RAIN storms, the excess combined sewage dumps into our waterways. There are over 400 overflow points throughout NYC, contributing about 27,000,000,000 (BILLION) gallons of sewage per year!
So what does this mean for our parks? Parks along NYC waterbodies- Hudson River, East River,
On Saturday, October 25th, 2008, the Immigrants & Parks Collaborative and the Sara D Roosevelt Park (SDR) Coalition hosted It’s My Park! Day in SDR Park. The event was a successful culmination of recent efforts to revitalize the park by involving community in park maintenance, programming, and physical improvements. It’s My Park! Day, a citywide effort to care for and celebrate New York City’s parks, is coordinated bi-annually by Partnerships for Parks. Over 200 community members of all background and volunteers from the Coalition and other community groups gathered at several locations in the park to paint playground equipment, care for street trees, plant bulbs, do general cleanup, and offer their thoughts and suggestions for the park through interactive community mapping activities.
“SDR needs big community activities like this so that people know this is one big park, not seven small parks” said a local resident who stopped to write suggestions for the future of the park on an interactive “community visioning map.” “The park is very activity oriented: it would be nice to have more space to just chill out,” said one local resident. “More trees and flowers, please! Less concrete!” offered another.
Community members at the event were not only improving and critiquing SDR Park last Saturday: they also had the opportunity to view a large-scale exhibition on the new People Make Parks Initiative, which was launched at SDR on It’s My Park! Day. This groundbreaking new initiative is a joint program of Hester Street Collaborative and Partnerships for Parks, and will expand the role of communities in park design by giving them the tools and resources they need to develop a vision for their local parks and share them with the Department of Parks & Recreation. The exhibition included People Make Parks’ major components, future plans, proposed test sites, and anticipated outcomes for under-resourced neighborhoods across the city. The exhibition also reported back to the community on plans that they have played a role in shaping for local parks, including the visioning processes for SDR Park and the Allen & Pike Street Malls.
SDR Park’s Hester Street Playground has served as a test site for participatory park design strategies and will close in January 2009 to be rebuilt according to a plan responsive to community input. SDR and the successful platform of It’s My Park! Day was therefore an ideal setting for the launch of People Make Parks. As Anne Frederick, executive director of Hester Street Collaborative and co-chair of the SDR Coalition, comments, “It’s My Park! Day provides a platform for residents, youth, and all kinds of stakeholders to have a hand and a voice in transforming their park spaces; our People Make Parks initiative will take the tools and resources that we have developed for community involvement in park improvements in the Lower East Side and Chinatown and make them accessible to neighborhoods throughout NYC.” The launch of the People Make Parks Initiative is just the beginning of an exciting series of city-wide events and participatory design processes that the Collaborative plans on being extremely active in.