20th Street Micro-Park to Feature Public Art, Play Areas, Soothing Sounds | chelseanow.com

20th Street Micro-Park to Feature Public Art, Play Areas, Soothing Sounds

An aerial rendering of the park, highlighting the shade-providing trees and synthetic-turf centerpiece. Image courtesy NYC Parks Department.

An aerial rendering of the park, highlighting the shade-providing trees and synthetic-turf centerpiece. Image courtesy NYC Parks Department.

BY SEAN EGAN | New renderings pinpointing the location of play equipment, a water feature, seating, and vegetation for 20th Street Park were unveiled by the New York City Parks Department at the Dec. 8 Community Board 4 Waterfront, Parks and Environment (WPE) Committee. The well-received designs mark another significant leap forward for the forthcoming “micro-park,” which began its life as a community idea to transform a former Department of Sanitation site (btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.) into a green space, eventually securing over $5 million in funding from the Parks Department and City Councilmember Corey Johnson.

Matt Weiss, a co-founder of Friends of 20th Street Park (which began its grassroots effort in 2010), was very pleased with the new renderings, and appreciated that Parks had taken community feedback into consideration with their design, which he believes appeals to “a diverse set of users.”

“We think the [Parks] Department has done a terrific job with this design for a number of reasons,” said Weiss in a phone interview after the meeting. “We think it’s innovative, it’s thoughtful, and it really reflects the character of Chelsea.” 

Friends of 20th Street Park, at 2011 rally in front of the future micro-park. Photo courtesy Friends of 20th Street Park.

Friends of 20th Street Park, at a 2011 rally in front of the future micro-park. Photo courtesy Friends of 20th Street Park.

The park will feature a central seating area surrounding a plot of synthetic turf (as well as numerous other benches around the block-sized park that form “quiet little nooks for reading”). There will be two play areas: one for kids ages 5-12, one for ages 2-5. While the 2-5 year old play area will be undergoing some tweaking following feedback from the WPE, Weiss described the playgrounds as “like a ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ jungle play” that features slides and climbing, that will spark imagination and creativity in a way he thinks is “very Chelsea.” There will also be a gentle, low-level water feature for play and to “create background noise, ambient noise, to really remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of the street.”

There will also be a stage area for performances and meetings, though Weiss notes that it could come in handy for “children who like to jump on low structures, and pretend that the world is their stage.” In addition, as a unique feature, the park will have a designated area for public art, whose exhibitions will be changed on a rotating basis, featuring work from local artists. The Parks Department also intends on beautifying the surrounding sidewalk/street area of the park; they have committed to using recyclable material and examining water reuse options, and planting many new (and some mature) trees. 

“They were able to do all this in a quarter of an acre, which is pretty remarkable, and without it feeling overcrowded — it actually has great flow,” said Weiss, noting that the design “balances all of the interests of aesthetics, functionality and security.”

The park will feature two sets of play equipment: one for kids ages 5-12, one for ages 2-5, as well as a water feature. In the foreground, the synthetic turf area. Image courtesy NYC Parks Department.

The park will feature two sets of play equipment: one for kids ages 5-12, one for ages 2-5, as well as a water feature. In the foreground, the synthetic turf area. Image courtesy NYC Parks Department.

While Weiss admits that there are still some debates to be had — including over fence height and some of the specifics regarding the playgrounds — the WPE Committee seemed generally pleased with the designs/renderings of the little “urban oasis.” They certainly aren’t the only ones, however.

“I’m thrilled with the design. It’s going to have something for everyone, from great play spaces for kids to relaxing seating areas for adults. I can tell already that this is going to be a neighborhood destination for Chelsea families,” wrote Councilmember Johnson, who contributed additional money to the future park after the project won funds though his district’s 2014 Participatory Budgeting process. “The Parks Department has done an extraordinary job incorporating ideas from the community and turning them into what will be a beautiful park. This really shows what’s possible when community and government work together to achieve big goals.”

Currently, the 20th Street Park is on track to be completed by 2019. For more info, visit 20thstreetpark.org.

A detailed bubble diagram mapping out the features of the forthcoming park. Image courtesy NYC Parks Department.

A detailed diagram mapping out the features of the forthcoming park. Image courtesy NYC Parks Department.