By Wylie Goodman
Luther Gulick Playground awaits renovation.
Take a look at your neighborhood park. What do you see? Is the play equipment new or worn? How’s the grass? Bright and green or a little brown
around the edges? Are people sitting and relaxing in the shade, or is the sun beating down because there aren’t enough trees?
Community member David Bolotsky at an event with New York City Councilwoman Margaret Chin.
In 2009, David Bolotsky stopped on his way home to consider his neighborhood park, Luther Gulick. A few teenagers were making jumpshots on the basketball court, but otherwise the park was empty. Looking closer, he noticed that tree stumps—the remains of an Asian Longhorn Beetle infestation that devastated the area in the late 1990s—were all that stood along cracked walkways. And where there were once benches and game tables, he now saw only metal poles, the seating having been removed years ago to discourage drug dealers from congregating.
“I’d walked past here for 25 years, never giving the park a second thought,” says David. “But with two young sons, I was looking for places for them to play. I saw this park as an opportunity to create something positive, for them and for the neighborhood.”
Three years later, a Luther Gulick Playground for the 21st century is fast becoming a reality, thanks to Friends of Luther Gulick Park, residents of the Lower Eastside, Parks’ designers, and funding from local elected officials and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation; drawings for the new park were shown to the Friends group in March 2012.
The community weighs-in on the new design for Luther Gulick Playground.
But this new park is notable in another important way; it’s one of the first test cases for People Make Parks (PMP), an online toolkit created by Partnerships for Parks and the nonprofit design firm Hester Street Collaborative to help communities become effective contributors to NYC Parks’ design and capital process. PMP has now been tested in six parks across the city, with more groups expressing interest in PMP as awareness of the project grows. At the heart of PMP, is the idea that when citizens engage with government and weigh in on park design, government builds better parks, and the public continues to enjoy and care for places they helped make.
When communities weigh-in on design, better parks get built.
To learn more about PMP, visit the website at PeopleMakeParks.org, where you can learn about the stages of the capital process, explore the 11 tools for community visioning, read case studies and stories from groups that have run PMP projects, and much more!