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Cupcakes, Cornhole Invade Parking Spots
by Thomas MacMillan | Sep 20, 2013 5:15 pm
Posted to: Environment, Transportation, Downtown
Friday was just a normal day at the office for Julia Ramaccia—sitting with co-workers, typing on her computer—except for the cars and trucks zipping by just past her elbow.
Ramaccia (pictured in red shirt) was taking part in PARK(ing) Day, an international effort to reclaim parking spots as miniature public parks. She was seated Friday on cardboard furniture in a parking space outside the offices of SeeClickFix, where she works as an account executive.
SeeClickFix was one of 10 organizations that took over parking spaces throughout downtown on Friday, converting space for cars into spaces for socializing, eating cupcakes, playing games, and admiring art.
PARK(ing) Day has been celebrated in New Haven before, but never on such a scale. The expanded celebration was organized by the city transportation department. New Deputy Director Mike Mohler spearheaded the effort, at the request of traffic tsar Jim Travers.
“This is really about taking parking spaces and turning them into public spaces,” Travers said. It’s a reminder that city streets are not solely a place for cars, but for people, Travers said.
Friday’s parking spot takeovers were the latest in a series of similar initiatives by the traffic department. On Thursday, Travers unveiled a new “bike corral” on College Street, converting a parking spot into a place to lock up bikes. Last week, the city set up an al fresco dining area in a parking spot outside a new sandwich shop on Crown Street.
While the bike corral and the dining area are semi-permanent, Friday’s 10 parking-spot makeovers lasted just for one day.
On Broadway, Holly Parker, Yale’s director of sustainable transportation systems, set up a station with a “birthday theme,” serving coffee, cider, and cupcakes from Sweet Mary’s bakery.
“We’re making public space!” Parker said. “It’s working!”
Parker said PARK(ing) Day is about showing people that “streets aren’t just for cars.”
The Broadway park also offered passersby the chance to play “Pin The Tailpipe On The Car.” Artist Isaac Canady took a turn and won a water bottle.
Canady was among several people who professed they were slightly confused about the PARK(ing) Day message. As he unwrapped his prize, he said, “I like the fact that they’re offering free parking. That’s really needed.”
Informed that the day wasn’t about free parking so much as freeing parking spots from cars, Canady said that is a great idea, too.
“I don’t understand it,” said Jeffrey Sammons, after picking up a cupcake. “I don’t know what it is. Are they objecting to the use of cars?”
After a primer on PARK(ing) Day, Sammons said, “If I had a car to put somewhere, it might bother me. But I understand the problem that there are too many cars. And I should be riding my bicycle today, but I’m not. So I’ll try to think about that.”
Friday outside Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School on Crown Street, art teacher Chrisopher Cozzi was talking about a sculpture with a group of advisees. The school installed the environmentally-themed sculpture, originally commissioned for a production of Les Miserables, in a parking space outside the school.
“What does the fountain represent?” asked Cozzi, pointing to a bubbling ceramic fountain at the center of the sculpture, shaped like a woman’s head.
“Mother Nature!” a student called out.
“Mother Nature, Kevin. Nice work,” Cozzi said.
He said PARK(ing) day offers a chance to give the sculpture “a new life” in a new space.
Across from City Hall, traffic department staff were handing out “Street Smart” stickers and Frisbees, in a parking spot lined with green carpeting.
A block away on Chapel Street, two spaces were occupied by SeeClickFix and the Grove co-working space.
“We’re trying to make it like a normal work day,” said Zack Beatty (pictured below), a SeeClickFix staffer who was working under an umbrella.
It was a normal work day—with breaks to play cornhole in a parking spot.
Asked about the reactions the space had elicited from passersby, Beatty said, “People are very confused.”
“Some people seem a little angry about it,” said Mariel Yaghsizian, who works for The Grove. Beatty said people parking in adjacent spots had asked him to move a potted plant so they could park their cars.
But Kim Ciarleglio, pulling out of the space next to the PARK(ing) spot said, “It’s cool.”
“I don’t know what store it has to do with…” she said, a little unclear on the concept.
Nothing Could Be Finer
While people around the city celebrated PARK(ing) Day, others were also marking “Matthew J. Feiner Day.”
Feiner (at right in photo, with Travers), the owner of the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop, got his very own day Friday, thanks to an official proclamation by Mayor John DeStefano. The proclamation calls Feiner “a quintessential New Havener” and praises his involvement in the New Haven arts community, the annual Stratton-Faxon road race, the Polar Bear Plunge, Pecha Kucha, and the Sunday Lulu’s Bike Ride, among other things.
Tags: PARKing Day, Jim Travers
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Matthew J. Feiner’s award is very well deserved, he’s is an upstanding citizen and successful business owner that has directly and indirectly done so much for New Haven—mostly pro-bono.
Hear, hear, Matt! And where do we celebrate?? ;)
Parking day is an awesome global idea that reclaims desperately-needed public space for people to actually use. But it’s about time that more of these installations are made permanent. The City of San Francisco has a guide:
In most cities, these “parklets” are the next step. Turning a couple of the parking spots on Chapel from Orange to Church into “parklets” would dramatically transform our downtown.
posted by: Kevin on September 23, 2013 4:20pm
Permanent? I thought that (1) it snows in New Haven (unlike San Francisco) and (2) residents want the city to plow the streets when it does.
More seriously, I think this is a great initiative and I want to commend Jim Travers et al.