“Paths to Pier 42″ Project Rehabilitates Waterfront With Art, Events

Giacinto Frisillo, a contributor at The Lo-Down, has been volunteering with the Hester Street Collaborative as part of their Paths to Pier 42 project on the East River waterfront between Montgomery and Cherry streets. She reports on the progress toward creating public art and events, and how to get involved.

Weekend Kids’ Pick

This Sunday, August 7, from 11-4, Asian Americans for Equality hosts its annual Chinatown Summer Streets Festival. Held in Columbus Park and along Bayard between Baxter and Mott Streets, the festival promotes Chinatown businesses and highlights the cultural and historical richness of the community. The Hester Street Collaborative will bring the “Waterfront on Wheels” – used to educate and encourage participation in the planned open space being developed on the East River.

Good Morning!

In the works: a new mural at P.S. 131, created with the help of Hester Street Collaborative. Photo credit: HSC.

The heat is on! We’re looking at a high of 96 today, with some afternoon clouds.

Potluck and Ping Pong in Gulick Park Tomorrow Night

The Hester Street Collaborative, the Friends of Gulick Park, and the Design Trust for Public Space are inviting local residents to partake in food, drinks and ping pong in Luther Gulick Park tomorrow night.

A Celebration for the Hester Street Collaborative

Photo credit: Hester Street Collaborative.

Last week, Hester Street Collaborative (HSC) held its annual benefit party.  Pictured above: NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, HSC Executive Director Anne Frederick and William Castro, the Parks Dept.’s Manhattan Borough commissioner. Benepe was the evening’s special honoree. Hester Street Collaborative is a non-profit focused on improving public spaces in Manhattan’s under-served communities, including the Lower East Side.

Screening, Open House at Hester Street Collaborative Tonight

Tonight the Hester Street Collaborative is hosting a screening featuring the work of students in its “Ground Up” Program at P.S. 134. You’ll be able to see 11 stop-motion films representing the life cycles of plants the students have been studying. There’s also an open house, including beer (with a suggested donation). The proceeds go right back into the P.S. 134 program. Hester Street Collaborative is located at 113 Hester Street. The event takes place from 6-8pm.

Lantern Installation Celebrated in Sara D. Roosevelt Park

Photo credit: Hester Street Collaborative.

On Friday, the Hester Street Collaborative unveiled this year’s Lantern Installation, which is becoming a Chinese Lunar New Year transition on the Lower East Side. The solar-powered lanterns, made by kids at M.S. 131, the Chinatown YMCA and Asian Americans for Equality, were hung in Sara D. Roosevelt Park.  The Lantern Installation program is now in its fourth year.

Hester Street Collaborative Wins Prestigious Award

A big honor for the Hester Street Collaborative (HSC). The Lower East Side non-profit is a recipient of this year’s Union Square Awards.  Since 2002, HSC has been dedicated to “improving the physical environment” in this neighborhood and throughout New York City. They run school art programs, facilitate grassroots campaigns to revitalize public spaces (such as the Allen Street Mall and the Hester Street Playground) and help advocate for low income residents on the waterfront and elsewhere. The award, recognizing organizations’ contributions in the arts, comes with a $35,000 prize. Congratulations to HSC Executive director Annie Frederick (pictured) and the rest of the team at Hester Street Collaborative!

Followup: Funding for Allen/Pike Pedestrian Plazas

A particularly bleak stretch of Pike Street, near Madison Street.

Last week, we reported on Mall-terations, a temporary art installation to beautify the crumbling Allen/Pike Street pedestrian walkways and focus attention on the need for improvements.  The project was spearheaded by Hester Street Collaborative, a non-profit organization which helped lead a neighborhood visioning process to rehabilitate 13 center islands along this neglected street. In the past few months there has been some progress. But because there’s not enough money to get the whole job done, it’s been slow going.  This afternoon, we have an update from the Parks Department.

Art Exhibition Helps Enliven Allen Street Pedestrian Malls

Hester Street Collaborative is an organization that believes in improving public spaces in our neighborhood any way it can. Yesterday leaders of the LES non-profit gathered with city officials and four talented artists to unveil “Mall-terations,” a temporary exhibition on the Allen Street pedestrian malls.

Mall-terations Debuts on Allen Street!

We just returned from the Allen Street pedestrian malls, where the Hester Street Collaborative unveiled “Mall-terations,” a temporary art exhibition.  Pictured: (L-R) artist Marcelo Ertorteguy, artist Mateo Pinto, artist Carolina Cisneros, Dylan House of the Hester Street Collaborative and artist Sara Valente. The project was made possible through a grant from the NYC Department of Transportation. Look for our full report tomorrow.

Volunteers Transform Stretch of Allen Street

Photo by Jac Zagoory

Yesterday Lo-Down reader Jac Zagoory sent us this photo, showing volunteers hard at work on a temporary art installation on the Allen Street pedestrian malls (between Delancey and Houston). The Hester Street Collaborative has gotten three artists and a group of student interns together for the project. Today from 11-3, they’ll be continuing to paint and assemble benches, and they’d love to have your help.

In Celebration of a Playground, and Community Engagement

On Thursday, we posted a photo from the ribbon cutting at the Hester Street Playground, which has just undergone a nearly $5 million transformation. But this weekend we wanted to return to the subject for a few reasons.

For starters, several of the participants noted, in casual conversation, that it was nice to have something to celebrate. In this season of budget cuts and protests, community activists and city officials came together for an uplifting event. For an hour, at least,  everyone was able to appreciate what Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe called a “textbook example of cooperation.”

Hester Street Collaborative Wants to Help “People Make Parks”

As we mentioned last week, the city is getting ready to open up the brand new Hester Street Playground in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, after a $5 million reconstruction project. When you visit the playground in the weeks ahead, you might notice rows of distinctive mosaic tiles embedded in the brick walls on either side of the park.

The tiles were designed by 120 students at M.S. 131, the public school located on the playground’s southeast corner.  They may seem like a small design detail, but for many community activists the tiles represent something else — a successful grassroots campaign to transform a neglected public space.

It’s a concept championed by many neighborhood organizations, but especially by the Lower East Side non-profit, Hester Street Collaborative. Last week I stopped by their offices to talk with Executive Director Annie Frederick about the playground and “People Make Parks,” a new initiative to get other communities involved in improving their own shared spaces.

Hester Street Collaborative (HSC) is affiliated with an architectural firm, the Leroy Street Studio.  Shortly after relocating to Hester Street (just a few steps away from Sara D. Roosevelt Park) in 2001, they began working with M.S. 131 to develop art and design projects. Two years later, HSC became a separate entity, “dedicated to improving the physical environment in under-served NYC neighborhoods.”

“People Make Parks” is a  collaboration between the Hester Street Collaborative and NYC’s Partnership for Parks. In a step-by-step guide (available soon online), the organizations detail how neighborhoods can participate in park design.

“Visioning” a new Hester Street Playground. Photo courtesy: Hester Street Collaborative.

The community’s involvement in the design of the Hester Street Playground helped inform the new program. Back then, there were visioning sessions in the park, in which both adults and children took part in interactive design exercises. Many of their ideas were incorporated into the city’s final plans for the playground, including those mosaic tiles.

Frederick believes the process demonstrated the value of engaging residents in the future of their neighborhoods in a very specific context. In the past, communities have been consulted about major Parks Department projects. But that has often meant simply calling a public meeting, in which people are invited to offer input in a very general way.

The “People Make Parks” program, on the other hand, gives communities the tools they need to actively participate in the design of public spaces. The “tool kit” was used for the first time last month by a neighborhood group, the Friends of Gulick Park.

In their ongoing campaign to give the neglected space alongside the Williamsburg Bridge a major facelift, the organization basically turned the park into an open-air design studio. Residents could write on a diagram of the park, indicating what they liked and disliked about it.  There was an oral history station, in which neighbors (including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver) shared Gulick Park memories.  People pinned notes about the park’s past, present and future on various landmarks.

Frederick said the Parks Department has been very receptive about the notion of increased community involvement in park design. She hopes other city agencies will also come see the value of engaging neighborhoods in urban design projects.

If you would like more information about “People Make Parks,” visit the Partnership for Parks’ website.  We’ll be on hand for the formal unveiling of the Hester Street Playground next week.

M.S. 131 Students Create, Dedicate 90-Foot Mural

We stopped by M.S. 131 yesterday, where 8th grade students took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony for an expansive and colorful mural they designed and created outside their school, on Hester Street. The project is part of the Hester Street Collaborative’s “Ground Up” education program, which helps kids relate to their communities and “social environment.”