You Can Help Plan Seward Park Renovations Monday, Nov. 14

Rendering by Ron Castellano.

Rendering by Ron Castellano. Could this be the future of Straus Square?

Coming up on Monday evening, local residents will have an opportunity to help shape the future of Seward Park. Back in May, the Lower East Side park won a competition that will result in a $6.4 million infusion from the city for improvements to the historic public space. Recently we sat down in the Seward Park garden to talk with three community leaders who were instrumental in the successful campaign. They’re getting the word out for next week’s public visioning session, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Manny Cantor Center (197 East Broadway).

The Parks Without Borders Program is, in the city’s words, all about, “reimagining the role of parks in communities by redesigning where they meet the streets and sidewalks.” The Seward Park Conservancy, a two-year-old organization, reached out to lots of different neighborhood stakeholders earlier this year to get the conversation started. They enlisted local architect Ron Castellano to dream up some preliminary renderings. There was a big response from the community, which was called on to vote for Seward Park on the Parks Without Borders website.

Carol Anastasio, Linda Jones, Amy Robonson in the Seward Park garden.

Carol Anastasio, Linda Jones, Amy Robonson in the Seward Park garden.

During our recent conversation, Amy Robinson, Linda Jones and Carol Anastasio told us they hope lots of different people in the neighborhood will weigh in with more specific ideas of what they’d like to see in the redesigned park. “The most important thing is for the community to say what the community wants.,” said Anastasio. “Our concept was just get people thinking.”

In its proposal to the Parks Department, the conservancy identified three areas for improvement. The first was the plaza in front of the Seward Park Library; the second was the promenade bordering the park on Essex Street; the third was Straus Square, the triangle located on the southwest corner of the park.

Seward Park Library plaza.

Seward Park Library plaza.

Rendering by Ron Castellano.

Rendering by Ron Castellano.

Robinon, who is the conservancy’s president, said, “The library is so well used and, obviously, what’s in front of it is not pretty and there’s nowhere to sit. My vision is (an area) where kids can sit and read their books, and adults can sit.” Ideally, she said, the fence between the library plaza and garden would be taken down. Jones added, That area has almost a natural amphitheater because there’s a slope in the back… You could have a small-scale performance or a story hour there. ”

Straus Square, across from Seward Park.

Straus Square, across from Seward Park.

On the corner of East Broadway and Rutgers streets, the plan for Straus Square could involve creating a pedestrian plaza with tables, benches and umbrellas, and possibly a small food concession. There will likely be discussion next week about relocating a taxi stand and Citi Bike station bordering the park and creating stronger connections between Straus Square and Seward Park.

seward park fountain

Rendering by Ron Castellano.

Rendering by Ron Castellano.

People in the community have been talking for years about renovating the broken down Schiff Fountain, which was a gift to the people of the Lower East Side in 1894. it was relocated in the 1930s from Straus Square to the Essex Street promenade. The total cost of restoring the fountain has been estimated at more than $3 million. The conservancy hopes the city will chip in to run plumbing below the fountain (there’s no water service currently). The group would then raise the money for the actual restoration from private sources.

The conservancy is an outgrowth of the Friends of Seward Park, a 10-year-old organization.  Speaking of the not-for-profit group, Robinson said, “We were very fortunate that it coalesced just at the moment that this initiative (Parks Without Borders) happened. The idea is to seek support from private individuals, foundations and developers who are now building large-scale mixed-use projects in the neighborhood. If you’d like to join their efforts, click here for more information.

Monday night’s visioning session will be run by the Parks Department. After receiving community input, designers will get to work on schematic drawings, which will then be presented to Community Board 3 in the next year. After securing all of the necessary approvals, the city hopes to begin the improvements in Seward Park in the fall of 2018.

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Public Input Session For Seward Park Renovations Takes Place Nov. 14

Renderings by: Studio Castellano for Seward Park Conservancy.

Renderings by: Studio Castellano for Seward Park Conservancy.

You’ll want to save the date — Nov. 14 — for a Seward Park public visioning session. This past spring, the Lower East Side park was one of eight winners in the city’s Parks Without Borders competition. The award recipients will be splitting $40 million for renovations to widely used public spaces. The local campaign, spearheaded by the Seward Park Conservancy, was focused on improvements to the area in front of the Seward Park Library, the dilapidated fountain on Essex Street and Straus Square, on the park”s southern boundary. A location is not yet set for the public input event. We’ll let you know when we have more information.

Renderings: One Vision of An Improved Seward Park

Renderings from: Seward Park Conservancy.

Renderings from: Seward Park Conservancy.

Seward Park, home of America’s first municipal playground, has a lot going for it. But could it be improved? Members of the Seward Park Conservancy say, “Yes!” This is why they’re pushing hard for new city funding through a competition called Parks Without Borders.

Last week, officials with the Parks Department came to Community Board 3’s Parks Committee meeting to help local residents envision how the public space could be transformed. The $40 million NYC initiative is meant to enhance the connections between local parks and surrounding communities. Through the elimination of high fences, the renovation of adjacent spaces and other design innovations, “Parks Without Borders” seeks to improve accessibility.

seward park map

seward park/straus square

A new vision for Staus Square.

The Seward Park Conservancy was at the meeting in force, encouraging locals to vote for Seward Park in an online poll. They also passed out a brochure to get people thinking about what might be possible; the renderings included here are just ideas, nothing official. If the Lower East Side is chosen, the Parks Department will return to the community board for a full-scale visioning session. In the brochure, the conservancy suggested:

–Transforming the plaza in from of the public library, greening the space and offering accessibility to the rest of the park.

–Renovating Straus Square on East Broadway, creating a new gateway to the park and removing fencing.

–Revitalizing the promenade along Essex Street, including the broken-down Schiff Fountain.

If you would like to vote for Seward Park, follow this link. You have until Feb. 28. The Parks Department hopes to announce the winning projects in the spring.

 

You Can Help Ensure Funding For Seward Park Improvements

The broken down Schiff Fountain at Seward Park.

The broken down Schiff Fountain at Seward Park.

In the past several months, the Seward Park Conservancy has been advocating for improvements in and around the popular Lower East Side recreational space. Thanks to a new city program, Parks Without Borders, their efforts could get a big financial boost. But the organization needs your help.

Big plans for the future include the restoration of the broken-down Schiff Fountain (pictured), the repurposing of a building on the east side of the park as a community facility and the transformation of a corridor in front of the Seward Park Library.

Parks Without Borders is a $50 million initiative “to make parks more open, welcoming, and beautiful by focusing on improving entrances, edges, and park-adjacent spaces.” The city is asking members of the public to help choose which parks receive funding. You can go here to nominate Seward Park. But we suggest you first head over to the conservancy’s website for some tips on navigating the system.