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Photo: Susan Wides

From our parks, playgrounds, and streets to community-scale spaces like community gardens, street corners, and dive bars, our spring 2015 public programs explored the culture of hangouts, past, present, and future.

We looked at the network of public, semi-public, and private places that serve as the hangouts for New Yorkers. Who uses them, who doesn’t? How can we create and maintain inclusive spaces and offer opportunities to people of diverse ages, races, and genders? What are design and policy strategies that foster beautiful, functional, and safe spaces to gather, play, and just be?


June 4, 2015

In a medley of music, provocations, and presentations we’ll reflect on hangouts, exploring both personal experiences and physical spaces. How do communities appropriate urban space? How is the experience of hanging out different for different people? We’ll explore a series of questions in a night of fast-paced performance and conversation.

Participants: Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Young Men’s Ensemble; Dan D’Oca, INTERBORO Partners; Paula Z. Segal, Executive Director and Legal Director of the NYC Community Land Access Program, 596 Acres; Ophira Eisenberg, host of Ask Me Another, stand-up comedian, and author; Commissioner Mitchell Silver, FAICP, Department of Parks and Recreation; and more.


June 6, 2015

Presented with Union Docs

What makes a neighborhood? How do you gain a deeper understanding of a place?

You hang out! That’s what documentary filmmaker Diego Echeverria did when he made Los Sures in 1984. Echeverria chronicled the streets of Williamsburg’s Southside meeting people, being seen, building trust, and hanging out in a neighborhood that was then called one of the worst ghettos in the U.S.. UnionDocs, a Center for Documentary Art has also been hanging out on the Southside for many years. By obsessively exploring every aspect of Los Sures and documenting the longstanding Latino community as they fight displacement, UnionDocs has produced a multi-faceted project of their own, Living Los Sures.

Using the 1984 film and this impressive body of new work as points of departure, we have organized a roaming celebration of local experiences across the barrio of Los Sures. We immersed ourself in street life then and now.


June 9, 2015

“The salesgirl, the landlord, the guests, the bystanders, sixteen varieties of social circumstance in a day. Everyone has the power to call your whole life into question here. Too many people have access to your state of mind.” ― Renata Adler, Speedboat

We read Renata Adler’s Speedboat, the cult favorite turned undisputed classic that reflects on what it means to be an urban American. Set in 1970s New York, Speedboat provides glimpses into the city of the past. Conversation was led by Mimi Zeiger.

This session was open to everyone, whether you’ve participated in our book club before or not!


June 10, 2015

When do you know that you’re a regular?

Between the crowds, chaos, and constantly changing neighborhoods, city life can sometimes feel impersonal—until you become a regular. You find a sense that you belong from that diner where you get your own coffee, the bartender who tells you your boyfriend is a bum, or the bodega owner who helps you quit smoking. In a night of storytelling hosted by 20-time The Moth StorySLAM champion Adam Wade, we heard tales of being a regular from some of the most talented performers on the scene.

Participants: Michelle Levy, artist; TJ Mannix, actor, singer, improviser; Thomas Pryor, storyteller, photographer, and writer of Yorkville: Stoops to NutsKathleen Spellman, stand-up comedian; and Adam Wade, 20-time “MOTH StorySLAM” champion


June 11, 2015

How will the streetscape look and function in 20, 50, and 100 years?

The urban streetscape is facing increasing demands for space from a variety of users – pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, a spike in deliveries to homes and offices, food trucks, mobile commercial spaces, and more – without recalibrating the permitting or design. This event featured a series of presentations that asked urban planners, designers, architects, and others: What is the street of the future? We reviewed new visions for pleasant, productive streetscapes that balance the needs of transportation infrastructure, commercial activity, and residents young and old.

Presented with the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. The Rudin Center for Transportation at NYU’s Wagner School aims to strengthen our understanding of all modes of transportation through research, public forums, and educational programs.

Participants: Neil Giacobbi, executive director, Public Affairs at AT&T; Sarah Kaufman (moderator), digital manager and assistant adjunct professor of planning, NYU Rudin Center for Transportation; Anthony Townsend, futurist and senior research scientist at NYU Rudin Center for Transportation; Rodney Stiles, director of research and evaluation at New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission; Stacey Hodge, director of the Office of Freight Mobility, NYCDOT; Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project; Jeff Risom, partner and managing director, Gehl Studio; Dani Simons, director of corporate communications and external affairs at Motivate

This event was designated for AIA CES (1.5 LU) and ASLA CES PDH/HSW (2 LU).


IN THE PARK: Play Pasts
June 13, 2015

What can we learn from play spaces of the past? How can old play spaces be updated to preserve original design ideas while keeping pace with ever evolving design standards and notions of childhood?

This program was a fun, intimate journey through Central Park’s play spaces and landscapes. It taught more about the work of the Central Park Conservancy and play of the past. Marie Warsh, historian and director of preservation planning at the Conservancy, guided us on a tour of playgrounds in Central Park, reflected on the cultural histories embedded in the landscape. Exploring changing notions of childhood and play, we visited the Children’s District, designed by Olmsted and Vaux; Heckscher Playground, the park’s first modern playground; and other play spaces that have undergone a number of transformations, including the newly-rehabilitated Adventure Playground at West 67th Street.

This event was designated for ASLA CES PDH/HSW (1 LU).



IN THE PARK: Play Present
June 13, 2015

How do we connect with nature in the city?

As we grow more attached to devices, the essential experience of being in nature becomes increasingly rare. How often do we touch the bark of a city tree? Scale a boulder? Using touch, scent, sight, and sound we’ll explore flowers, trees, and grasses we may often walk past without noticing. Through a series of exercises, we awakened our capacity to be with nature directly, playfully, and with a sense of joy.

Led by artist and mindfulness practitioner Sara Overton, who is developing the art project Awake in the Wild Experience with Mark Coleman, author of the book Awake in the Wild.

This event was designated for AIA CES (1 LU).


IN THE PARK: Play Futures
June 13, 2015

“If we see the playground as a potentially vibrant public space, then we have to rethink what it looks like and who goes there.” ― Susan Solomon

As the culture of childhood and ideas about recreation continue to evolve, so do designs for our parks and playgrounds. This program was a conversation about the future of urban play. We discussed how everything from conceptions of childhood, trends in parenting, and evolving safety standards impact the design of our play spaces. Surveying the latest currents, from adventure and imagination playgrounds, to nature-based and intergenerational play, we explored questions like: Is play just for children? Does it need a designated space? What should be the role of play spaces in exposing users to and protecting them from risk? What are our playgrounds getting right? What lessons can be learned from other places?

Participants: Amy Fusselman, writer and editor; Marta Gutman, architect and historian; Chris Nolan, vice president for planning, design and construction, Central Park Conservancy; Susan G. Solomon, architectural historian; Nancy Prince, deputy chief for design, NYC Parks

This event was designated for AIA CES (1.5 LU) and ASLA CES PDH/HSW (2 LU).


This series is made possible through our Program Leadership Council, co-chaired by Stephan Jaklitsch and Mark Gardner (Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects), Joel Sanders (Joel Sanders Architect), and Susanna Sirefman (Dovetail Design Strategists). Council members: Andrew Bernheimer, Jerry Caldari, Katherine Chia, Demetrios Comodromos, Kevin Erickson, Drew Lang, Michael Manfredi, Jane Stageberg, Marion Weiss