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Indoor NoLita Green Space Offers Respite From Winter

By DNAinfo Staff on January 10, 2011 1:34pm

By Jordan Heller

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

NOLITA — A Nolita event space is offering New Yorkers a summery respite from the bitter cold doldrums of winter, having opened an indoor pop-up park on Saturday.

Openhouse Gallery's "Park Here," located at 201 Mulberry St., is 4,500 square feet of lush green plastic grass, plastic trees in full bloom, woodland scenery wallpaper, park benches, the sound of chirping birds and lighting made specially for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder.

Whitney Shanks, who runs Openhouse Gallery, said they'd had the idea for a green space in winter since opening in 2007.

"January is awful in New York, and we thought this would be a great way to give people a warm public space to hang out in, and a chance to recharge," said Shanks.

Shanks said that when they opened on Saturday, they thought people would just come in, admire the space and then leave.

"But people were here all day, shoes off, lying in the grass," said Shanks. "There were couples making out, kids running around, and people reading newspapers."

The back wall features an art installation by Calli Higgins. A projection shows a winter scene of falling snow against a backdrop of bare trees.

Roughly ten feet in front of the wall is a pink see-saw. When in use, a sensor on the see-saw interposes summery images on the projection of falling snow. There's a boy jumping into a pool, a ferris wheel, birds and fireworks.

Park Here is also meant to be used the same as one would a park. For some visitors, though, the line gets blurred.

"Someone asked me if the people reading newspapers were paid actors," said Mike Murphy, the operations manager for Openhouse Gallery.

Tara Bunge, 32, a tourist from Michigan, walked in on Monday, sat down on a bench and started reading her book.

"I can sit and it feels peaceful and I'm not freezing," said Bunge. "It's great."

Wingyin Lo, 20, of Brooklyn, who was lying in the "grass" with her friend Melissa Tam, 21, also from Brooklyn, called it a "cute" version of being outdoors.

"You really crave things like this during the winter," said Lo. "The trees, the grass, it's really nice."

Park Here will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day through Jan. 30. During the week, there's yoga during the lunch hour, and on weekends, food vendors set up shop. For more information, visit Openhouse Gallery's Facebook page.