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'Ranger' Patrols Tiny Park in Chelsea

By Mathew Katz | October 12, 2011 6:45am

CHELSEA — The tiny "micropark" at West 25th Street and Eighth Avenue has a Coordinator of Affordable (Bird) Housing, a Secretary of State (for its global expansion) and even a park ranger.

Clad in a brown coat and a green ranger's hat, Arnold Bob — better known to park visitors as "Ranger Bob" — patrols Thumbelina Park and Community Garden, a tiny collection of plants and chairs built inches from the traffic.

The surreal six-foot-by-six-foot space is built into the pedestrian island between the bike lane and the sidewalk on the northwest corner of the intersection.

Bob began Park Chelsea, an organization devoted to spreading similar gardens around the neighborhood, after hearing that other park advocates wanted to create a new green space on West 20th Street.

To Bob, the self-declared Parks Commissioner, creating multiple tiny parks makes more sense than one big one because they're more evenly dispersed and easier to get to. He'd like to see more of them, likely on sidestreets to avoid traffic.

'"Most gardens grow plants," he said. "But at a community garden, what we grow is community."

Anyone can become a Park Chelsea "ranger" by simply enjoying the park, though some — largely seniors — hold more esteemed positions.

One woman who came by on Friday was immediately declared one of the park's "living landmarks." And a plastic lizard — affectionately dubbed "Mr. Lizard" — will answer questions about the park on its website, Bob said.

"We go and we work together as a team to water, to take care of plants here, to do the proper things together so that we grow not only plants, but community," he explained.

To Ranger Bob, Thumbelina Park is the first of many. He often travels with a sign asking people if they would rather live in Chelsea or "Park Chelsea" — with a park on every block.

According to Bob, most people go with the latter, even if they are perplexed by how small each park would be.

But to Bob, Thumbelina Park is a lot larger than it appears.

"It only looks tiny. It's actually trans-dimensional," he said. "You come here and it feels a lot bigger than it actually is."