LOWER EAST SIDE — Orchard Street is going to be turned into an AstroTurf-covered playground — with DJs, ping-pong tables, and tasty food from local vendors — as part of the Daylife festival this Sunday.
The event, an initiative of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District to attract people and business to the neighborhood, will take over Orchard Street from Delancey to Houston streets from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, offering space-starved New Yorkers a massive back yard.
"I am very excited. There is a lot of anticipation, a lot of nervous energy," said Bob Zuckerman, the BID's executive director who's been planning the event for two years.
Roughly 2,000 square feet of fake grass landed in the LES BID's office last week.
"We collectively said 'Wow, that is a lot of AstroTurf," said Zuckerman. The shipments kept coming, with 30 umbrellas and specially made wooden pushcarts arriving shortly after.
By Saturday, the ping-pong tables should arrive, as well as croquet and badminton sets. Sunday it's picnic tables and other outdoor furniture.
While the Lower East Side has an easy time drawing crowds to its well known nightlife spots, daytime foot traffic has dropped off in the last few years, according to Zuckerman. In response he began working on Daylife when he started as executive director two years ago.
During the planning process, the BID worked closely with design firm Dub Studios.
"We are going to give folks space where they can hang out like they have a backyard," said Michael Piper, the firm's founder who has put in hundreds of pro-bono hours on the event. Zuckerman and Piper connected through Designyc.org, which brings together nonprofits, like the BID, with designers interested in doing work for free with a chance to experiment.
Not only has Piper, a 36-year-old Crown Heights resident, designed the event, he has also built many its elements by hand. In addition to modifying the croquet and badminton games, he also built the specialty carts that vendors from local stores, which evoke the pushcarts of Orchard Street's past, will use Sunday.
For Zuckerman, it has been heartwarming to see many local businesses gearing up to participate in the event.
For example a local property owner is allowing the BID to use a vacant storefront as storage for the carts, and a superintendent of a nearby building gave a few days work to help Piper bang together the carts.
Design firm Grafilicious worked on the logo and flyers. Businesses outside of the area, such as Susan Sarandon’s ping-pong joint Spin NYC have also jumped on board. And Brandsway Creative handled branding and marketing for Daylife.
"I love everything Lower East Side, the artistic and creative nature of this neighborhood is unlike any other area in NYC," said Brandsway Creative partner Matt Levine, who owns the Lower East Side restaurants Cocktail Bodega and Sons of Essex. "It's an amazing opportunity to showcase the businesses that the L.E.S. has to offer.
Levine, a 30-year-old Lower East Side resident and BID board member, said the attention Daylife brings to the area helps all businesses.
"The exposure and increased awareness of all L.E.S businesses and daytime activities will benefit the entire neighborhood."