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Chelsea Group Unveils Plans for Park in Former Sanitation Lot

By Mathew Katz | April 29, 2013 2:01pm

CHELSEA — A group of locals are pushing forward with a plan to transform an empty Chelsea lot into a small, kid-friendly park — releasing new renderings for the space featuring everything from a playground to handball courts.

The group, Friends of 20th Street Park, will officially unveil the renderings at a "Picture Your Park" event Tuesday afternoon at the Lyons Wier Gallery. 

The proposed site is a 10,000-square-foot former Department of Sanitation lot at 136 W. 20th St. that the city plans to use to build affordable housing. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) said last year it planned to move forward with the housing plan after rejecting 26 alternative sites suggested by the Friends.

But the group, which has said for years that the eastern part of Chelsea has no accessible parks of its own, hoped the renderings would help firm up support for the park, and show neighbors what's possible at the site.

HPD did respond to inquiries regarding the plan.

"The design process is part of an ongoing conversation we could have with the local community," said James Khamsi, an architect with FIRM a.d. who designed three plans for the potential park.

Khamsi said he surveyed about 20 similarly sized parks around Manhattan to get ideas, with each of the plans focusing around a different central theme.

One design focuses on sports, with basketball and handball courts along with a public plaza. Another is more of an "urban oasis" with trees, benches and natural features. A third is designed to be a community hub, with a playground and gazebo space for small events.

All three renderings will be on display at the event, along with cut-outs of different park features that locals can place around their own hypothetical park.

"Instead of us just saying, 'Here's what the park should look like,' there will be different ways this park could be useful to the community," Khamsi said.

Matt Weiss, who heads up Friends of 20th Street Park, said he hoped the event would prove to the community — and local elected officials — that the plan could still happen.

"We are the ones working tirelessly to make this a reality. We are the ones identifying alternate sites for housing that could deliver a major win-win," he said.

"And now we are the ones doing the renderings and envisioning its future."

The Friends of 20th Street Park "Picture Your Park" event runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tues. April 30 at the Lyons Wier Gallery, 542 W. 24th St.