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Hell's Kitchen Locals Seek Broad Feedback for $1.8M Park Redesign

By Mathew Katz | May 16, 2013 8:52am
 The day-long celebration of the Matthews-Palmer Playground will farm ideas for a $1.8 million redesign.
Matthews-Palmer Playground Redesign
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HELL'S KITCHEN — After the city moved forward with a plan to transform a park in Hell's Kitchen into a kid-centric "stroller center," locals at another nearby green space hope to bring in every segment of the community to crowdsource its $1.8 million redesign.

The recently proposed redesign of Ramon Aponte Park was criticized for excluding youths by replacing a beloved, though controversial, basketball court with a swingset. 

But block associations at the nearby Matthews-Palmer Playground hope to reach out to teens, parents, seniors, and anyone else who might use the park by hosting a party, events and an online survey to get broad feedback for the green space

The collaborative process to come up with ideas for the Matthews-Palmer Playground was spurred on by members of the West 45th and 46th Street block Associations, who plan to host a "Design Your Park" Day on Saturday, filled of events and brainstorming for the space on West 45th Street, between Ninth and 10th Avenues.

"I love to think of it as our outdoor community center, a place that everyone wants to come and use," said block association member Chana Widawski, who's helped organize other events at the park, including yoga sessions and bike-up movies.

"We want to see it be greener, to be more exciting, cutting-edge and innovative."

The group at Matthews-Palmer has also launched an online survey, which has already garnered dozens of responses, about what locals want to see in the redesigned park.

Those ideas will eventually be passed on to the Parks Department and incorporated into the final design.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn managed to secure $1.8 million to renovate the half-acre park as part of her 2013 budget, though the actual redesign and construction will take years.

"It would best serve the community if it was multi-purpose — for kids, teens, adults, for older who who want to come in and sit and talk," said David Stuart, co-chair of the West 45th Street Block Association, 8th-9th Avenues.

"Some of the voices that might not be as vocal, it was important to use that we did reach out to everyone."

Those efforts include engaging teens who use the park's basketball courts, as well as the many people who regularly come to park for events and parties.

Organizers also hope to bring in a diverse crowd with several different events on park-design day, including a raffle, a morning yoga class at 10 a.m., a performance by Rosie's Theater Kid, clay sculpting, and gardening tips from the Chelsea Garden Center.

"There are many more stakeholders that we see than the people in the park," Widawski said.

"The people who aren't in the park — that should be — we want to hear from them."

The Matthews-Palmer Playground Design Your Park Day runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sat. May 18 at the park, which has entrances on both West 45th and 46th Streets, between Ninth and 10th Avenues.