Where’s my pocket park?

Last weekend I went to my very first stitch and bitch.  It was pretty amazing.  It was a small group of intelligent, talented women: mostly sewer/quilters, involved in the same professional field, all congregated in one house with food, sewing machines, fabric, yarn, and pizza.  The result was some pretty fascinating and lovely conversation.  My favorite nuggets were some recounts of one woman’s experience with some folks that hadn’t heard of gender equality, or respect for women for that matter.  Years ago when she was in her 20s, before she was married, she went to a doctor to see about migraines she still suffers from.  He told her it was simply stress and she should just get married.  That apparently would alleviate all the stress a young, unmarried woman could possibly have.  Who knew the solution was looking me right in the face all these years.  Then I can have a baby and get rid of all those breast cancer fears while I’m at it…

So after being shocked and awed by the experiences of these women and enjoying some amazing, intelligent, female company, later that weekend I also enjoyed some male company with my lovely partner and strolled through DC to get dinner at the only upscale vegetarian restaurant in the city: Vegetate.  We walked a few miles from our cozy home in Capitol Hill to the U St/Shaw area.  On the way I got to thinking about the urban form in DC and how there are some little things that could really use improvement.

In keeping with my theme of taking the good ideas from New York and applying them to DC, I introduce the concept of the ubiquitous pocket park.  Almost exactly a year ago, on Earth Day, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled an ambitious program, PlaNYC, which outlines some great goals for the city across virtually every sector (energy, housing, water quality, transportation, etc).  One thing that I loved was a goal for every New Yorker to live within a 10 minute WALK of a park. While this is a goal in New York, the truth is parks are virtually everywhere there already–some are very small, but they serve as usable spaces where the public can sit, talk, generally congregate, whatever.

The idea of common open space is something grossly missing from many DC neighborhoods.  It seems we get the national mall and that’s it.  My part of Capitol Hill is actually quite special in having a few outstanding parks: Lincoln, Stanton, and Garfield to name a few.  But the rest of DC is hurting…

Walking through even my neck of the woods, I came across some pieces of land that NYC would certainly have already jumped on.

These two small tracts of land (either corners or triangles formed from stupid, huge avenues cutting through) are perfect examples of underutilized land.  A tree buffer, a wrought iron fence maybe, and some benches and this thing is totally in business. I would for sure buy a cupcake and sit in there and eat it.  But right now my dog can pee in it.  And that’s about it.  And I don’t even have a dog, sadly.

The second photo is of an area that I’m pretty sure is even meant to be public space because there are sidewalks cutting through.  But it’s clearly not public friendly, and neither is this place:

Now this is a lovely space with all sorts of landscaping and fancy stones and bricks and all that.  But what am I supposed to do here?  Stand around?  Ride around in circles on my bicycle?  Do a dance in the center? Where are the benches? Or trash cans even?  What the hell?

The argument has been mentioned time after time that if we have parks and benches they’ll just be overtaken by homeless people.

Well, awesome.

Let’s just keep people homeless (with no benches to sleep on) and perpetuate the notion that people have to move to soulless suburbs to have any decent (though completely fake and manipulated) open space. Poo on that. I want my pocket park!


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One Response to “Where’s my pocket park?”

  1. Sidney Says:

    Quite simply, if a park in DC has benches – it quickly develops an overpowering odor of urine. We have quite the homeless epidemic here.

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