PARK(ing) Day Returns to Hub City, Expanding to 3 Locations

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–September 18 marked the return of "parklets" to New Brunswick, courtesy of PARK(ing) Day, a nationwide event celebrating green spaces in urban areas.

The concept, thought up by anti-automobile thinkers in San Francisco, is to turn metered parking spaces into parklets, also known as "PARK(ing) spaces," for a few hours.

This year, from 10 AM to 5 PM, three spaces in different locations, were turned into parklets.  Each pop-up parklet had a different theme.

At 49 Bayard Street, cafe-style seats and tables graced "Cafe Park", along with volunteers explaining Park(ing) Day concepts, safety, and Complete Streets.

Guests were also introduced to the other parklets and handed schedules of today's activities at Cafe Park.

A block away at 27 Bayard Street, in front of the Garden of Healing, was "Wellness Park."

This parklet was also a stage for entertainment, a spot for doodling whatever you want on a canvas, a "selfie backdrop", free yoga and capoeira lessons, and a demonstration of drum-making. Visitors were also able to learn about stormwater runoff at this location.

More than a dozen blocks south, at the intersection of Comstock Street and Livingston Avenue, Elijah's Promise showed off its cooking talents at "Chef Elijah's Park," just outside the non-profit's headquarters.

Community service and a healthy diet was the theme at this parklet, which was a stage for cooking demonstrations.

Since the Redshaw Elementary School is right across the street, the soup kitchen invited the school's children to visit this parklet so that they could learn about nutrition, the art of preparing food, and parklets.

Several groups, from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, came together to make New Brunswick's PARK(ing) Day happen.

At least two of those groups are related to Rutgers: the Rutgers Student Chapter of the NJ American Society of Landscape Architects (NJASLA) and Walk Bloustein/Bike Bloustein.

NJASLA put together the greenery and seats to create the parklets, while the Bloustein School-based Walk Bloustein/Bike Bloustein helped with the logistics.

The demonstrations and entertainment at the parklets were courtesy of a group of organizations, most of which are nonprofits: coLAB Arts, Elijah's Promise, the Garden of Healing, and the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership.

Other local businesses, including Bunch-A-Balloons and the Legal Grounds Cafe, chipped in with work and materials, and officials from both the city and county government toured the parklets as the day progressed. 

Videographer Will Atwater was at the event to film the parklets and presumably put the videos up on YouTube. He had some success in this endeavor in the past. His 2014 PARK(ing) Day video had gone viral, spreading awareness of the movement.

In 2005, artists started PARK(ing) Day in San Francisco as a 2-hour event. This was the maximum time allowed on local parking meters.

Apparently, people must have liked it, for it was expanded to become an annual, allegedly open-source event, available globally and doable by anyone. Activists, artists, and other folks turn parking spaces into "parklets" and other public spaces all over the country, and potentially abroad.

In past years, the parklets have included Astroturf carpets, demonstrations of rain barrels, benches made out of recycled skateboards, donated seed packets in wheelbarrows, chessboards, and guitar-plucking musicians. 

While the concept of parklets is open-source, Rebar Group claims a service-mark on PARK(ing) Day, and defines as the third Friday in September.

While Rebar may technically be defunct (it essentially split into two companies), its original PARK(ing) Day license is still online, and it is unclear whether people should adhere to the terms of this license.

Rebar wanted participants and to refrain from using the parklets (which it calls "PARK(ing) Day Installations") for commercial activities without asking Rebar first, and this request extended to usage of works derived from those parklets.

Furthermore, Rebar wanted all users of "PARK(ing) Day installations" to credit Rebar with the founding of the PARK(ing) Day movement.

However, parklets are not restricted to PARK(ing) Day or the month of September.  In fact, they have become part of routine urban planning in their birthplace, San Francisco, and parklet programs have also sprung up in Los Angeles and Vancouver, Canada.

There are also seasonal parklets in New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia, typically in the form of platforms extending the sidewalk and offering various amenities.  Often, bicycle racks, seating, and landscaping are among those amenities. 

Among non-PARK(ing) Day "parklets" was a Princeton installation in spring 2015, taking the form of a booth in that city's Witherspoon Street.