After discussing with the powers that be at DOT, getting the original plans from Seth K, and using resident expert on all things City bureaucracy Mike Cetera, it turned out that the only way to get "approval" to do anything was to present an idea to the Design Commission. Many people over the years have envisioned taking over the whole parking lot for a public plaza. Mike enlisted a pro bono architect to come up with such a longterm plan that could be part of our ask to the D.C. Then, in response to my posts, an artist named David Eppley (who lives around the corner from the trees) came to us with a unique proposition. His material of choice for murals and such is industrial tape. Colorful and removable, the tape will allow him to create a work using the trees as the form but re-imagining the content. He adds:
By engaging local kids, the piece could feel "owned" by the community. His idea could end up looking something like this:
"Working with Botanical Gardens and local school group I would create a tapestry of pentagons to cover and embrace the existing tree forms. Students and I would work on creating pentagons out of vinyl. Inside each pentagon could be student drawings of flowers and plants in the Gardens and Prospect park.
Safe to say I could present this idea after I return from a upcoming trip I am taking. So an early February date for presenting to the board would be ideal for me. It would be great to get it going by summer. Could be a good SYEP program. (Student Youth Employment Program)."
We'd want to do something with the columns as well, of course!
The idea was floated at last night's joint Transportation and 197a/Parks committee meeting.
The result was universal approval of the two-pronged plan: start by calling attention to the plaza by doing a temporary artwork, all the while planning and fundraising (i.e. elected official buy-in) to take the illegal parking lot back and create something useful and green. The full board will vote on the idea soon. You're welcome to comment here or come to the meeting; I'll check to see when it's on the agenda.
Will the trees survive that long term re-envisioning? Who knows. Maybe they don't have a place in that final plan. But in discussing this with many, it's clear that people are divided about that. I hope a consensus emerges - a really great plan to spruce up the plaza might be just the kick we need to move forward.
I was asked recently why I care so much about that little piece of concrete. To me it's a powerful symbol - along with the Phat Albert's building - that PLG and Flatbush have low self-esteem. Nothing about that entrance to the neighborhood speaks to the pride and history that actually exists here. The art idea may not be an ultimate solution, but at least it's a step in the right direction. Thoughts?