Walk leader: Neighborhood Plaza Partnership
Text by: Micaela Birmingham
I recently went on a “Jane’s Walk” of three public plazas in Queens to celebrate the legacy of Jane Jacobs. On the tour, organized by the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership, I was reminded of an important voice in the dialog about public space – children. While the need for thriving parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities in every neighborhood cannot be understated, public plazas also play a unique role in the lives of children.
This was illustrated first hand while City Council Member Julissa Ferreras gave an inspiring talk to our group about turning her vision for Corona Plaza into reality. As she spoke, there was another important moment happening – behind the flower pots. With adults discussing the process of relocating bus stops and truck traffic, children in the plaza steps away, played a serious game of hide and seek. As one boy hid, his friend, the “seeker” covered his eyes and wildly counted down in Spanish: “Diez! Nueve! Oche! Siete!…” This spirited game demonstrated the uniqueness of a child’s perspective of a plaza. Experiencing the space from two or three feet from the ground, children can seamlessly transform a safe street of colorful, moveable chairs into a fantasy world where hiding in plain sight becomes the best hiding place ever.
The next stop at 78th Street Plaza in Jackson Heights, included a talk by Georgia Southworth of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. Southworth began working with local parents in 2007 to provide more play space for neighborhood children. By successfully transforming 78th Street into a play street closed to car traffic, the Alliance has continued its advocacy resulting in a permanent public plaza. A local father described how the 78th Street Plaza had become his daughter’s preferred location for practicing the pogo stick.
As a distinctive toy on the playground circuit, the pogo stick has garnered quite a following in this plaza. He explained: “Last Saturday my daughter counted 1000 consecutive jumps on the stick. That is her record and she is very proud.” He described that over the course of a weekend, his daughter shared the pogo stick with at least 40 other children, most who had never seen one before. She was happy to teach each of them how to use it.