This recap is a bit late, as it happened a few weeks ago, but better late than never! The charette was indeed a planning workshop for the cobblestone area on Lafayette at St. James, and the meeting was held in Pratt's architecture school (the cool-looking one with the glowing mid-section on St. James. The project will be a NYC Greenstreet, supported by the Dept of Parks and Recreation, the Dept of Transportation, Pratt and Councilwoman James. The Greenstreet program "carves out new landscapes from the left over spaces of our dense system of urban roadways."
In answer to the question of ownership posed in my original post about this area, the space belongs to the city of NY and NOT the buildings it sits in front of. However, the buildings' residents are still concerned about liability in the space and on the sidewalk that sits in front of it next to Lafayette Ave. (Apparently, who is responsible for the sidewalk and injuries it may cause is a contentious issue. It was once thought to be the responsibility of the property owner, but recent lawsuits have left the city responsible. I can see owners having to shovel and salt sidewalks in freezing, snowy weather, but major repair seems as though it should be the city's responsibility. My two cents.)
During a slideshow presentation, attendees were shown different options regarding how to use and design the space, based on examples from Manhattan. These included various bench arrangements, different types of greenery and the creation of small "rooms" using benches and planters that allow small groups of people to sit and visit, with some seats in the shade and some in the sun. The presenters said they hoped to dedicate 30% of the space to gardens and include at least three benches in the new design.
We broke up into small groups and played around with tracing paper over diagrams of the space. I had to leave for another engagement before the event was finished, so I wasn't able to see what the other groups had come up with (or what the event's conclusion was). The ideas that my group came up with included: - opening up and extending the existing playground area into the space - dog run - art alley with lighting, here as well as up St. James to create a visual connection up to the main Pratt campus - benches in L-shapes or across from each other to allow for better conversation - invite local groups to host events in the space - for example, Sunday morning coffee with the adjacent church - community garden - recycle cobblestones to create pedestal for sculpture* - special programming, ie. have a debut reception when the sculpture is changed
The event was filled mostly with Pratt reps, current and former students, and reps from Ms. James' office. There were also a handful of co-op board reps from te buildings adjacent to the space. They were enthusiastic but also very concerned about potential liability. Because I left early, I didn't get to meet everyone. However, I may have been the only regular neighbor there who was not involved with Pratt, Ms. James or the building. Would more people have come if the outreach had been better?
What do YOU want to see in that space? Implementation is planned for fall 09.
(And those planters I lamented as being filled with weeds? They're movable and will likely be taken out of the space for its facelift.)
* Yes, a few commenters were correct that there was once a sculpture in the space, and the plan is to bring art back to the front corner. It will be a rotating sculpture display - sculptures will be changed out regularly