For one glorious day each year, an international celebration of street life commonly known as “Park[ing]  Day” reclaims parking spaces as people spaces in cities ranging from Santiago to Copenhagen. As described by its local New York City organizers—Transportation Alternatives, this monumental day is intended to

“support the conversion of parking spots throughout New York City into human-friendly places for one day each year. This year there are 55 spots throughout the five boroughs. These temporary public spaces provide relief from the hustle and bustle of New York City and aim to spark a dialogue about the way residents, visitors and city officials choose to use valuable public space.”

Well said. Park[ing]  Day is yet another example of grassroots community efforts to  make our streets more comfortable and welcoming for the pedestrian. These efforts complement the host of steps such as the NYC Plaza Program, through which the DOT has reclaimed prominent public spaces including Times Square and various plazas throughout the Meatpacking District from vehicles to enhance the pedestrian experience of the city. Yet for us here at PPS, Park[ing]  Day is so much more.

For Project for Public Spaces, parking day is like game seven, Bulls vs. Knicks, Jordan vs. Ewing, people vs. car, auto-dominated highways vs. friendly streets as places where the random sidewalk contacts are able to foster a wealth of public life. We train all year for parking day…discussing potential themes, practicing badminton in the office until the wee hours of the night, even lying down in traffic… just to practice. This year the enthusiasm was so high, we even got a countdown calendar with daily quotations by transportation visionaries such as Alan Jacobs, Hans Monderman, and Rolf Monheim.

Following a strong track record with a Mini-Bryant Park themed space at last year’s Park[ing]  Day and a “disPlaced Park” the year before , expectations were high for ‘09. After great debate, with the uncanny sense of vision and passion of a seasoned veteran, new Project for Public Spaces employee Tom Peyton had a stroke of genius…Turf’s Up!…which is obviously an Astroturf beach.

Based upon this theme, PPS incorporated its “Power of 10” methodology to provide a layering of activities and uses including: Hula Hooping, Dancing, Dominoes, Music, Twister, Manicures, Pedicures, Eating, Drinking,  People Watching, Football, Frisbee, Outdoor Meetings, Cigarette Breaks, and of course a small library consisting of books on Pidgin English and gossip magazines.

All in all, Park[ing]  Day was a success…but there were a number of other bar raising celebrants around the world who have encouraged us to begin planning the best Park[ing] Day space ever for 2010.

For further coverage of parking day please see the following links:

http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/parking-day-2009-nyc/

http://www.apapase.org/

http://twitter.com/parkingdayphila

http://parkingdayla.com/

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2009/09/parking-day-dc-tomorrow-september-18th.html