PARK(ing) Day stops on Marshall Street

SUNY-ESF landscape architecture students join more than 20 other Syracuse residents in the PARK(ing) Day initiative.

Early morning classes can be a hassle and finding a parking spot on Marshall Street is sometimes near impossible.

That situation was even more apparent Friday as a dozen or more SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry students took part in PARK(ing) Day 2010 as part of a class assignment.

“This was assigned to us at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday and we literally walked home, got in a car and drove right to Lowe’s to get supplies,” said Jennie Kurtz, who is enrolled in LSA 422 (ESF Landscape Architecture Design Studio III). “We were like, ‘What are we going to do? Let’s do a campsite, buy trees, some plants. Let’s do this.’  We were excited.”

PARK(ing) Day occurs every Sept. 17 at cities across the globe in an effort to help raise awareness for more urban open space. It is an event intended to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated. PARK(ing) Day participants volunteer by transforming metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing) spaces,” temporary outdoor public areas of all different varieties.

At least 10 ESF Landscape Architecture students joined more than 20 other Syracuse residents participating in the citywide initiative. Local organizers for this year’s event were COLAB, 40 Below’s Public Arts Task Force and the Connective Corridor. The original event was founded in San Francisco back in 2005 and this is the fourth year the city of Syracuse has participated.

Parking Day 2010 - Syracuse, New York

As part of Friday's national effort to help raise awareness for more urban open space on PARK(ing) Day, ESF students occupy parking spaces on University Avenue. (Photo: Kayla Rice)

“Parking lots and parking spaces have really taken over green spaces in cities so we’re trying to tell people you should be carpooling, riding your bike, things like that,” said Jenny Loewenstein, a fourth-year landscape architecture major. “It’s also a platform to encourage people to come outside and do outdoor activities.”

Loewenstein, Kurtz and classmate Mike Wheeler set up their camp at 8 a.m. across from the Sheraton Hotel near Marshall Street. The campsite was complete with plants, a log where visitors could hammer in a nail, and some lounge chairs to relax in. Other nearby campsites included pets, full tents and even hammocks.  All the PARK(ing) spaces throughout the city took up a metered space all day (until 6 p.m. off campus) but each had a city permit so they didn’t have to pay the meter.

The sight of small camps in the middle of busy areas caused folks to stop and take notice. Loewenstein, Kurtz, and Wheeler said they received plenty of attention in their space including two visitors who stopped to ask about various green initiatives for 10 minutes.  Some cars braked suddenly to engage the group through their windows. People from the Sheraton stopped by to inquire and ended up offering free coffee. One apparently very loyal Syracuse football fan even asked if they were out camping for the Maine game on Saturday.

No matter the inquiry, the group was quick to welcome them into the public space and chat about what they were doing and share a few eco-friendly stats.  Loewenstein told one visitor the group counted single-passenger cars passing by at 9 a.m. and found 35 of those as opposed to seven or eight multi-passenger vehicles.

Ultimately, Wheeler said, they wanted to get the day’s message across.

“One guy asked if we were protesting and, while it kind of is, it’s more about making people think,” Wheeler said. “Obviously we’re not going to take up the road, it’s not our goal. But when city planning comes up, we want to bring awareness to how much green space you want and if you want mass transportation in the initial structure rather than starting out road based and trying to fix it later.”

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