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13 Acres of Flow, Commerce, & Quality of Life

Seward Park Housing Corporation represents a community of approximately 3000 people, and sits on 13 acres of land. How can we best foster flow through our property in a way that will improve the quality of life for our 3000 residents?

THIS ARTICLE REFERS TO:

Hester Street — the part of Hester Street not owned by SPHC
Hester Lot — the paved area commonly referred to by the SPHC community as the Hester Street Property
Hester Arcade— other space on our property that is a logical continuation of Hester Street
Hester Green an open area behind the J-Section that is virtually unused
Seward Lane a proposed path from Hester Green, along library, and out to East Broadway
Seward Park — the actual park called Seward Park

Hester Street

Our Hester Street Property is more than just a paved lot between two fences. This property connects us to the commerce of Hester, Essex, and Canal Streets. Essex Street is certainly not the most attractive destination these days... but connecting to it could contribute to the vitalization of our neighborhood — our patronage can encourage businesses that appeal to our community, and thereby expand our commercial "sphere of influence" beyond our own Grand and Clinton Streets stores. This can lead to better local services, a hipper neighborhood, better success for our commercial tenants, and better quality of life for all of us.

The Hester Arcade

The Hester Street Property extends past the pavement. It flows past the gate, alongside the Seward Park, all the way to the back of Building Three. That is to say, the property flows, but people can't. The property alongside the gate is fenced-in before the entrance to the courtyard between Buildings 3 and 4.

Within the courtyard, Hester Arcade is confined to a narrow concrete path. One side of this path is bordered by the "Comprehensive Care Center" playground and our excessively tall playground fence. The other side of this path is bordered by a sunken lawn abutting Seward Park.

Both playgrounds choke off our ability to flow into and around our space. They make our space remarkably uninviting. Our own playground in particular dominates the courtyard and completely blocks our view of Seward Park just beyond.

The result of all these features is that rather than providing majestic command of and access to our space, the Hester Arcade is choked off and unappreciated. There is not so much as a bench nearby as it leads off through Hester Green — a lovely but unused void behind Building 3 — coming to an end at a fire exit behind the J-Section.

Beyond Hester Green is a fenced-off patch of grass that passes between Building 3 and the Seward Park Library onto East Broadway.

The Hester Arcade & Courtyard

The courtyard between Buildings 3 & 4 and the Hester Arcade should provide lovely and flowing points of departure/return for residents wandering onto Hester Street and beyond. We should do what we can to reclaim the outdoor space being rented by the Comprehensive Care Center. We should also relocate the playground to the north end of the courtyard, right next to the supermarket. This would allow us to redesign our courtyard with thoughtfully laid-out paths, lawns, gardens and benches.

The grounds alongside the Seward Park should be set up as a Bocce Ball court — a pleasant, low-key, shaded space that encourages use and strolling by seniors and that requires minimal investment or upkeep. This would help transform the passing-through nature of our courtyard into an area in which community can blossom.

   

Seward Lane

The flow we're developing whereby residents can cirulate in our courtyard, visit one-another, access our Hester Lot and the commercial streets beyond can be extended. Let's connect out to East Braodway in order to give ourselves access to the Seward Park Library and the stores on East Broadway and Jefferson Streets as well.

   

The Ugly Underbelly

The back hallways of our buildings are hideous. As we move towards improving the quality of the courtyards between our buildings, we ought to pay attention to the back hallways as well. Some wall treatment, better windows that look out onto the courtyards, some tasteful painting, and concealment of some of the pipes and wiring would transform our experience of this space entirely.

Readers of this article might also be interested in reading SPBuzz musings on SPHC Commercial Property.