Jackson heights, Queens is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city. It is identified as a Historic District with a multicultural community. However, it is also one of the neighborhoods with fewest acres of open space per resident. Dunningham Triangle is located in the heart of Jackson Heights at the intersection of 82nd street and Baxter Avenue.
In spite of its small area (2,000 sq ft) Dunningham plays a crucial role in the urban fabric because of its ideal location. Seth Taylor, Executive Director of 82nd St Partnership, a neighborhood development organization, believes that Dunningham Triangle has the potential to become a successful common gathering space similar to a plaza or small scale urban park.
The redesign of Dunningham Triangle is part of the long term development plan suggested by the organization. In Spring/Summer 2012 Dunningham Triangle received an allocation of $200,000 from the mayor and the Queens Borough president to fund the capital project. The organization then contacted Partnerships for Parks (PfP) to discuss the potential of the project. Shortly after preliminary meetings with Seth and others, PfP staff started working towards the improvement of Dunningham Trainagle, and a new People Make Parks project was on its way.
A ‘Visioning Day’ was organized at the triangle on August 24, 2012 as a first step toward the new park. The day started with a community clean-up in the afternoon. With the help of community members and PfP staff, overgrown shrubs were trimmed down; bird excrement was washed away and overflowing trash cans were removed. This was followed by visioning activities in the evening to collect ideas from the community about what they hope to see in the new space. Colorful chairs and tables were provided by the Department of Transportation for this event. Residents and passerby were attracted to the new movable furniture at the triangle and stopped by to participate in the visioning activity. Soon the place was populated with enthusiastic people from the community.
People Make Parks tools used during the visioning process included Questionnaires, Wish Objects and Voting Boards. Everyone from kids to adults enjoyed writing their wishes for Dunningham Triangle on a ‘Wish Triangle’ created especially for this event. These colorful triangles were then hung on a string tied between the two light poles inside the triangle.
Voting boards received a good response as well, where people actively expressed their opinions about programming of the triangle. A total of 65 surveys in English and Spanish were collected from the residents. The majority of them indicated a lack of ‘green’ and suggested gardens along with seating and a Wi-Fi facility.
In September 2012, Hundreds of people gathered in and around the little triangle for ‘Viva la Comida’ festival to eat, listen to music, enjoy dance performances and interact with their neighbors. A small stage for performances was constructed inside the triangle, and people gathered around the space to enjoy the performances. Streets along the triangle had crowds enjoying street-side food, crafts, face-painting and other activities. A fun-filled and positive response to both the activities at Dunnigham Triangle is an indicator of the potential of this urban space. It also shows the power of public open spaces to connect with surrounding communities and encourage the social life of the neighborhood.
Using the information gathered from the visioning event, the 82nd Street BID had a scoping meeting with NYC Parks Department onsite to discuss the conceptual plan. With the help of People Make Parks, the community’s ideas and feedback were incorporated into the new design. Construction is planned to begin in early Fall 2014.