Half a dozen straw bales, two tupelo trees, a pair of coffee tables, some chairs, a solar panel and scattered wood chips cover the asphalt of two parking spots in front of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Today, as New Haven welcomes its annual PARK(ing) Day, residents will see a variety of artistic and creative installations in parking spaces throughout the Elm City.
PARK(ing) Day is a weeklong celebration that encourages New Haven residents and organizations to claim a parking spot and transform it into a public space suitable for community bonding, with a final showcase of the installations prepared for Friday. Krysia Solheim FES ’15, the founder and owner of Viosimo, LLC — a sustainability consulting company — and project manager for goNewHavengo, said the event was coordinated by the New Haven Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking and goNewHavengo, a local initiative that calls for alternative transportation.
“The original idea was to take a spot that is originally reserved for parking and create a little park there for a day, where people can come in and sit and interact,” Solheim said.
Sara Smith SPH ’07 FES ’16, Environmental Studies program manager and chair of the F&ES Environmental Stewardship Committee, helped design the installation at F&ES. In an email to the News, she wrote that she “framed [the installation] around the idea of imagination,” aiming to stimulate the public to consider alternative methods of utilizing urban space and promote environmentally friendly concepts.
Other organizations have been using the installation as a means to promote environmentally conscious lifestyle choices. Smith has been using the parking-spot installation as an opportunity to sell reusable lunch containers to passers-by and to encourage people to be environmentally conscious when they visit the food carts in front of Ingalls Rink. Yale Project Bright, an undergraduate organization dedicated to increasing the visibility of solar energy at Yale, provided a solar-energy-powered smoothie machine to promote an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Urban Resources Initiative, a not-for-profit university partnership, cosponsored this project with F&ES by exploring possible ideas for decorating the two parking spots and supplying several props for the setting.
The F&ES installation, which was set up on Wednesday, has generated discussions within the Yale community, according to Smith. She said students and faculty members showed interest in the solar smoothie system and explored other ways of popularizing pop-up usage of solar energy, such as charging stations.
“At our installation in particular, PARK(ing) has encouraged a great deal of conversation around not only parking, but also community building, waste and solar power,” Smith said. “Many people have commented on the flow of people through the space, and how nice it would be to have more comfortable outdoor spaces like those created in our PARK(ing) installation for meetings and meals.”
According to Solheim, these parking-space installations serve two purposes. On one hand, they work to increase safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists by calming street traffic. These transformative decorations of parking spots also have sparked the community’s imagination of this common and often neglected public space.
Around 10 individuals and groups are participating in this year’s PARK(ing) Day, and the number is expected to increase in coming years, Solheim said. Even though New Haven Farms, which had initially showed interest, could not take part this year, New Haven Farms Executive Director James Jenkins wrote to the News in an email that PARK(ing) Day was “a creative civic engagement raising awareness in proactive, fun and ultimately consequential initiatives that help us think, connect and even dream together about public space.”
GoNewHavengo draws resources from six local environmental- and transportation-oriented organizations, including CTrides, CTtransit, the Yale Office of Sustainability, New Haven/León Sister City Project, Park New Haven and the New Haven Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking.