Spaces for idling: PARK(ing) Day to take over Coolidge Corner metered spots in Brookline

Wicked Local staff photo by Jim Walker

Linda Olson Pehlke is the lead organizer for the Brookline PARK(ing) Day Alliance. The local group will make small park areas out of four parking spaces near the intersection of Harvard and Green streets in Coolidge Corner on Friday, Sept. 17, 2010.
By Laura Paine/staff writer Wicked Local Brookline Posted Sep 16, 2010 @ 02:12 PM Brookline ² The town of Brookline and the Brookline PARK(ing) Day Alliance welcomes you to drop by Coolidge Corner and pull up a chair in a nearby parking spot. On Friday, Sept. 17, from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Brookline will be hosting its first PARK(ing) Day, in which four metered parking spaces on each side of Harvard Street will be transformed into public spaces for the day.

³This is public space, and without anyone talking or thinking about it, we decided we are only going to dedicate it to automobiles,´ event coordinator Linda Olson Pehlke said. ³But do we have to?´ One side of the street will have a ³fun activity center´ with a video screening area showing Pavement to Parks interventions from around the country. The other side will hold an ³urban oasis,´ where visitors are encouraged to sit on the grass and ³dangle their toes in water and sand.´ Pehlke had known about PARK(ing) Day for a number of years, and saw it in action in Boston as an active member of Livable Streets and Walk Boston. ³I had PARK(ing) Day envy,´ she said. ³I thought Brookline should have one, too. Last year I was named an Unsung Hero by the Brookline Community Foundation, and they gave me a small micro-grant, which [I chose to] use on PARK(ing) Day.´ Though Pehlke said she is not trying to start a political movement, the goal is to try to shift the balance toward accommodating multiple uses in the street, or where there is extra pavement, by turning it into public plazas. It is a way to ³humanize´ the sidewalk areas and streetscape, which is also an issue that is covered in the featured films. ³There is nothing specific that we are advocating,´ Pehlke said. ³It¶s more the idea of these kind of interventions can really enliven an area. They don¶t have to cost a lot; they can be temporary and bring a lot of life to an area, and make it a great benefit to the community. It really was just something I thought would be fun, and it¶s kind of a neat thing.´ The Brookline Department of Public Works is one of the sponsors of PARK(ing) Day, and Commissioner Andrew Pappastergion said he thinks it is a great idea. ³It makes people aware of their environment and their open spaces a little bit more,´ he said. ³I think the primary purpose is to make people in a strictly urban environment more aware of the open spaces in the town. By making an open space in the middle of the town, I think it will make people stop and think about visiting one of our parks. It¶s kind of a simple thing to make people aware.´ Coolidge Corner Theatre is also sponsoring the event, and will be donating popcorn to the outdoor movie theater. Director of Theater Operations Andrew Thompson said he was willing to be even more involved if necessary. ³We are also trying to pursue a green agenda over time, and we are slowly working on getting rid of all the concession stuff ² like napkins, straws and cups ² that are not compostable and replacing them with compostable ones,´ he said. ³We are very supportive of environmentally friendly things.´ Edward Hsieh, executive director of Brookline GreenSpace Alliance, said PARK(ing) Day is a great effort.

³I think that maybe it¶s a great way to show the public that there are more sustainable ways of approaching parking in our town,´ he said. Upper Crust is allowing organizers to use an electrical outlet from the store for the event. Manager Bob Hennesey said he is willing to donate it because the event is ³part of the community.´ Friendly¶s store manager Craig Bradley said they have not done any planning for PARK(ing) Day yet, and they aren¶t worried about losing two of the spaces in front of the restaurant. ³Because of the area that we¶re in, certainly the parking in this area is crowed anyways, but we have no problem with [PARK(ing) Day],´ Bradley said. ³It¶s a town thing and we¶re all in favor of any kind of town event.´ PARK(ing) Day was invented in 2005 by San Francisco art and design studio Rebar, and has been taking place every year on the third Friday in September throughout the world. It is geared toward celebrating the community and finding a different way to use public space, as 80 percent of the space in urban areas is streets, and to dedicate more space to people-friendly areas. In 2009, there were more than 700 temporary parks created in 140 cities and in 21 countries. Laura Paine can be reached at lpaine@cnc.com.

Brookline loses parking, gets gardens for a day
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