Go Play in the Street, Kids. Really.

Street Lab is bringing pop-up reading rooms and playgrounds to New York City’s open streets and plazas.

“Everything we do is designed to be pop-up — here today, gone tomorrow,” said Leslie Davol, 53, the executive director of Street Lab, which produced 353 pop-ups across the city last year, more than double the number it had in 2019.

The pop-ups borrow from an urban tradition of using streets and other public spaces for temporary (and sometimes unsanctioned) activities, such as turning curbside parking spots into “parklets,” Mike Lydon said. The impromptu spaces are intended to encourage social interaction.

Short-term actions can eventually catalyze long-term change, an approach that Mr. Lydon described as “tactical urbanism.” 

In New York City, guerrilla gardeners who threw “seed bombs” into vacant lots in the early 1970s helped lay the groundwork for early community gardens. The Times Square pedestrian plazas grew out of an experiment by city officials and business leaders over Memorial Day weekend in 2009 to shut a section of Broadway to traffic and put out hundreds of folding lawn chairs.

Street Lab’s programming “brings people into these spaces — especially young people — to animate them, and show the possibilities, and cements the idea that streets can be used in all different ways.”

Mike Lydon, Principal, Street Plans

Above image: Leslie Davol, the Executive Director of Street Lab, which ran street 353 pop-ups across the city last year. (Credit: Molly Woodward for The New York Times)

For the full article, please see the April 1, 2023 piece in The New York Times.