Animated light sculpture debuts in Madison Square Park

“Whiteout,” now on view at Madison Square Park (Photo courtesy of the Madison Square Park Conservancy)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy debuted the newest installation earlier this month, featuring a light project from artist Erwin Redl. The conservancy commissioned Redl to create “Whiteout,” which is displayed on the park’s central lawn and is a large-scale kinetic light sculpture made of white spheres suspended from a grid with steel poles and cabling. The orbs, hanging about a foot from the ground, sway in the wind and the LEDs are animated in large-scale patterns.

Redl is known for creating other large-scale light projects on the facades of buildings and he was first inspired by yarn drawings from minimalist conceptual artist Fred Sandback in 1997.

Redl said that he was fascinated by the option to have such a large installation in the park that is also within an urban environment.

“The physicality of the swaying orbs in conjunction with the abstract animations of their embedded white lights allows the public to explore a new, hybrid reality in this urban setting,” he said.

Madison Square Park Conservancy executive director Keats Meyer said that the installation is especially enjoyable during the dark winter months because it can show how light impacts space.

“Park goers will be able to view the industrial elegance of Whiteout from our pathways as they traverse the site,” she said. “Redl’s project, based on how light can impact a space, will be a beauteous interpretation of the Oval Lawn during the shortest days of the calendar year.”

Art consultancy firm UAP worked with Redl and the conservancy to fabricate the installation. The company, which has offices in Brisbane and Shanghai as well as New York, has also worked with artist Ai Wei Wei on the recent project in Washington Square Park, “Arch: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.”

The Madison Square Park Conservancy launched public art programming through Mad. Sq. Art in 2004 and Redl’s installation is the 35th outdoor exhibition that the conservancy has organized. “Whiteout” will be on display through March 25, 2018.

Families gather for Stuy Town egg hunt and Easter events

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday, families in Stuyvesant Town gathered at noon for the traditional Easter activities, including an egg hunt and a visit from the Easter Bunny. There were also additional activities, including a craft table for making egg crowns, face painting and Imagination Playground, a play system made up of foam mats, blocks, wagons and other parts that can be used to build things.

This year, the egg hunt was held on the Oval lawn, a much larger space than the two playgrounds where the sport has normally taken place. Still, it took no more than 10 seconds for the young participants, after being let loose on the grass, to collect all the brightly colored eggs the eye could see.

With the kids not being separated by age this year, naturally, the older kids swooped up more of the prized treats, but some made sure to share with younger, egg hunting rookies who didn’t collect any of the plastic-covered candies on their own.

The egg hunt was the first event to take place this spring in Stuy Town. Next up is a gardening event for kids on April 25 from 1-3 p.m. There will be live music by apple seeds songs for seeds band and the chance to plant saplings and take home crafts using recycled supplies. A pet care event, featuring reps from local pet-related businesses and services, is scheduled for the following month on Saturday, May 9 from 1-4 p.m. at Playground 9.

Photos by Sabina Mollot

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Management office work almost complete, a few playgrounds get new water features

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By Sabina Mollot
Despite the beginning of July being a holiday week, things were still eventful in Stuyvesant Town, where construction has been ongoing at the site of the future management office.
Work at the new facility should be complete some time in August, CWCapital said in a newsletter emailed to tenants at the end of June. Additionally, electrical work beneath the First Avenue Loop that had closed the road for weeks is now complete and excavation has been completed for the site. The work remaining is to complete the roof, which is currently in progress.

Meanwhile, although the work has been progressing on schedule, residents who live in the four buildings affected by the construction along the Loop have had to deal with construction noise that has started in the mornings as early as 6 a.m.
A spokesperson for CWCapital said this week that the work schedule was changed due to the need to pour concrete within a certain timeframe so the project won’t get delayed by adverse weather.

“This has required them to make minor adjustments to the regular schedule,” the rep, Brian Moriarty, said.

In response to the noise issue, Susan Steinberg, chair of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, pointed out that the city Department of Environmental Protection normally allows construction between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Other times, off-hours authorization is required, which in this case management has gotten a permit for.
“Unfortunately, if management has the appropriate permits, there is not too much we can do other than let management know that they are making tenants’ lives miserable,” said Steinberg last Monday. “However,” she added, “if tenants think the noise level may be above allowable decibels, especially on weekends, they should call 311 and create a record.”

By last Tuesday, however, Council Member Dan Garodnick said that after being asked to discontinue the early morning work “for the sake of the peace of residents,” management told him no more work was expected to take place at that time.
“Which is encouraging,” said Garodnick. Last October, Garodnick co-sponsored, along with Council Member Rosie Mendez, legislation aimed at curbing variances that allow owners and developers to do construction work into the evenings.

In other construction news, part of the management office project includes renovating Playground 8, which has begun. According to CW’s last newsletter, the soon-to-come water feature at Playground 8 will have floor-mounted and overhead sprays that keep with the space’s train station theme as well as a new train for kids to play in.

A few other playgrounds in the complex have already been upgraded to include water features or improve the ones that had been there previously.
At Stuy Town’s Playground 4 and Peter Cooper Village’s Playground 2, existing kiddie sprinklers now also include ground sprays, overhead sprays and an interactive spray in Playground PCV 2. Stuyvesant Town’s Playground 2, which didn’t use to have any water sprinklers, now has a water feature that’s interactive and takes up about half the space of the playground.

On Thursday, July 3, a few parents at that playground said they welcomed the new addition as their kids ran around in the sprays.
Peter Cooper resident Stacey Pattillo was one of them although she also had a suggestion for management.
Noting that the sprinklers includes a cannon-like feature that can be moved from one direction to another, Pattillo observed that some of the littler children “come and get blasted” by the high-pressure spray aimed by other kids. “They should keep it fixed to a light shower,” she said. “You see some of the kids get walloped in the face and they get traumatized.” But otherwise, she added, “It’s very nice.”

In more property-related updates, the Oval lawn has officially opened to sunbathers, Moriarty said. Last week, the area was still closed off, leaving desperate sun worshipers attempting to catch some rays on the concrete next to the fountain.

Around the Oval and beyond, the grounds have been extremely colorful lately thanks to the addition of thousands of flowers, which were purchased from local nursery Emma’s Garden Growers.
In its newsletter, CWCapital said the new plantings include: 3,600 caladiums of mixed colors (planted along First Avenue entrances), 1,000 dragon wing begonias, 800 New Guinea impatiens of mixed colors, 800 coleuses of mixed colors, 500 periwinkles of mixed colors, 35 tropical hibiscuses and 35 canna lilies of mixed colors.

ST/PCV undergoing landscape renovation

Chuck Hartsell, director of horticulture and landscape for ST/PCV, standing by the cherry trees in Peter Cooper Village, said more sustainability and visibility are the goals of ongoing landscaping work. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Chuck Hartsell, director of horticulture and landscape for ST/PCV, standing by the cherry trees in Peter Cooper Village, said more sustainability and visibility are the goals of ongoing landscaping work. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Following one of the more brutal winters New Yorkers have seen in recent memory, spring has finally sprung and in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, this, as always, means there’s a major landscaping project in the works.
Those who’ve strolled around the complex over the past week may have noticed trees blossoming and some colorful new flowerbeds, as well as some contrasting lawn areas that still appear to be bare dirt or partially bare.
However, they won’t be that way for long, according to Chuck Hartsell, the property’s director of horticulture and landscape.
While on a brisk walk through the grounds of Peter Cooper as well as Stuy Town, Hartsell explained that at this point every garden area has been tended to and planted with flowers or grass. It’s just that certain types of plantings take longer than others to spring up, and there are some areas that will still need to be revisited.
The planting was all part of a renovation that began shortly after CWCapital took over the property in 2010. At that time the grounds were overplanted and the Oval, which had drainage issues and swells and dips, was in a condition that could be described as fair to poor.
Since then, close to 1,000 trees have been removed with most being donated to local nonprofits devoted to greening the city while around 100 of the trees that were in poor condition were mulched.
But these days the Oval is doing much better, far better in fact than expected.
“We thought we’d have to empty it and start from scratch,” said Hartsell of the Oval, while walking by its south end, which will be used again for greenmarkets starting this Sunday. The east end of the Oval meanwhile has seen some activity this past year in terms of having some older shade trees chopped down. Not surprisingly, this thinning out of the landscape was met with some community outrage, with residents blasting the move as arborcide.

The Oval lawn will be open soon to sunbathers and starting this weekend, to the Sunday greenmarket.

The Oval lawn will be open soon to sunbathers and starting this weekend, to the Sunday greenmarket.

But, insisted Hartsell, removing every other tree in that section was necessary.
“They were growing into each other,” said Hartsell, who’s worked in ST/PCV for the past two years. He’s had the title of horticulture and landscape director since the week of Hurricane Sandy, which also made significant restoration work of the property’s gardens and courtyards required.
As for the Oval trees, Hartsell called the decision to chop them “very painful,” but said it was done only after consulting with experts. “We had three arborists come in and give opinions.” Ultimately, they figured the trees would have eventually all killed each other if a few of trees, all yellowwoods, weren’t sacrificed. “It was either make the move or in 10-15 years, they all come down.”
Additionally, some shrubs were recently removed for better visibility of the Oval fountain. Better visibility was actually one of the goals of the ongoing landscape renovation, partially due to safety concerns.
Previously, Hartsell observed, everything “was planted so densely, you couldn’t see.”
Overgrown trees is always a concern though, and to prevent incidents of residents getting clobbered by low-hanging or heavy tree branches, one staffer has the task of walking through the whole complex on a bi-weekly basis to check where pruning may be needed.
“We’re always looking up,” said Hartsell.”

Chuck Hartsell, in Peter Cooper, said temporary fencing around lawns will soon be moved inward.

Chuck Hartsell, in Peter Cooper, said temporary fencing around lawns will soon be moved inward.

Another goal of the renovation is to create a more sustainable environment.
After Sandy, more plantings were brought in that could handle damage from salt, either salt used to melt snow in the winter or from flooded river water.
“Not that they could survive being submerged for hours on end, but they can handle a little damage,” said Hartsell.
To prevent waste of plants, the grounds crew has begun planting more annuals, which get more mileage than perennials. Also in abundance on site are shrubs (currently 13 or 14 varieties), cherry trees in Peter Cooper in more than one variety (with light and dark pink blossoms) and all around, oaks in four different varieties.
Being acorn producers, the oaks, which make up 30 percent of the trees in ST/PCV, are what feed the squirrel population. That is, when the squirrels aren’t being fed nuts by residents. Despite efforts by some to be discreet, the evidence of this is often uncovered by the gardeners.
“One of the most common weeds we pull is the peanut plant,” noted Hartsell.
While squirrels can do some damage to trees, Hartsell said it doesn’t tend to be too noticeable as they make their nests in tree parts that are already decaying. A bigger challenge is presented by dogs when owners allow them to do their business in the gardens. But for the most part, he said, owners have been respectful and the temporary fencing around lawns to prevent wear and tear by pedestrians of both the human and canine variety should be moved inward soon, closer to buildings.

A recently planted area in Stuyvesant Town

A recently planted area in Stuyvesant Town

“We’re in the process of moving the fences right now,” said Hartsell. Meanwhile during the course of the interview, one fence around a courtyard in Peter Cooper was spotted with a section that had been completely pried open — and not by a gardener.
As for the gardeners who maintain the 80-acre property, the crew now consists of six full-time staffers and 10 seasonal contractors. This is up from just the six full-timers last year.
Though it doesn’t sound like much for such a large workspace, Hartsell said it’s been enough.
On May 10, the grounds crew will work with Apple Seeds, the company that runs Oval Kids, to present a gardening workshop open to all children in the community.
Also in May, the Oval lawn will be open for use of sunbathers and others, ideally by the first week of the month.