What is a Park?

By Lynn Pacifico

The legal hurdles before beginning the construction of affordable housing at the water tunnel site on Hudson and Clarkson streets, as discussed in the April Community board 2 Land Use committee, usually takes eight years. That is eight more years that this site will lie empty and unused in an area in great need of recreational space.

The committee spoke about the need for indoor recreation, as the Tony Dapolito rec center will remain closed for the foreseeable future, yet they didn’t mention our need for outdoor recreation and natural areas. Maybe that is one reason that this neighborhood, which has been a real estate gold mine for the last few decades, has no real parks, beside a narrow lawn alongside the heavily used 9A highway where traffic noise never ceases. We remain the NYC district with the lowest amount of parks.

Every worm, every 
insect, every animal is working for the 
ecological wellbeing 
of the planet. Only we humans, who claim to 
be the most intelligent species here, are not 
doing that.

The disregard for nature as worthless or lifeless (illustrated by the use of field turf) and real estate’s pursuit of profit, make it possible to build on any space available. Yes we do need affordable housing and indoor recreation but why sacrifice what little outdoor space we have?

I have come to realize, from the comments I have received on my writing about needing more parkland, that our undervaluing of natural areas is not only because we are so cut off from nature, but also because many people misunderstand what a park is. For instance, we have “open space” in the West Village, (anything field-turfed or with a cement or asphalt surface is considered open space.) A ball field or court is not a park. We also have a few gardens. While also not a park, gardens are beneficial to sit by as the scent of fresh microorganisms found in soil, and composting organic matter like leaf mold, stimulate serotonin release (when using natural, not chemical, fertilizers.) The effects of this natural antidepressant can last for up to three weeks.

Better yet is being able to walk barefoot on, sit on and lay on the earth to receive not only the benefit of its microorganisms also nature’s alkalizing negative ions that real natural areas allow. This is one of the reasons we need real parks. Being in nature is healing as it aids the body’s ability to deal with pain, inflammation and all illnesses, including autoimmune and Attention Deficit disorders. The tao in nurturing ourselves lies in being able to align with the powerful intelligence and vital life force flowing in nature and inherent within the earth’s cycles.

The tree breathes what we breathe out, we need what the tree 
expires. So we have a common fate with the tree. We are all of the Earth, and when the Earth and its water and atmosphere are 
corrupted, then the Earth will create her 
reaction. The 
Mother reacts.
-Activist Floyd “ Red Crow “ Westerman

Our ancestors were children of Mother Earth, but with our present day lack of understanding of nature, and our place in it, we are like soulless zombies, not only witnessing the death of the living world, but participating in it. The morning birds used to alert me that I had worked all night again but I don’t hear them anymore. The crickets and other night creatures used to sing a cacophony of life. Now I must listen intently to hear them, if they exist at all. We have gone mad as a society, sleepwalking while we destroy the life-giving capacities of the Earth. We are dying from the inside out because we have lost the understanding of how to live on our planet and because there is money to be made.

We have been looking at an unused, vacant lot at that site for decades. Let’s not stare at it for another eight years then build a large building that covers the earth and blocks out the sun in the surrounding area. We can create affordable housing and rec centers through business-to-residential conversions instead of building on this lot.

For the benefit of ourselves, our children and for the city, let’s build a park on that land and reclaim the spirit of life and nature. Let’s begin work to reverse the deadening of the West Village. This is our last opportunity to do so.

Lynn Pacifico is a fourth generation Villager who loves dogs, nature and New York City.