KAWS courts cool, yet cause for concern

The KAWS-designed basketball courts in S.D.R. Park at Stanton and Forsyth Sts. Photo courtesy NYC Parks and Recreation

The KAWS-designed basketball courts in S.D.R. Park at Stanton and Forsyth Sts. Photo courtesy NYC Parks and Recreation

Earlier this month, the city’s Parks Department and Nike unveiled a combination “art installation” / basketball courts renovation project in Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side. The park’s heavily used courts at Stanton and Forsyth Sts. have been spruced up by pop street artist KAWS a.k.a. Brian Donnelly.

Nike’s commitment of $300,000 to the courts made the refurbishing and design possible. The ribbon-cutting ceremony included a youth basketball clinic, speakers and a basketball tournament.

However, K Webster, a leading S.D.R. Park activist, said the community process behind the project was basically nonexistent. Plus, the invite to local community members to attend the opening event went out very late.

“We thank the Parks Department for obtaining a newly painted basketball court,” Webster said. “Personally, I think it’s kind of pretty. We would have wished we had been asked in the first place about such a big change in a park that has a very active park coalition and a very reachable community board. As a courtesy?

“We would have wished to have the neighborhood invited and not be, yet again, spectators outside the fence watching a rich corporation using a public park, privately,” Webster said. “And, yes, we know children were brought in to play, and that’s fun for them. Thank you. But somehow it’s not the same as asking a neighborhood if you can have a loud, glaringly lit, generators-running, private party in their front yard past the 9 p.m. permit. It changes everything about how it feels to be asked, to be considered, to be invited.

“Again, plain courtesy, sign of respect, for the decades of labor the neighborhood donated to change this park from a drug-infested, pimp-owned place that the Parks Department wouldn’t even set foot in — to a place with pockets of utter beauty and joy?

“Oh,” Webster added, “and being sent an e-mail two hours before the event doesn’t count.”

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