Urban Design Observations: Makeshift Baxter Street Lounge

Lately I’ve been paying more attention to how people use public space here in New York City, particularly in unsanctioned ways. I will experiment here with documenting and posting the things I see in this arena.

Unused space is a rare commodity in Manhattan, and individuals will always capitalize on it. On one particular stretch of Baxter Street, there is a gap in the buildings where a parking lot extends between them. Because the parking lot’s entrance and exit are on the other side, this area is fenced, and the sidewalk is unmonitored. I.e. there is no store owner to complain if you loiter on the sidewalk in front of this particular spot.

Thus someone has turned this into their outdoor lounge. I pass it each morning while walking my dogs.

I’m rarely in this area after morning, but one afternoon I was and saw two elderly Chinese gentleman sitting here and chatting. One was taking tea and the other was smoking. I am not sure if they are the ones who set the “lounge” up or were just availing themselves.

In New York, anything with perceived value that’s not nailed down tends to get stolen. While the chairs are of course ratty cast-offs and have been sacrificed to outdoor use, the weather gradually taking its toll…

…someone will still want to steal them. To prevent this, the lounge’s founder has affixed them to the fence with steel wire.

Obviously this isn’t very secure, but the idea is to make them enough of a hassle to steal that most people won’t bother.

The black stool and blue milk crate are also attached to the fence. In an effort to improve the UX, the milk crate has been topped with a discarded piece of countertop made from painted plywood. This cannot be tied to the fence but is worthless enough that no one has stolen it yet.

I first noticed the lounge around three months ago, and the fresh supply of cigarette butts each morning (of differing brands, judging by the filter colors) suggests it gets daily use.

We’ll see how long it lasts for.

Source: core77

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