A “curbside parlor” on the Upper West Side

Since I saw a tree planter bench along Riverside Drive and about 82nd Street (east side of avenue) and since observing behavior around one on 12th Street between Avenues A and B in front of Northern Spy restaurant, I’ve wanted to build a tree bench out front of our building on West 84th Street.  I call this feature and the social place it creates “curbside parlor,” inspired by Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language and its sibling titles.

This is a problem.

Seems the NYC Parks Department’s Forestry Division oversees trees on streets as well, and their response was not a good one.  I called some time last year and received a response that was unchanged when our Community Board called more recently:

“Parks,” a CB7 rep told me, “said no to a bench around a tree for liability reasons and for the tree’s well-being.  DOT said they are not permitting new planters for security reasons.  There are no variances to be had, but you are welcome to come to the committee meeting and present your request.”

IMG_2194 IMG_2196My first reaction was, OK. You’re saying I can’t do this but I’m welcome to come waste my time and breath presenting the proposal at a meeting. At the same time, I relish a challenge and I love it when someone tells me “no.” I simply don’t accept it. (Call it an inherent and occasionally unhealthy disagreement with authority’s having the final say.)

My goal is to move a proposal through Community Board 7 allowing for a bench and planter that would have the result of both beautifying our “place” out front and also making a spot for more delightful conversation among neighbors, while not harming the tree or obstructing its maintenance in any way.

The tree is an American sycamore.