Over 100 people stopped by Metro Center Plaza on First Friday to offer their support for a people- centered development in the space. Buskers abounded in the space--musicians, dancers and spontaneous music making. Chalk artists, young and old had a great time decorating the space. Postcards with ideas for the space were filled out and petitions were signed. An excellent video by Markeee can be seen at https://vimeo.com/129963856
IF you want to sign a petition about the Metro Center Plaza go here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/17L1IyG9xD8iUe4F5NwvCh7woCwuPv8AwDWIx5YR...
The top ideas people offered were for a location for music events, a Farmer's Market or crafts fairs, trees, outdoor movies, art and sculpture in the space.
Also popular were fountains, benches, outdoor performance spaces for music, dance and theatre, outdoor seating for restaurants or coffee shops, gardens or green space. Food trucks and kids' activities were also mentioned. Some unusual suggestions were Astroturfing the space, a chalk maze, a space for meditation, a plexiglass cover for winter events, indoor public space in the MetroCenter Mall, and an underground tunnel for winter use.
The postcards and the petitions will be forwarded to the City and organizers of this planning event will research more proposals for the space.
More photos of the events are on the Dept of Public Art facebook page and this site under image gallery.
Late Breaking (Updated):
The binghamton bridge received (through a friend, not directly) a missive from the City Clerk late Thursday, cautioning organizers not to put anything on city property, like a table for instance. The text of the message is here:
From: Pelletier, Jeremy
Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2015 4:14 PM
Subject: Pop-Up event on June 5th at Metro Center Courtyard
To Whom it May Concern:
I noticed on the Press and Sun Bulletin website today that there is a “pop-up event” scheduled for tomorrow June 5th in the Metro Center Courtyard. I wanted you to be aware that you will not be able to place any tables, chairs, equipment etc. on City property without first obtaining a City of Binghamton event permit. I have provided you a link to the permit application on the City website and included the section of the City Code regarding event permit regulations. You may gather in this area tomorrow, but you will not be able to place anything on City property as this would require an event permit application. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Organizers of the event will hold the event anyway and few of the plans will be interrupted by the City's edict. "If the City were to enforce the law against putting something on city property they would have to shut down the whole Art Walk." said Peg Johnston, a DPA member "We will stick to our plan to arrange some boxes in a temporary way to show what flowers and benches and a stage might look like in the large plaza." Buskers--musicians, dancers, and others are still welcome to entertain as they would any time in this space. As planned, the group will collect postcard suggestions, collect signatures on petitions, and take photos of people with their "idea balloons." Supporters are encouraged to tweet what they would like to see in the MetroCenter Plaza under the hashtag #ImagineBinghamton.
Goal is to Showcase the Value of Preserving this Public Space for People
Groups Call on City to Discard $500,000 Ten-Space Parking Plan and Launch an Open, Inclusive Design Contest for this Public Space
BINGHAMTON – Members from the Department of Public Art (DPA) and Binghamton Advocates for Quality Public Spaces are working with other local groups and residents to organize a “pop-up event” in the Metrocenter public courtyard from 7:00 – 8:00pm Friday june 5th, coinciding with June's First Friday event.
The hour-long, free-form event will feature local musicians, street performers, and interactive activities, and invites any and all residents to join the fun with props, games, and smiles. Organizers will solicit design ideas for the MetroCenter courtyard in various ways and suggestions will be forwarded to the City.
The event is being planned to fill this underutilized and neglected space with creativity, fun, and people to highlight the need to improve and beautify this space for people instead of spending $500,000 to pave it over for ten parking spots. A groundswell of public opposition to the Mayor's $500,000 parking lot plan has brought the plan to a screeching halt, and the pop-up event organizers believe it's time to shift to advocating for a more cost-effective alternative that better reflects community input and wishes.
“We all agree this public space needs to be improved, especially since this administration spent its first year quietly funding the removal of benches, garbage cans, trees, flowerbeds, and lighting,” said Tarik Abdelazim, a member of Binghamton Advocates for Quality Public Spaces and the city's former Director of Planning, Housing and Community Development. “However, instead of secretly trying to push forward with a wasteful and poorly designed parking lot to please one or two downtown business owners, we encourage the administration and City Council to engage the public in shaping a common vision and cost-effective design that prioritizes people over cars.”
“The Dept of Public Art encourages creativity and public participation in the design of public spaces in Binghamton,” said Mark Bowers, one of the founding members of DPA, “and this interactive, open event is a first step for this space.”
Those organizing the event promise this is the beginning of a positive grassroots effort to re-imagine this space consistent with the community-based vision for downtown captured in Blueprint Binghamton, the city's recently completed comprehensive plan that was legally adopted by City Council last year. Members from both groups want to work constructively with the City on an alternative that taps the creative energies of this community.
Members from these groups cite the top five reasons stated by local taxpayers over the last few months as to why the administration's parking lot project should be rejected:
The parking lot will be funded by a bond, and therefore cost approximately $500,000 (principal and interest payments for 15 years). With only ten parking spaces, that's $50,000 a spot—a complete waste of limited tax dollars when there are so many other urgent infrastructure needs that would benefit all residents!
The City owns three underutilized parking ramps and the large lot behind CVS—all a stone's throw from this proposed parking lot. The parking ramps need millions of dollars in repairs, so why would any Council member approve spending half a million dollars to add ten spaces in one of the only centrally located public spaces in downtown?
The parking lot is poorly designed, and involves ripping out new investments made as part of the Court Street Gateway Project; relocating light poles, traffic signals, and curb cuts; and introducing new safety risks to pedestrians and bikers on one of our most heavily trafficked sidewalks in downtown. Worse, city officials have stated at Traffic Board meetings that they plan to eliminate reverse diagonal parking on Court Street to improve line of sight for cars coming in and out of this ten-space parking lot—a move that will actually reduce the number of parking spaces on Court Street!
Successful downtowns today feature vibrant and active public spaces. We fully agree that the Metrocenter Courtyard is underutilized and an eyesore. However, we believe it needs to be redesigned and improved for people—not paved over for cars! For a fraction of the cost of the parking lot, this commons area could become a downtown hub, supporting expansive outdoor seating at Galaxy Brewing and Sip of Seattle, live music, and other seasonal programming.
The administration is just about to start a $100,000 downtown parking study, a priority recommendation listed in Blueprint Binghamton, the City's Comprehensive Plan formally adopted by City Council last year. Blueprint Binghamton. The section on downtown in the City's newly adopted plan remarks on the excessive acreage of land committed to paved parking area, and recommends a parking study to consider ways to reduce the land committed to parking, and articulates a resident-driven vision of a walkable, livable downtown with more public spaces, recreational assets,and housing and transportation choices. It makes no sense to add a new parking lot before the parking study is done and in complete contradiction to the plan legally adopted by City Council last summer!
The Metro Center Mall is an open space encompassing approximately 112,000 square feet, and as its name implies, is at the heart of downtown Binghamton. Mayor David’s plan for this much needed renovation includes ten parking places, and I’m assuming, a connecting roadway intersecting Court Street. It is unclear what would remain for other features to attract people to that area because no artist’s rendering of the project has been offered to the public, as is standard procedure with municipal projects. Taxpayers and residents are entitled to see what is in the Mayor’s mind’s eye and to be assured even he has a clear concept of his proposal. Consideration need be given to vehicle traffic flow and dead end snow removal.
[ Editor's note: We have been notified by a reader that an architectural/engineering plan has been circulated within City Hall and to the appropriate review boards, and a copy of this plan is available at https://halfmillionbinghamton.wordpress.com/the-actual-design/ ]
I have never had difficulty parking downtown, and using our City’s most valuable blank canvas for such a mundane purpose lacks vision. There is no valid reason to rush into this project, and it only seems fair that the citizens of our recovering city be shown more creative, cosmopolitan, options that could provide dynamic and signature images for our Downtown.
In such a creative community, I suggest alternative proposals be developed and submitted to groups, who will evaluate them seriously, before providing them to our local news media for public engagement, and ensuring there is more than one choice available. Something needs to be done, and hopefully the melding of imaginative ideas and transparency will draw funding.
06/20/2015 - 12:30pm - 2:00pm
The Dept of Public Art is participating in NY's Path Through History June 20th by offering tours of the "Birthplace of Virtual Reality" in the Water St. Parking Ramp. Guided tours, will detail the history of the site where several inventions were built that made virtual reality possible, including the time clock which lead to the computer, the robotics of player pianos, and the flight simulator.
This is the herstory of the origin of #BlackLivesMatter movement, and a critique of those who have tried to co-opt the movement. She concludes that Black Lives Matter needs solidarity not "watered down unity." An important read! --ed
I created #BlackLivesMatter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, two of my sisters, as a call to action for Black people after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was post-humously placed on trial for his own murder and the killer, George Zimmerman, was not held accountable for the crime he committed. It was a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements.
Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.
Continue reading here: http://thefeministwire.com/2014/10/blacklivesmatter-2/
Light Painting Performance Opens Gallery’s Fifth Weekend Series
Stephen Schweitzer will present a light painting exhibit on Saturday May 30th, 2015 at 8 pm at the Cooperative Gallery 213 State St. The event is free and open to the public although donations for the artist will be welcomed.
“Live light painting is an immediate and collaborative process not unlike a traditional painting where each light image is added over time to create a final piece,” according to Schweitzer who has been experimenting with the art form for several years. The audience can see the painting with the aid of a high powered HD projector in real time. Lucem Picturae is Schweitzer’s project and in this performance he is presenting experimental techniques using dance, music, and new computer technology. A sample of his work can be accessed here.
Also on display will be Select Murals from Mural Fest 2015, which represent some illustrious international artists including Damien Mitchell of Australia, Nic707 of NYC, and the Indigo Arts Collective of Brooklyn. These murals are available for property owners who have a boarded up building in one of Binghamton’s neighborhoods under the Dept. of Public Art’s blight mitigation art project funded by Chenango Co Arts Council and the Hoyt Foundation. “The goal is to use abandoned buildings as a canvas for art which will draw attention to their potential and will brighten up neighborhoods with boarded up properties, explained Peg Johnston of the DPA. The murals can be viewed Friday May 29th from 3-6 pm and Saturday 12-4 pm at the Cooperative Gallery 213 State St. Binghamton. Interested property owners should contact email@example.com for more information.
The Cooperative Gallery is utilizing the occasional “Fifth Weekend” in the gallery schedule to showcase innovative or special weekend only shows. Previously the gallery used the Fifth Weekend for the Marche’ Art Sale and to make needed renovations and repairs. “This is an effort to bring in new energy and explore artistic ideas in our community,” commented Kit Ashman vice president of the Cooperative Gallery. Future ideas are a posthumous exhibit of Ruth Harasta’s art, a dance performance, and light painting workshops. For more information see gallery’s Facebook page, website www.cooperativegallery.com, or call 724-3462.
David’s Dead End, the Mayor’s $500,000 plan to pave over the Metrocenter courtyard for ten parking spaces, is officially dead. We want to thank Council President Bill Berg, and Council members Lea Webb, Teri Rennia and Jerry Motsavage (all Democrats) for standing firm, blocking and burying for good this financially irresponsible project that was wrong for so many reasons and sparked a massive groundswell of opposition from residents and taxpayers.
Whereas the three Council Republicans were ready to rubber-stamp this absurd project and saddle local taxpayers with a $500,000 bill–simply to honor and fulfill a backroom handshake deal between the Mayor and one downtown business owner–the four Democrats recognized this project was wrong, wasteful, and not in the community’s best interests.
So thank you Council Democrats!
But the six of us here at Binghamton Advocates for Quality Spaces want to extend even bigger thanks to ALL OF YOU! We’ve been floored by your commitment to stay informed and engaged–and then to act when necessary. And you sure are a diverse lot! We’ve heard from Republicans and Democrats, artists and accountants, high school students and grandparents, business owners and retirees! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
Let us celebrate this victory, but our work is not done. Now is when we shift from opposition to advocacy, because we all agree this underutilized space needs immediate attention and improvement. Yes, we stopped David’s Dead End, a dumb parking lot design that prioritized roads and cars. Now we need to work with the four Council Democrats on a creative, cost-effective design for the Metrocenter courtyard that prioritizes public spaces and people.
You in? Share, share, share…..and stay tuned. Because we ain’t going anywhere.