‘Don’t Look’ Park

  • Parklet on Main Street in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Parklet on Main Street in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Friday, August 11, 2017

I go to college in New York City, which is to say that I’ve been disappointed by a lot of parks. Having grown up in Amherst, I couldn’t find anything in the city that held a candle to the many hours I spent as a child wandering through the woods. Battery Park consists mostly of paths and benches, with one lawn that’s fenced off. Tompkins Square Park only lives up to its name if your definition of “park” is a bunch of trees growing out of the concrete and a small dirt enclosure in which dogs can run free. Central Park is big and open, but it’s full of roads. Like, roads with traffic lights.

However, today I’d like to formally apologize to Manhattan’s parks for the snobbery that they’ve endured from me for the last two years. I thought that my Western Mass roots gave me moral superiority over any and all urban parks. I thought that the relative scale and serenity of parks like Mill River and Look Park would always be something I could lord over my city-dwelling friends.

But thanks to the new parklet in front of the Northampton City Hall, I’ve seen the error of my ways. It’s remarkably small, there’s no grass, and, despite being bordered by ugly cement barriers, it’s essentially in the middle of traffic. No wonder it’s usually empty. The parks in New York may be noisier and more gray, but at least people go to them.

I don’t mean to slander the idea of reclaiming the streets for pedestrians or creating more places to sit down and enjoy a meal on a nice day, but with the vastly superior (and newly renovated!) Pulaski Park only about 20 feet away, I find myself genuinely wanting to know who invested money in this park, and whether or not they might be interested in making another questionable investment into, say, building an ark in preparation for the impending climate crisis.

Text by Veronica Suchodolski/ Photo by Jerrey Roberts, Gazette staff