“MY AVE” Street Furniture project for MARP

The Pratt Design Incubator has been collaborating with the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP) on a street furniture initiative for Myrtle Avenue. Started in Fall 2008 as part of an Industrial design studio at Pratt, students collected research on how to address the needs of the community through beautiful, functional and sustainable street furniture that would give Myrtle Avenue it’s own identity. The project was led by Samantha Razook and Debera Johnson.

Throughout the semester, the students received input from MARP and held numerous events to solicit input from the community. “It was tough getting people to stop and talk to us,” says student designer Sara Ebert. ” So we got inventive!”  The group projected a movie on the wall of a local gas station and gave out popcorn and then interviewed people about the street. They also set up a mini-park in a parking space with MARP for a day. “We got lots of great input about what people wanted.” said Evan Dublin another student. The last presentation was open to the community and over 50 people came to Pratt to review and comment on the student designs which included bike racks, benches, signage, sidewalks, bus stops and planters. The design concepts and research was passed on to a small group of designers continued to work on the designs.In January 2009, after a final presentation to MARP’s board and the community, three final designs were chosen: a tree guard, a bench/planter configuration and a message board.

The first tree guard was installed in April 2010.  “The design is a simple framework with four panels. “This allowed MARP to commission local artists to submit ideas for the panels.” said Debera Johnson the project director. “The goal was to have everything locally produced.” The project is slated for full implementation over the summer.  Designer Kris Drury has been leading the final stages of the project. “There have been a lot of refinements and details for fabrication,” says Drury. “It’s satisfying to walk down Myrtle Ave and see the results of all the hard work.”

As of June 2013, 40 tree benches and 49 tree guards have been installed.  Nearly every tree pit on Myrtle from Fort Greene Park to Hall Street and from Emerson to Classon has a guard/bench.  There are also over a dozen guards/benches between Flatbush and Washington Park.  Nothing has been installed between Hall and Emerson because of the planned Myrtle Plaza and related construction activity.  Fewer guards  have been installed near Flatbush because of major residential construction happening there.

After the plaza construction (Hall to Emerson) and residential construction (Flatbush to Ashland) is done, MARP hopes to install additional guards and benches in those areas.  That could happen in 2-3 years. They would have another open call for panel art, just like they did for Phase I and Phase II.  So the new installations would have new art.  They will also continue to expand the ornamental plantings within the guards.  They started a sponsorship program (similar to the adopt-a-bench program in NYC parks) with five sponsors and a hope to acquire many more.

The guards and benches have really transformed the streetscape.  They are beautiful pieces of public art that are also functional.  They protect the trees and allow  to plant ornamentals in the tree beds (75 now have ornamental plants).  The benches provide much-needed public seating.  Their usage have not been quantify, but anecdotally many of them are heavily used.  One of the Phase I guards won “Best Tree Guard in NYC in 2012.”  Now that they are doing plantings, they have been able to partner with local schools to beautify Myrtle.  During Phase II, they have asked local students to submit panel designs. and 10 were selected.  Since installation, they have presented the proofs to all the schools involved.

Check out some images from the Tree Benches here.

Check out some images from the Tree Guards  here.