Located in the heart of East Harlem, a neighborhood with one of the highest concentrations of public housing in the city, Blake Hobbs Play-za unites a diverse community with a re-energized, active urban space that serves neighborhood residents, DREAM Charter School students, and adjacent New York City Housing Authority senior housing. Prior to the park’s revitalization, the site was an underutilized 20,000 SF asphalt play lot with deteriorating play equipment, cracking asphalt, and a tall, unwelcoming chain link fence. The client, design team, and community partnered together to craft a vision for the space that is simultaneously a playground and plaza—a ‘Play-za’. The Play-za design removed the dilapidated impervious asphalt, preserved the existing site’s impressive tree canopy, and activated the space with a variety of surface textures, recreational programs, and plantings. While modest, the design constructs critical social infrastructure for the neighborhood, providing much-needed flexible space for intergenerational exchange and the mixing of socioeconomic groups across all ages.
- Harlem RBI / DREAM Charter School
New York Restoration Project
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
Leonard J. Strandberg and Associates
Steven Dubner Landscaping
Photographed by Ty Cole