Located in the heart of East Harlem—a neighborhood with one of the highest concentrations of public housing in New York—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 (NYCHA) senior housing. Prior to the park’s construction, the site was an underutilized 20,000 square foot 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 design removes dilapidated, impervious asphalt, preserves existing tree canopy and activates the space with a variety of surface textures, recreational programs and plantings. While modest, the Play-Za brings critical social infrastructure to the neighborhood, providing flexible space for intergenerational exchange and a vibrant backdrop for student life.
- 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