What’s a work-from-home Brooklynite to do on a cold (and I mean really cold) winter’s day when he has three appointments in Manhattan spanning from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with 90 minutes of down time in between each one? Check e-mails from a loud and anonymous coffee shop? Tedious. Catch a movie? Difficult. Shop around and explore a new neighborhood? Suicidal. Lounge in a 4,500 square-foot event space filled with artificial grass, plastic trees, and ennui-busting light therapy boxes? Bingo.
Until the end of this month, frozen New Yorkers looking to comfortably kill time or ward off the wintertime blues will find faux summertime bliss at Park Here, an indoor ”pop-up park.” Located at the Openhouse Gallery (an event/venue space and not an actual art gallery) on Mulberry Street in Nolita, the concept behind Park Here is quite simple: When the weather is warm and sunny, cooped-up New Yorkers flock en masse to local parks to congregate and unwind. Why not try to simulate the NYC park experience inside when it’s 18 degrees out?
To achieve this, the creators of Park Here populated an abundant amount of raw space with a whole lot of artificial grass, flora both real and fake, pastoral murals, wood chips, faux boulders, park benches, picnic tables, a small wishing pond, a pink see-saw, and light therapy boxes that help to alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder by simulating sunlight. Park-goers can either sprawl out on the lush faux turf or hunker down in one of the oversized Fatboy beanbag chairs scattered about the space. And to top it all off, there's the piped-in bird chirping.
Without a doubt, Park Here doesn’t come close to the real deal. It’s overwhelmingly plastic and on my visit I immediately thought of the effect that maintaining such balmy temps and keeping dozens of 1,000 lux lamps burning bright for 8-plus hours a day must have on the actual, natural environment. But as I sat back in my Fatboy chair, my eco-qualms quickly subsided and I, well, relaxed. I flipped through some magazines, read a couple of chapters of a book, and nearly dozed off. For the first 45 minutes or so, I was the only person taking advantage of Park Here. And I was absolutely loving it.
But just like at a real park, the placid vibe was interrupted when the stroller brigade arrived and the chirping of birds was drowned out by the screams of toddlers. Over the course of 30 minutes, two crying kids multiplied into 20, and I decided that it was time to leave.
Park Here is free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through the end of January. Yoga classes are offered during the day, and in the evening there are special events like UrbanDaddy-hosted movie screenings and dinner parties. On weekends, food vendors normally out of commission during the winter set up shop in the park.
If you’re in New York during the final week of Park Here, I highly recommend stopping by if just for a look. Show up early before the toddlers take over. Pack a picnic basket since you needn’t worry about ants. Or, bring a special friend for a makeout session on the grass. No one will gawk — they’ll be too busy chasing their kids around, reading a newspaper, playing bocce ball, or taking a nap.
A park pops up in Manhattan.
A leisurely afternoon in the park.
Back on the street and back to reality.