While the dismantling of fences to create larger, communal backyards
takes off in suburbia (and leafier sections of Brooklyn), once again Manhattanites have the chance to share a small stamp of coveted outdoor green space with their friends and neighbors this summer … to the tune of $100 an hour with a two-hour minimum.
After an attention-grabbing
— and neighbor-upsetting
— run last summer, the Participation Agency’s Timeshare Backyard
returns to a 3,200-square-foot vacant lot at 145 Ludlow St.
on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and it’s pricier than ever. I’m not exactly sure who would dole out $200 for the privilege of lazing around on a patch of “luxury grass” done up by a professional set designer (trashy magazines, hula hoops, squirt guns, lounge chairs, sun umbrellas, coolers and a grill are also included in the rental fee) for two hours, but it appears that there’s a hungry market out there for a little slice of faux suburbia in the city as several of the Timeshare Backyard’s two-hour rental blocks have already sold out.
The Timeshare Backyard’s official season kicks off this weekend and will run every Saturday and Sunday through July 22. The space closes down at 8 p.m. sharp so there won’t be any of those late-night ragers like those crazy kids in the ‘burbs throw (I'm guessing last year's noise complaints have something to do with this).
Last year, Timeshare Backyard's hourly rental rate was set at $50. It’s unclear why there was such a sharp spike although, from what I understand, last summer any
additional "props" including a kiddie pool and the BBQ grill were tacked on as exorbitantly priced surcharges. So, it looks like they’ve included more with the starting rate this time around, but I'm guessing hiring a live band or bringing in a trampoline will still cost you extra. "If you want to rent space for an hour, just you in the kiddie pool with a boom box, that's your prerogative. Likewise, you can bring 20 of your best friends and curate the total backyard experience; barbecue, Slip 'n' Slide, keg and a once-in-a-lifetime acoustic performance by a well-known band," Jacqui Kavanagh, Timeshare Backyard's co-creator along with Jessica Resler, told the Wall Street Journal
in an interview last year.
I suppose Timeshare Backyard would be practical if you somehow managed to wrangle up 30 friends (the maximum capacity) and asked them to dole out $7 each (realistically, two hours seems way too rushed for maximum relaxing, so bump that up to $14 a person for back-to-back two-hour blocks). As an event space, it's brilliant. But I have a better idea: get together a few friends and rent a Zipcar (car sharing!) and head out of dodge to a rental cabin in the Catskills. I’ve heard through the grapevine that there’s grass, BBQ grills and all that jazz up there. Better yet, befriend that guy in the office who has parents with a giant backyard in suburban New Jersey and invite yourself over. But then again, I suppose leaving the city to partake in typical summertime backyard activities is besides the point ... with Backyard Timeshare you’re paying $200 for the novelty of — and the convenience of — being able to grill up some dogs and sunbathe on non-artificial turf in a hip 'n' gritty downtown neighborhood that’s not exactly known for its verdant qualities.
What do you think of the Timeshare Backyard concept? I'm torn here — totally understand what Kavanagh and Resler are going for and it's all quite clever, but $200 for two hours in a gussied up vacant lot on the LES?