A Bryant Park for Tulsa?

| | Comments (9)

I enthused about New York City's Bryant Park during my trip to the Republican National Convention. It sits between 42nd Street and 40th Street, east of 6th Avenue, occupying the west half of the superblock that also is home to the New York Public Library. It's about eight acres in size.

It's a nice mix of green space and human activity. Here is a list of amenities you'll find in Bryant Park:

  • An upscale grill (open year-round) and a seasonal outdoor cafe on the east end of the park
  • Four food kiosks on the west end of the park: coffee and breakfast items, ice cream (plus hot chocolate and cider in the winter), sandwiches, and soups and salads
  • A flower kiosk
  • A carousel
  • A reading room -- connected with the library system, an assortment of books, magazines, and newspapers for reading there, not for checking out
  • An area where you can rent chess and backgammon sets and find an opponent
  • A court for bocce-like game called pétanque
  • Free wireless internet throughout the park
  • Chairs you can move around the lawn and terraces as you please
  • Clean, safe, frequently monitored restrooms

The park was considered a lost cause in the late '70s, but an effort began to reclaim and restore the park. A non-profit organization is responsible for maintaining the park and maintaining order. Revenue from the restaurants and kiosks helps to fund the personnel to keep the park in good shape, but volunteers play a role as well.

This kind of collection of amenities might be a good fit for the eastern shore of the river between the 11th and 21st Street bridges, extending the existing node of activity around the River's Edge Cafe at Riverside and Denver. The INCOG river plan puts more intensive commercial uses on the west bank, but there is supposed to be a promenade along this stretch of the east bank. A sprinkling of commercial kiosks here would not overwhelm the park or the adjacent neighborhood.

And the adjacent neighborhood is what makes this section of River Parks the best choice for this kind of place. There is a high concentration of people within a 10- to 15-minute walk, thanks to the presence of several high-rise apartment buildings, many other condo and apartment complexes, and many single-family homes. The area is on the upswing.

Unlike Bryant Park, this area isn't in the heart of a busy commercial district, and 20,000 visitors a day is probably too much to hope for, so the mix of amenities should be somewhat different. Like Bryant Park, this park should have free WiFi, some food kiosks, well-maintained restrooms, movable chairs, a reading room, and tables for playing games. There ought to be a couple of places to rent bicycles and rollerblades, and some place where you can buy sunscreen and bug spray in case you forgot yours at home. A carousel would be a summer-evening attraction, perhaps along with one or two other small, relatively quiet kiddie rides. One of the kiosks ought to be a coffee house -- preferably one that's independent and locally-owned.

I think it could be a very successful public space. What do you think?


Paul Tay said:

Naaaaaaaaaah. Too imaginative and doesn't blow through half billion TAX dollars.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

I think its sounds good. As an alternative to something BIG to attract people to an area, why not have a lot of little things like this. After all, if you get past all of the BIG things that make NYC a tourist mecca, its really the thousands of little things that make it a truly great city. There are so many different things we can do in Tulsa. There are also some great things in Portland Oregon that would work great here too, on the river and in areas like the Brady District. I will note though that their river is currently navagable. These ideas are about communities, not about landmarks. The landmarks should exist to fill in the gaps. We're so fixated on casino, big concert, sporting event type stuff. We need to take care of our city, by building the communities. I still like the Channels. We could do all of these things in conjucntion with each other. Nothing wrong with all of that. A sidewalk or two couldn't hurt.

bob said:

Another wonderful idea, Michael. I nominate Michael to the next vacancy on the TMAPC.

Was Bryant Park the original model for the dark, drug addict movie with Al Pacino called: Needle Park? If so, then the environs have certainly been cleaned up nicely since that flic.

A Bryant Park model won't be adopted here. Reason being: Not big enough taxpayer-funded morsels for the Tax Hogs to gobble up.

With a "Bryant Park" concept, they can't extract enough of:


It's also possible that the sales tax generating entities so beloved by our City Fathers, like Woodland Hills Mall and Promenade Mall, just wouldn't like a low intensity competition like people sitting around in lawn chairs in a parklike setting beside the River, sipping coffee, and cruising the Internet on Free Wi-Fi. THAT ACTIVITY DOES NOT GENERATE ENOUGH SALES TAX FROM THE SERFS!

Roy said:

Paul beat me to my reply.

Paul Uttinger said:

In 1968, HTB published a three volume study proposing a series of dams along the Arkansas through Tulsa County with development along the banks. I moved to the Riverview neighborhood in 1989. I rented a duplex just a few feet from the river. The Riverparks trail was used by joggers in even the foulest of weather. The area has improved since then. I think development along the existing east bank similar to what you suggested or to what the 1968 HTB study proposed could work. The idea of building on the existing banks is much more pragmatic than idea for The Channels.

It was interesting to see Alan Hart's presentation last Thursday evening at Aaronson Auditorium. Mr Hart showed an urban project in Vancouver which began as an idea of a series of man-made islands connected to the city by several bridges. The similarities to The Channels were striking. Ultimately, the Vancouver project became attached to the existing shoreline. This resulted in a better integration into the existing urban fabric with easier access from the city. By eliminating multiple bridges and at least 50% of the man-made shoreline, infrastructure costs were reduced. According to Mr Hart, the citizens of Vancouver retained all of the good ideas of the original design but made the project better through a process of public discourse and review.

That's what could happen with The Channels. I hope some of the public meetings are scheduled for evenings or weekends when more of the general public could attend.

S. Lee said:

Just because it works for NYC, I wonder if it will in fact work for Tulsa. Are Tulsa people hang-out-in-the-park-and-play-chess kind of people? Or are they more go-to-the-park-to-watch-the-kid-play-soccer kind of people? It would be helpful to know what surrounds the NYC park. Is it high-density housing where there are plenty of residents who can stroll over to the park? Is it well served by public transportation. I'm under the impression that public transportation is much better developed and used more in NYC. People in Tulsa would probably have to drive to such a park and find a place to stash the car.

It might be worth noting that -- last I checked -- Tulsa's "park" at 61st and Elwood, with trails and all (very scenic, quite a nice stroll ... used to be) is now locked up and pretty much defunct. It's a shame too, because it was a nice place. When it was privately owned, the trail riding motorcyclists maintained the trails and formed new ones. Then it was donated to the city, officially made a park, the motorcyclists were banned, and into the toilet it went.

I have feeling Tulsa just isn't cut out for a big, nature-y kind of park: Too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, rains a lot in the spring and fall. If there isn't a sports event to go watch, it ain't worth going.

S. Lee, you raise some valid concerns. The context of a park is vital to its success.

Turkey Mountain is off the beaten path, and once you get there, you're pretty much on your own. Most of us city folks like our nature in small doses. We want to have a buffer from traffic but still stay close enough to see the street. We never want to be too far from a place to get something to eat or drink, somewhere to take shelter from the weather, and somewhere clean and private to "answer nature's call." You have to be intentional about getting to Turkey Mountain and about preparing (e.g., bringing along your own food and water for the day) to enjoy the park.

The park at Riverside and Denver is not going to be passed by as many people as Bryant Park, which is about 1000 feet east of Times Square, in the midst of a busy office and commercial district (but not much resident population). But the location is next to a major commuter route into downtown and close to a relatively (for Tulsa) densely populated neighborhood. It would be convenient for a stop on the way home to south Tulsa or as the destination for a stroll from Central Park Condos or the Riverview neighborhood.

And if it turns out that Tulsans aren't the type to play chess in the park, we wouldn't be out much money to scrap that idea and try other activities and attractions until something catches on. That's the beauty of the "Urban Husbandry" approach -- improve on what's already there and working, make adjustments, learn and adapt as you go along. Much better than spending $600 million in tax money only to discover that, shucks, building islands in the river didn't have the effect we had hoped for.

Sean Gleeson said:

And I think it should be named "Bates Park."

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

This is one of two typical forum exchanges I call the Ambivalent Exchange: a couple of good ideas, a naaaaah, and a couple of guys to shoot a couple of weak but fixable holes in the idea - then nothing. A park is a good idea. A "cool" park is a better idea. The park described above is an excellent idea. Of course, Park context is critical. Turkey Mountain and Chandler Park for that matter aren't for daily inhabitants per se, they are for excursion type activities. Apples and Oranges. Furthermore, a park has nothing to do with cars, it has to do with people. If its "cool" for people (as this idea is) you won't have to worry about it being populated. We have such a narrow view of possibilities in Tulsa, I fear. We need to stop thinking about developing our cities for cars so much and start developing for cities people.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 18, 2006 11:14 PM.

Bleg: Tulsa stormwater drainage basin map? was the previous entry in this blog.

Police Academy: Blog in Training is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]