A Meadow in Manhattan

collect-pond-park2-by-tribeca-citizenOff the beaten track, at Collect Pond Park (Leonard between Lafayette and Centre) is a new art installation, “A Clearing in the Streets.” New York City artists Julie Farris and Sarah Wayland-Smith have built an enclosed meadow—planted with native species—with slots through which visitors can watch the growth over the course of the summer. (The installation comes down in October.) According to the Public Art Fund, which commissioned the piece, the goal was to “allow nature to reclaim a small part of the current public plaza.” Like all of Manhattan, of course, the site was once natural: Collect Pond was located here, until it became so polluted that it had to be drained; at that point, the area became known as Five Points, one of the city’s most notorious slums in the 19th century, which you may recall from the film Gangs of New York.

collect-pond-park1-by-tribeca-citizenThe artwork is striking, particularly from a distance, as it’s far brighter than you might expect, but that could be more attributable to the surroundings: Collect Pond Park—”Park” should be in quotes, because it’s more of a plaza—is one of downtown’s more depressing public spaces. And “A Clearing…”, while an attractive, welcome addition, only served to make at least one visitor wish the Parks Department would show Collect Pond Park some permanent love.

Then again, that may be exactly the artists’ point.