As soon as I turned the corner from Crescent St. onto S. Park, I could hear the sweet tinkling of a piano. Following my ears down the block towards Bloomfield Avenue, I came upon a scene that could become a familiar sight, if plans for the redevelopment of the street, which is currently in the works, were to include public performance space.
David Lustberg, Pricipal of Arterial, is a street designer and one of the primary organizers of today’s event which brought a grand piano, a mini park and spontaneous performances by members of the community to downtown Montclair. As part of a global initiative to “inspire city dwellers to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks for the public good,” PARK(ing) Day in Montclair is just one of close to 1,000 such events taking place all over the world.
The usual mid-morning crowd of shoppers and business people strolled along park street, but as they passed by the PARK(ing) spaces filled with music and folks hangin’ out, the urge to stop and enjoy seemed to take hold of most everyone. One passerby, Marlies Yearby, a choreographer and Montclair resident, broke into dance, seen above. “I grew up dancing on the streets of California, so this feels just great,” said Yearby, who choreographed the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Rent. At Baristanet’s suggestion, she ran up to see if her friend Sharon Miller would come down and dance with her. Supposedly she is on her way.
Valerie Aymer, a South Orange resident heard about the event on Facebook and came to check it out. “I’ve been unemployed for over a year, and this is such a happy thing to be part of,” she said. “If Montclair had outdoor performance space, I think people would come over from my neighborhood for events. South Orange/Maplewood and Montclair could do collaborative performances.”
Soon after Yearby’s dance improv, a teenage girl stopped in to play some Beatles on the piano, (on loan for the day from Lindeblad Piano Restoration), and various others swayed, sang and sat in the make-shift park, complete with trees and ornamental grasses. Dogs sat and munched on treats, people milled about and chatted. One man sat and worked on his computer, while Tyrone Hill, from Newark, was just walking by and stopped to sit on the bench for a while. “I’ve never seen a piano that could play by itself,” he laughed, referring to the auto-player aspect that kicked in between users.
The event will continue today until 4 p.m. Rumor has it that some of the local musicians are working it into their afternoon plans to go down and jam. Why not go and add your own groove to the already groovy scene.
Do you think the South Park street development, which the town is currently planning, should include a public performance space? Yearby loves the idea, and so does Gallery 51 owner Andy Foster. Foster’s gallery is on Church Street, just in from the corner of S. Park. He could hear the piano music from inside his space.
“Any initiative that supports public art and culture seems like a good thing. A redevelopment plan, and would increase pedestrian traffic and improve the overall look and feel of the neighborhood is good for everyone.”
Lustberg and his partner in the bid for the redevelopment project, SmithMaran Architects, think a centerpiece street like this one should be for people as well as cars. In the past, Tom Lonergan of Montclair BID has said that this section of South Park Street in the downtown shopping, dining, theater zone is ugly and the streets are in bad shape. He believes that diagonal parking is a waste. Lonergan also stated a new stage would be erected, more centrally on Church St, when Montclair Center Stage was dismantled on the corner of Bloomfield Ave. and Church St. last Spring.
What do you think?