Community Photo Album

This research and exhibition of the community surrounding Sara D Roosevelt (SDR) Park in the Lower East Side of Manhattan seeks to inspire community engagement in the reclamation of an underutilized parks building.

The Stanton Street building, one of four parks buildings originally constructed within SDR Park, is one of about 40 underutilized NYC Parks Department buildings in Manhattan which operated as community centers until the 1970s. Many of these buildings have remained closed to the public and neglected since that time. These inaccessible properties are distributed throughout the city but are located primarily in low-income neighborhoods.

An exhibition of archival images – from the NYC Parks Department photo archives to family albums – brought together current and past residents of the community to share their histories and connections to the neighborhoods served by the park since its opening in 1934.
This exhibition sought to inspire community activism by strengthening connections to shared stories, histories, and sustainable futures and by raising awareness of the potentials of sites that could provide services and programs that the community urgently needs.

The movement to revitalize the Stanton Street Building serves as a model of community-driven initiatives to return the underutilized parks building to the public. Neighborhood activists have been advocating for decades to return the building to the public. Organizations such as the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition have been advocating for the building to be restored and returned to the community, beginning with the restrooms which have been inaccessible to the public since 1994. The process exemplifies a model of community-driven awareness campaigns, citizen participation, and community-based stewardship, building upon a robust and expansive network of collaborators that includes numerous organizations, community members, and citizens

The exhibition sought to heighten awareness of the historic significance of neighborhood “places” and engender community involvement by connecting people – their collective memories and narratives – to the park and its public buildings as a shared and relevant place beyond recreational activities.

This public exhibition elicited further involvement from the community by seeking additional archives and narratives as part of the growing community connected by the park. Input from the community will be collected as part of a web-based digital archive accessible to the public.

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