Above is an aerial view image of the area surrounding what many have come to know as “Parque Oaxaqueño”, due to the fact that a large portion of the population that typically occupies the park hails from the Oaxaca province of Mexico. While the physical space is widely identified as a park, it hardly provides community members with a true amenity, as there remains very limited recreation and relaxation options. Usage of the park is heavily dominated by local adults, many of whom consider the space as a central feature of the neighborhood and often use it as a meeting place. While the park does currently serve as a place for friendly reunions and conversations, the extent to which this is true is limited by shortcomings in the urban design of the area. One factor that is perhaps most noticeable is the park’s lack of seating options. Not only are the seating options few and of low quality, but they are placed in such a way that does not foster a sense of community. One suggestion for an improved design may suggest movable seating options, allowing the park to adapt to the desires of its inhabitants on a case-to-case basis.
Another flaw in the design of the park is, simply, its size. Its lack of size is highlighted especially when considering the conditions that immediately surround the park. Above is a picture of a traffic island (complete with a unique New Brunswick historical monument and seating) that is separated from the park only by Handy Street. Considering its triangular shape, it looks as if it may have been part of the park in the past. This would make sense, because, by itself, the monument and seating serve virtually no purpose. Both the park and this tiny seating-monument-thingy suffer not only from a lack of size, but also from proximity to heavily trafficked roads. Even if there was more seating around the monument, there is nothing relaxing about watching trucks speed by in both directions. Also, even if the adjacent park had something such as a soccer net, the size and location would cause the park to remain too dangerous for kids to consistently play there. Handy Street divides what could be one large park into two small parcels of land, both insufficient for their purposes. One urban designer might suggest closing off Handy Street, joining the two parcels into one larger park. However, Handy Street plays a vital role in New Brunswick’s circulation. Also, the heavy traffic on both Jersey Avenue and French Street serves to question whether or not this is a space suitable for a park.
Right behind the current site of the park, however, there is a more spacious strip type development. It is no secret that this type of development is often a target for urban design criticism. However, in this case, it might have produced some favorable development conditions. Not only is this vacant land next to the strip development much bigger than the current site of the neighborhood’s park, but it is bordered by the mall’s parking lot, which poses much less danger to children playing. The back of the land that could potentially serve as a new park is bordered by elevated train tracks, which is also less dangerous and more relaxing than the busy streets bordering the current park.
This would be a view from inside the new park, displaying the only land directly bordering the potential site that could possibly be interpreted as a busy street. In any case, it sees much less traffic than the streets that directly border the current site of the neighborhood’s park and the enlarged size of the new location provides a buffer zone to community members, as they utilize the community asset. Admittedly, there are many obstacles to such a change in design, the starkest one being that the city does not own the vacant lot. A private developer owns the lot and seeks to generate a profit, not benefits for local community members. The potential “Parque Oaxaqueno » has to provide local residents with a true communal space is severely limited by its size and location. I, among others, would like to see a change.