Possible location for The Putting Lot. — Photo courtesy of The Putting Lot website.
Vacant lots are, in some ways, the purest, most tragic form of urban blight. Some time back, in rougher days, someone — be it a city official or property owner — decided that everyone would be better off if a building simply didn’t exist, and in its place, the neighborhood would get an informal dumping/tabby cat breeding ground. In Bushwick’s case, of course, a vacant lot is just as likely to be an old scar from the ’70s and ’80s firestorms, especially in the area towards Broadway. But that’s another story.
Recently, in the same way so many factories turned into MORGAN AVE ARTIST LOFT 20 MINUTES TO UNION SQUARE – $800 (BUSHWICK), it seems many of these vacant lots have magically transformed themselves in to condominiums. And, if you’re the type looking for Modern Urban Living in the Low 200′s, that’s good news. But maybe you aren’t. Maybe you’ve lived here for 20 years. Or 40 years. Maybe you actually run a small manufacturing shop out of a soon-to-be loft building. Then again, maybe you just moved to New York and you’re looking for somewhere relatively inexpensive to live.
In this regard, vacant lots aren’t just blight, but they represent an opportunity for rebirth and change in a neighborhood, even if that rebirth raises some incredibly difficult questions. The politics of space in Bushwick are both uncomfortable and complex, and beyond the scope of this little article. These issues will, however, be raised for discussion this Summer in the form of an urban-themed mini-golf course in Bushwick (natch!).
The Putting Lot, as it will be known, “examines the relevance of empty space in the city.” According to the website, “Visitors will… experience putt putt as a means for embodying and moving through art and ideas.” You’re probably wondering how a mini-golf course would accomplish such lofty goals, as I was. Fortunately, I had the chance to sit down with (read: exchange emails with) two of The Putting Lot’s organizers, Gabriel Fries-Briggs and Rachel Himmelfarb, and discuss their exciting, somewhat bizarre project.
The inspiration for the project was, perhaps not surprisingly, a mini-golf course just outside of NYC. Gabriel “remembered enjoying them as a kid and thought it’d be great to have one in the middle of New York City as there is a general lack of affordable recreational activities [available].” The Putting Lot, by the way, will cost $5 for adults and $3 for children, landing it squarely in the ideal — and elusive! — More-Expensive-Than-a-40-Less-Expensive-Than-a-Movie area of affordability.
The Putting Lot’s twist on the concept is to bring in nine different artists to design the nine holes, “around themes of urban sustainability.” The designers are a diverse group, too, including “gallery artists, art collectives, street artists, urban planners, engineers, architects, [and] bike enthusiasts.” Visitors can expect to see a more urban twist on the traditional, hyper-idyllic imagery of suburban putt-putt courses. “For example,” writes Himmelfarb “a golfer will putt along the drainpipe of sinking house instead of through a windmill or through a run down bodega filled with street art instead of a volcano.” Urban indeed!
But The Putting Lot isn’t just about absurdly citified mini-golf holes. There is a higher goal, as stated above. The Putting Lot aims to discuss the uncomfortable realities of rapid changes Bushwick has gone through, and will continue to go through. In Gabriel’s words, “Vacant spaces are frequently places where different actors in the city (developers, neighbors, city workers) come into conflict but they can also be great places for residents to imagine what they would like to see in the city… [we're] just proposing one alternative use and there are many more and diverse uses that can emerge.”
Perhaps new Bushwick residents ought to give more thought to the effects their residence has on the neighborhood, and, sure, we could use a mini-golf course that is actually in Bushwick. Considering there will also be a Snack Shack, you have no excuse if you don’t make it down to The Putting Lot this summer. The organizers are keeping the precise location under wraps for now, but I have been told that The Putting Lot will be located one block from the Jefferson L stop. If all goes according to plan, it will be open May 30th.
The Putting Lot is now open at 12 Wyckoff Avenue.
Wed-Fri 12pm-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-8pm