08 April 2010

Free Parking

Recently, the city of Grand Rapids decided that Cherry St. needed to be straightened out. Before, it would be interrupted by our building; Cherry St. ran straight east into 144 South Division, and then continued next to it. It was a bit of a traffic mess, so construction workers re-designed the street so it curved southward before it hit Division, making it possible to continue straight ahead, next to our building. The southward curve cut out a bit of the parking available on the southwest corner of Division and Cherry, so I assumed that the space created on the other side would be used for parking. But instead, it was made into a park:
Two intersecting multi-leveled circles of benches and bricks and shrubs, crowned by a bus stop. It's beautiful! And all winter, it was left empty, because it was cold, and because there were rumors that the police installed cameras and microphones, somehow, in the bricks. But the sun and 60 degree weather pushed out the paranoia, and recently, the park has been packed.
Now, I overheard someone say,
"It makes me so mad that they are filling up that beautiful park!" And I could not help but say,
"Why? it's a park! It was made for them!"
"For homeless people?"
"For people."
Most of their day is spent being kicked out of places because they aren't theirs. Finally, here is a space in the neighborhood that isn't pre-owned. A no man's land is the closest thing some of them have to a home. So why would that make someone uncomfortable? That "they" are using this park?
Maybe because you relize that you can't claim it, own it, or make them leave. Maybe becaue you are getting a little taste of what "they" always feel--that it's not yours, and you're not exactly invited, but I suppose you can come.

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