Thanks to a partnership between government, a local artist, and a global athletic brand, basketball players on Manhattan’s Lower East Side can now enjoy colorful courts and high-style hoops that highlight the energy of the sport.
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) teamed up with Nike and KAWS, the Brooklyn-based artist and toy designer, to transform Sara D. Roosevelt Park’s two basketball courts into vibrant permanent installations. The four vividly-hued backboards and their matching asphalt playing surfaces—painted with bright character silhouettes against kaleidoscopic backdrops—were unveiled in a ceremony last week.
“The newly installed pop-art design, conceived by Nike and KAWS, is an exciting new add to these refurbished Sara D. Roosevelt Park basketball courts. The collaborative work here not only make these courts a destination for recreation, but also for viewing creative, culturally relevant, pop-art,” said NYC Parks commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, in a statement. “Thanks to Nike for funding the stunning facelift of such a great Lower East Side amenity that is at the intersection of multiple Lower East Side neighborhoods and districts.”
Nike, which recently collaborated with Portland, Oregon on its bike share program, committed $300,000 to the basketball courts for the KAWS installation and general spruce-up. The park, which opened in 1934, last received a major overhaul twenty years ago.
Although this collaboration was public-private, over the past several years the Parks Department has launched three major public initiatives to refurbish parks citywide. The Parks Without Borders project asks New Yorkers to nominate parks that could be better knit into the existing urban fabric through edge-condition design interventions, while this summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio committed $150 million to reinvigorating anchor parks, the largest and best-loved parks in the five boroughs. The older but ongoing $285 million Community Parks Initiative (CPI), started in 2014, added nine new sites to its improvement list in September. CPI targets parks in low-income, historically disinvested neighborhoods with growing populations.