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Summer Streets Hits Astor Place: Food, Mini-Golf, VR, and… a ‘Smell Walk’?

A waterslide at last year’s Summer Streets.

The city’s popular “Summer Streets” program — in which seven miles of New York streets are temporarily turned into pedestrian-only parks — returns the first three Saturdays of August.

Our fair city’s government — or the program’s sponsors, anyway — have spared no expense. The smorgasbord of activities announced at a Department of Transportation press conference on Astor Place this morning includes crowd favorites like waterslides and ziplines — as well as some eccentric new additions, including a “smell walk”; an event described as “a silent disco, but for your tongue”; and the opportunity to bathe in a “giant washing machine.” Yet riding our subways is like participating in the Stanford Prison Experiment. Remarkable.

Anyway: This year’s theme is “the Five Senses,” hence novelties like the smell walk. Created by artist and designer Kate McClean, who previously created “smellmaps” in cities like Amsterdam and Paris, it’s described as “45 minutes of walking slowly and sniffing followed by a 15-minute visualisation exercise to communicate your smell encounters to those who missed the opportunity.” You can RSVP to be one of the 30 lucky smellwalkers here.

In keeping with the sensuous new theme there will also be a greater emphasis on food this year, with “food sessions” organized by New York chef John Mooney of Bell Book & Candle in the Village (known for growing vegetables on its roof). During the culinary silent disco, designed by Daily Tous Les Jours, a Montreal-based “interaction design studio,” participants will dine at a banquet while wearing headphones so their experience can be complemented by a soundtrack and narrator.

The “giant washing machine” will apparently be that — a 30’ wide by 50’ long inflatable washing machine filled with giant plates and utensils that participants run through while being splashed by jets of water. For the more pedestrian among us there will also be mini-golf, a dog park, bouldering walls, and the aforementioned waterslide and zipline, among other attractions.

Astor Place is one of Summer Streets’ designated “rest stops,” and several of the activities — including the “smell walk,” the mini-golf, the interactive banquet/silent food disco, and a virtual-reality tour of Mt. Everest — will be located there.

This is the tenth year of the Summer Streets program, noted speakers at the press conference this morning, who described the program as part of a broader shift in New York toward a more pedestrian-friendly, environmentally-friendly, and creative city. As last year, the main sponsor is Citi.

Summer Streets will take place from 7am to 1pm on Aug. 5th, 12th, and 19th along Park Avenue, Lafayette, and Centre Streets from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park. All activities are free; some require advance registration.

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Report Says New York City Housing is Grossly Unaffordable; Sky is Blue

Tenants, many of them living in rent-stabilized units, rallying in Chinatown to protest construction as harassment in December (Photo by Nicole Disser)

Tenants, many of them living in rent-stabilized units, rallying in Chinatown to protest construction as harassment in December (Photo by Nicole Disser)

Given that New York City is a place where making “just” $70 to 92k a year can qualify you for affordable housing—thanks, Upper West Side condo developers—it makes sense that homeownership rates here are low. Just how low, however, is a little jarring. According to a new study published by NYU’s Furman Center and Citi, only 42 percent of homes sold on the market in 2014 were affordable even to those making as much as $114,000 a year.

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