Taking the historic Police Athletic League Play Street program as inspiration, nyc:uncapped proposes the creation of "Uncapped Streets." Located in neighborhoods where hydrant abuse frequently occurs and/or where there is limited tree cover, these designated streets will promote a green city agenda as well as a cooling, community–enhancing alternative to uncapping.
Closed to vehicular traffic during the summer and filled with leafy rows of boxed trees, the Uncapped Streets will become seasonal nurseries. The trees will provide foliage and shade while overhead irrigation of the trees will be managed to create an eco-water park in the most unlikely of locations — the streets of New York City — where children and adults can play among the trees in the cooling spray of overhead sprinklers.
Dovetailing with the PlaNYC mission of planting one million new trees by 2030, the Uncapped Streets will house a season’s worth of new trees. Growers will deliver the boxed trees to the designated streets where they will be pooled, awaiting planting around the city. Temporary irrigation and catch basins will complete the nursery operation and re-circulate irrigation runoff through drip lines. Working with block captains and volunteers, NYC park staff would engage local stewardship of the trees and commitment to the larger city–wide green endeavor.
The addition of leafy green cover in place of pavement will mitigate high summer temperatures by adding shade and decreasing the amount of heat absorbed and re-radiated by paved surfaces. Evapotranspiration, a tree’s natural process of "breathing", will cool local air and improve air quality. Tree–deficient neighborhoods will instantly gain green space at a time of year when most needed; as previously noted, CD 12 has the lowest percentage of canopy cover in the city. Ultimately, the seasonal cycle of Uncapped Streets nurseries will wind down as the city reaches its one million tree goal in 2030. By then, neighborhoods like CD 12 will have an established stock of permanent trees in the ground.
The Uncapped Street tree nursery is envisioned as one component of a larger program. Additional initiatives could include roof top catch basins that capture and redistribute rainwater for green roof irrigation and also provide on–demand street showers that recall the original uncapped hydrant. The temporary nature of the proposal creates instant relief while allowing time and space for field–testing green–city ideas that can evolve into a comprehensive system of public spaces that promotes ecological, social and civic health.