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The "stoop" as art form in the War Streets

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

by Diana Nelson Jones/Sept 24

The Mexican War Streets has elevated the verb "stoop," as in "We're stooping tonight."  It's a party that has come to mean something more than a cluster of neighbors getting together around someone's stoop for some wine or beer, nibbles and chat in the evening.


In 11 years of popping out my door to attend a "stoop" party, I have sensed that this practice is far more important than it looks. These gatherings invariably swell into the street, which is key -- we usually slow traffic and show all who pass that our home is more than our houses. I've wondered whether people in other neighborhoods stoop, either as a few people gathering spontaneously or as parties that consume part of the sidewalk and the margins of the street.

Let me know if your street has a penchant for this.

I have just discovered Jay Walljasper's  "The Great Neighborhood Book" (New Society Publishers), the concept of which he describes on the Project for Public Spaces Web-site. PPS is a partner in his endeavor. Visit PPS at http://www.pps.org.

PPS has 30 years of experience "helping communities achieve their dreams of becoming safe, lively, livable, lovable places," he writes, giving examples that remind me of our fine tradition of stooping. Thought I'd share two examples from his book:

 --In the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, a man helped transformed his neighborhood simply by putting a bench in his front yard. The first thing he noticed is that older people were walking around the block again because they had a spot to rest along the way. Then he saw other people stopping to talk to one another at the bench, increasing the community spirit of the area. Then, several other of his neighbors added benches to their yard, giving the whole block a more convivial feel.

 --In the city of Delft in the Netherlands, a group of neighbors were fed up with cars speeding down their street so one evening, under the cover of darkness, they dragged old couches and tables into the middle of the street. They arranged the furniture in a way that did not block the traffic but did force it to slow down as drivers had to negotiate their way around these objects. Shortly, the police arrived and, while noting that this action was clearly illegal, also admitted it was a really good idea. Soon, the municipal government was creating their own more permanent version of the neighbors' old furniture-and the idea of traffic calming was born. It is now used all over the world to make streets safer for everyone by helping drivers slow down and recognize that the street is not just for cars.

Read the entire article at http://www.metroplanning.org/articleDetail.asp?objectID=4101

 

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