June 2, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Bookshelves and reading chairs will sprout up in Diversity Plaza this summer, as part of an objective to strengthen Jackson Heights residents’ engagement with the neighborhood plaza.
The Uni Project, a nonprofit that brings pop-up reading rooms to sites throughout New York City, will set up in Diversity Plaza, located on 37th Road between 73rd and 74th Streets in Jackson Heights, for four consecutive Saturdays from July 11 to August 1.
“This is really for [reading] together, right then and there, and being seen doing it,” the Uni Project’s Executive Director Leslie Davol said. “It’s something for people to enjoy when they’re out and about shopping, or in the neighborhood, and different kinds of people can connect.”
Bookshelves that the Uni brings to Jackson Heights will include Citywide favorites, such as nature photography books and children’s picture books, as well as Queens-centric reads; the nonprofit’s local partners include the Queens Library and the New York Hall of Science.
Participation in the reading room is free.
“We see again and again, neighborhood to neighborhood, these values that people have, which are very deep and meaningful, which are values of learning,” Davol said. “Putting books out on the street just brings that out in people.”
However, some hope that the pop-up reading room will have more specific benefits for Diversity Plaza in particular.
Eirik Davey-Gislason of the Friends of Diversity Plaza said he has been working with the Uni Project as one way to spark more consistent interaction between neighbors and their plaza.
“What we’re trying to do this year, to evolve our programming, is do things that are more consistent, as opposed to one-time events,” Davey-Gislason explained. “It’s a wonderful cultural space, but we want the entire neighborhood to think of this as a place that they just come down to spend an hour or to have lunch.”
Special cultural and civic events that Diversity Plaza has hosted since it was opened in 2011 include the Jackson Heights Arts Festival and open-air Community Board 3 meetings.
“What the Uni provides is that educational component, and it’s child friendly, it’s family friendly,” Davey-Gislason said. “So it’s a perfect fit for the space because it invites a group of people who don’t necessarily on a regular basis come down to the plaza.”
As part of this effort, the Friends of Diversity Plaza plans to offer programming to accompany the Uni, such as a kid-centered art activity or a chai tea and coffee hour, according to Davey-Gislason.
Organizers are still determining the Uni’s Saturday hours at Diversity Plaza, Davol said. The pop-up posts its schedule online at theuniproject.org.