Connecting Communities: Shared Streets and Happy to Chat Seating
This autumn, the World Trade Center campus will be abuzz with two new activations – the “Happy to Chat” initiative on South Oculus Plaza, and the Fulton Shared Street. These two concepts reimagine our public spaces to be vibrant and inclusive, while promoting a sense of community and belonging for both visitors and locals alike.
Fulton Shared Street
A shared street recently opened on the WTC campus on Fulton Street between Greenwich and Church Streets. The shared street splits Fulton Street into two sections: one side acts as a shared vehicle space and the other is a pedestrian priority space dedicated to events, street furniture, and more.
Every other Tuesday starting October 3rd there will be street furniture provided from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. for passersby to enjoy – whether it is lunch with coworkers or a moment to rest from touring the city.
If you have visited or taken advantage of the Fulton Shared Street recently, share your experience with us here.
About Shared Streets
This initiative is part of the NYC Department of Transportation’s Shared Streets program, which are “pedestrian-priority” streets that are designed to discourage high volumes of vehicle traffic and encourage an increase of pedestrian activity. There are many benefits that come with a shared street space such as increased vibrancy, public seating, artwork, and opportunities for community building. Pedestrian-priority zones in cities help create a more reliable and accessible public transportation system and encourage alternative forms of transportation, such as bikes and scooters.
Introducing the “Happy to Chat” Initiative in October
Launching in October, “Happy to Chat” is an initiative at WTC that encourages individuals to interact with one another to build more community and connections. The “Happy to Chat” seating area will have two configurations with square blocks on South Oculus Plaza - one in an L-shape and the other in an oval shape. These blocks will have smiley faces on them and signage that indicates the “Happy to Chat” area.
This concept can seem intimidating even if you consider yourself an extrovert. Whether you are a New Yorker or tourist, who wants to invite someone to talk to them? “Happy to Chat” is different because when you utilize the seating blocks, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will talk to every person that walks past you. Instead, it signals that you are simply open to a comment, a compliment, or a conversation. As people walk by and learn more about the project, they can linger and start conversations with the people around them if they are comfortable.
Interested in participating in “Happy to Chat,” but need that extra push to begin the conversation? Here are some ideas:
1. What do you like to do in your free time?
2. Where have you eaten around here?
3. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
4. What are your biggest pet peeves?
5. Would you ever go on a reality TV show?
6. What music do you listen to?
7. What is your friendship dealbreaker?
8. What is your favorite place in NYC?
The History of “Happy to Chat”
Happy To Chat was a project started by Allison Owen Jones from Cardiff, Wales to combat loneliness within her hometown through the placement of signage on park benches that let people know they are open to conversation. Her initiative has spread throughout parts of the UK, and even in New York!
In addition to the provided seating arrangements, below is a list of resources including podcasts, articles, and videos about how participating in the “Happy to Chat” initiative can be beneficial to your mental health:
- The Infrastructure of Community by The Atlantic’s How to Talk to People (Podcast)
- The Surprising Benefits of Talking to Strangers – The Atlantic (Article)
- How to Deal with Loneliness in Today's World: Your Options for Support – Healthline (Article)
- Why We Need Strangeness – TED (Video)
In a time when technology has the potential to take precedence over in-person interactions, these types of initiatives offer a refreshing approach to urban planning by prioritizing community and encouraging social connections. We hope to see you on the WTC campus this autumn enjoying all that the campus has to offer in the outdoors – strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know (yet!) or enjoy the views from your seat in the Shared Street on Fulton.