Envisioning a new path to wellness for the local Rockaway community

Over these last several months, the effects of this global pandemic have been devastating for many New Yorkers. One of the communities hardest hit with an ongoing surge of Covid case numbers is in the Rockaways.

Already struggling with the difficulties of a lack of available resources and services, plus environmental degradation, the Rockaways “have had and continue to have a particularly difficult time with the city and the peninsula in on-and-off lockdown mode,” says Jeanne DuPont, Executive Director of the community-based non-profit RISE.

“But amidst all of this uncertainty, an opportunity presented itself”, says DuPont, who realized that the Rockaways also have “a surplus of under-utilized throughways that could be re-purposed as outdoor pedestrian open spaces for connecting with family, friends and neighbors in a safe space, as we find our way through the pandemic.”

To that end, RISE partnered with the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) and received a pandemic response grant from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) to transform a stretch of roadway underneath the elevated A train into an “asphalt artervention” called The Wellness Way. Featuring 6-foot graphic circles demarcating areas where local community members can safely socially distance, The Wellness Way provides Rockaway residents with a safe, flexible space for COVID-19 testing, in addition to other community-related services including art installations, performances, plant giveaways and distribution of fresh produce.

Sequel had the honor of partnering with RISE and DOT to plan, position and design this newly envisioned pedestrian area, branding it as a recovery corridor.

Sequel quickly mobilized to work with our team through the DOT Arterventions program to provide a visually dynamic and inspiring outdoor hub for Rockaway residents. Sequel’s thoughtfulness, creativity and practicality made achieving this bold, yet whimsical, waterfront walkway a straight line.”

Neil Gagliardi, Director of Urban Design at DOT

The Wellness Way takes local, visual motifs such as shells, bird prints and seaweed, and combines them with graphic arrows and bold circles representing directional cues and social-distancing spheres—all of which are woven together through a bold purple path. In doing so, this new pedestrian walkway provides the local community with an accessible, outdoor resource and respite to obtain health services, socialize in small groups with friends and family, and get physical exercise walking along and through it.

The Wellness Way’s official unveiling took place in October 2020 and will remain open year-round between Beach 59th Street and Beach 62rd Street in Rockaway, Queens, NY.

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