New York City has to take what it can get when it comes to green spaces, and the most recent addition to the city is no exception. Planters Grove, a park at the Lillian Wald Houses on Avenue D that opened yesterday, is no exception. This green space, however, is a bit different than, say, Central Park or Washington Square Park: It’s been brought to you by Planters Peanuts.
While the creation of green spaces is always a good thing, especially in areas in which outdoor recreational spaces are limited, the notion of corporate sponsorship of public venues is, nevertheless, somewhat troubling.
The project, which is a joint venture between Kraft Foods’ Planters and the Corps Network, aims to transform underutilized land into unique, peanut-shaped parks across America. According to a release from the company, “The building of Planters Groves and their ongoing programming encourages outdoor activity and community interaction, as well as provides the health, environmental, social and economic benefits that engaging green spaces provide a neighborhood and its residents.”
Yes, peanuts are a healthier snack than chips and soda, and, yes, the park does encourage healthy eating by offering plants that residents can pick and use in cooking, but we ought to think closely about this type of corporate sponsorship. What’s to stop other companies from taking over children’s play spaces? Do you really want your children associating fun and the outdoors with Doritos? Or have them frolicking on a Snickers-shaped slide or Bugles swing set? It’s a slippery slope. The New York Times acknowledges that the branding at Planters Grove could have been stronger, citing a similar park in New Orleans where a Mr. Peanut statue is permanently affixed to a peanut-shaped bench. If you need more food for thought, just think about how the PlayPlace helped McDonalds lure customers with children … and resulted in immense profits for the company.