by Aaron Wagener
Families are a common sight in Corona Plaza. In my last visit, I wasn’t the only one who noticed how many families were around. “Moms and kids come here all the time,” said a woman who was distributing social service information on the sidewalk. “The services we provide and the shopping is all right here, and it’s a safe, clean place to play outside.”
An ice cream seller, who grew up in the neighborhood, concurred. “It’s such an amazing difference. Before, when cars were parked here, people would just do their shopping and go home. Now they stay because they have a place to socialize, and kids have a place to play.”
A few minutes in the plaza showed me that it’s true. Kids love to explore the nooks around the planters and rocks. While they are playing hide and seek, their parents can sit in the shade, have some coffee, and keep an eye on them as they catch up with neighbors.
Kids are a lifesaver when I do interviews with local plaza users. Their English is always better than my Spanish, and when they act as translators, a bilingual conversation feels almost natural. Full of their own ideas and creativity, they offer a unique perspective on the state of the plaza. This visit, I had a particularly rewarding conversation with a few members in a family of six, on a sunny July afternoon.
Do you like the Plaza?
Kid 1: Oh yeah, it’s super. But one thing, you should make the ground better. It’s really rough when you fall on it.
Mom: Oh yes, that is a problem.
*At this point all the kids gather round me to show off their scraped-up knees.*
Kid 2: Yeah, remember that time you got pushed off your scooter and—
Kid 1: Shh, don’t you embarrass me. Yeah, we come here a lot with my family. My mom works in Manhattan now, so we will come here with my dad and get coffee and wait for her. It’s fun here.
What was it like before? How is it different?
Mom: It’s much better now. Before there were cars and it wasn’t safe to sit or for the kids to play.
Kid 1: Yeah, before we only used to come here for the farmer’s market. Now we come here all the time. But you should keep the chairs out later. Lots of people are still here at seven when they put them away.
Kid 2: Yeah, and this rock here should—
Kid 1: No! The rocks are perfect.
I don’t think there’s a more reliable word on the rocks of Corona Plaza, so get out there and experience them for yourself!
Aaron Wagener is a summer intern at The Neighborhood Plaza Partnership. He studies Religion, Stories and Mathematics at Swarthmore College.