Second Life for a City Park

About the nicest thing anyone could say about Landing Lights Park in New York is that you get to see jets up close on final approach, 398,000 times a year. Located near LaGuardia Airport, the all-but-abandoned strip of green covers only half a square mile and is in dire need of a makeover. But what kind? To save on landscape-architecture study costs, the borough of Queens put a digital version of the park in the massive multiplayer online game Second Life and asked the resident avatars to redesign it. Players from around the world are installing water fountains, playground equipment, and refreshment stands purchased from an in-game vending machine. And this year, when the airport starts shelling out $100 million as part of a lease-renewal deal, Queens will use elements of the online designs to draw up its blueprint. Finally, some fresh air for a neighborhood that’s been breathing the exhaust of our connected world.