By Christina Santucci
Kitty City wasn’t built in a day, but that’s how long the Long Island City “meow-tropolis” lasted.
The child-constructed collection of play structures for felines comprised solely of recycled materials was overrun with 22 cats and kittens for several hours Saturday afternoon. The immediate goal was to find homes for the furry friends from a no-kill shelter in South Ozone Park.
At 6 p.m., the month-long experiment, which had paired youngsters with city planners and artists at the city’s site — Flux Factory — to design and build the small-scale setting for cats, came to a close to make room for the gallery’s next installation and the project was deconstructed the following day.
But before the city was taken down, its builders and wide-eyed visitors had a chance to watch the animal reactions to the Kitty City mansion, a doll house complete with a wheatgrass house plant, and the Puppy Prison, a dungeon-like grouping of boxes and blankets.
Eighteen children volunteered their Saturdays in May to design and build Kitty City by reusing items like cardboard and mail containers.
“So much of this is about the process, the collaborative experiment of pairing kids with adults and really trying to do this together,” said Flux Factory’s Douglas Paulson, who dreamed up the experiment.
“There were definitely some hairy moments when teaching kids how to use power tools,” he added, “but it worked out really well.”
Carlin Greenfield, 12, of Manhattan, volunteered three of his Saturday afternoons and assisted with Kitty Park, a climbing area made of mesh-like material. He wanted to build an aqueduct, but that as well as sod for another area was scrapped due to budget constraints.
“If they [the structures] could hold me up, I would be playing on this in no time,” he said.
Although Carlin was unable to try out many parts of the mini-metropolis, the project’s functionality had to be tested before the influx of its furry citizens. That job fell to Mr. Wilson, a feral adult orange and white tabby who also found a new residence with one of Kitty City’s creators Saturday.
With all the commotion Saturday, Wilson lounged in front of a fan just outside the project’s perimeters, as energetic kittens explored and pounced on one another inside.
In total, 13 of the cats were adopted from the For Animals shelter after would-be owners took pledges to care for the felines, and an additional feline, who spent the majority of the event sleeping on a ceiling beam, found a foster home.
The group’s involvement in Kitty City came about almost by chance, organizers said.
Volunteer Alicia Wilson spotted a Flux Factory poster of giant kittens stomping around in a city, then got in touch with Flux Factory and asked to bring some furry-friends up for adoption to the event.
“Part of Flux’s mission is to organize large-scale collaborative projects,” Paulson said.
Part of the idea behind Kitty City spawned from something he had heard on the radio: that children who grow up with animals become more compassionate adults. So Paulson brainstormed about how to translate this into a project at Flux Factory.
“How do you get kids to think about what it’s like to be an animal?” he said.
Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4589.