School Proposes Turning Upper West Side Block into Play Street

By Emily Frost on June 15, 2012 6:37pm 

With construction planned to begin in the summer and carry into the school year, P.S. 87 is asking residents of West 78th Street and the neighborhood's community board for permission to create a temporary play street in front of the school.
With construction planned to begin in the summer and carry into the school year, P.S. 87 is asking residents of West 78th Street and the neighborhood's community board for permission to create a temporary play street in front of the school.
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Emily Frost/DNAinfo

UPPER WEST SIDE  — An Upper West Side school is proposing transforming a block of West 78th Street into a traffic-free playground.

The play street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues would host up to 170 students from P.S. 87 every schoolday between 11 a.m. and 2:15 p.m while a $1.3 million renovation to its school yard is carried out.

But the plan is being opposed by some residents concerned about access, safety and damage to parked vehicles.

“The kids will play on the street amongst parked cars," principal Monica Berry told Community Board 7's transportation committee at a meeting Thursday.

"The kids will just be running around. No balls. We’ll have coaches to teach them games and relays.” 

Cars currently line both sides of the block, making for a tight alley in the middle of the street.

“We have every intention to keep the block safe," said Parent Association member Katie Miller.

"It’s our kids out there. We don’t want them hitting cars. We don’t want them getting hurt.” 

The same concerns were voiced last year over a play street outside Ascension School, on West 107th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway, that had been used by kids since 2009.

The P.S. 87 plan would put closures in place starting in July and continuing until the end of the yard's construction, which is expected to be in the winter.

But residents' concerns included restricting vehicle access for disabled residents and for business deliveries.

Transportation Committee Co-Chair Andrew Albert told Berry, “Make sure that there are people guarding the entrance to the street and the exit to the street, manning the barricades with walkie talkies and phones."

"We have to be sensitive about access issues.” 

Upper West Side City Councilmember Gale Brewer shared in the committee’s caution towards the proposal and voiced her reservations to Berry.

“You have to be very vigilant because there are lots of things that come up," she said.

"There may be businesses that you don’t know about — maybe a home business has a delivery that has to be at exactly 12 noon."

The committee also insisted that the school put up more signage alerting the neighbors about the play street after some in attendance claimed they hadn’t seen any fliers about the plan. 

Board member Marisa Maack, who lives nearby, said she saw plenty of signs describing the play street and the opportunity to discuss it at the transportation committee meeting and the next full board meeting in July. 

“One thing everyone should understand is this is a temporary solution," she said.

"This is going to be a real hardship for the school and the street. Everybody wants this to be temporary." 

The transportation committee voted to allow the school to present its proposal before the full board on July 9.

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