West 78th Street to Close Down for Public School Play Street
UPPER WEST SIDE — A block of West 78th Street will shut down for a few hours every day starting this fall to give students at P.S. 87 a place to play while their backyard playground is under construction.
Community Board 7 unanimously approved plans Monday to convert West 78th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues into a temporary play street from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, for at least a year beginning in September.
Kate Rose Miller, Parents' Association president for P.S. 87, assured the board that the school would make accommodations for block residents and station volunteers at either end with walkie talkies in case vehicles need to get onto the street.
"We really need to keep the kids as safe as possible," she said, but she added that the school is also aware of the needs of the block.
Vehicles for emergencies or disability access will be allowed onto the block regardless of the time, Miller said.
"EMT and Access-a-Ride, we absolutely have to have that," she said.
However, for non-essential car services like deliveries or cab pickup, she said, "we will ask people to go to the end of the block."
Principal Monica Berry said she couldn't say for sure when the construction on the new play space would be finished, but that the school was given an estimate of nine months. Construction on the playground is set to begin next week, thanks to a grant from Councilwoman Gale Brewer's office.
The Upper West Side is home to other play streets, including one on 107th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.
But the program is controversial, with critics saying it locks in people on the block and prevents businesses from getting deliveries.
"There are a lot of home-based businesses on that block," said board member George Zeppenfeldt-Cestero, who lives on West 78th Street near the school. He added that he is worried about how businesses will be able to work when most deliveries come between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Berry replied that the school is talking to businesses about getting deliveries outside of that window.
Zeppenfeldt-Cestero said he also has concerns about what moving trucks will do around the beginning and end of each month.
Community Board 7 has fielded complaints for years from a small group of vocal residents on 107th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue who are unhappy with Ascension School's play street.
Miller said the school's 965 students will behave themselves while running around amid the parked cars on the street.
"It’s not an opportunity for the children to climb all over stoops and personal property," Miller said. "It’s going to be old-fashioned, with hopscotch and relay races and jumping jacks."