Parents at Hunters Point School Pushing for Outdoor Recess Space

By Jeanmarie Evelly on August 19, 2013 8:06am 

 Parents at P.S. 78 in Queens are pushing for a recess space to be built on the grounds in front of the school.
Parents at P.S. 78 in Queens are pushing for a recess space to be built on the grounds in front of the school.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

HUNTERS POINT — Kids at Long Island City's P.S. 78 have gone for years without regular recess, because the school — situated on the lower floors of a residential co-op building — lacks a proper playground, according to a group of parents.

Now, they are pushing to expedite a plan to build an outdoor recreational space in front of the school, and are hoping to see it open for the new school year.

Mom Bea Murphy, whose daughter Rae is starting second grade at P.S. 78 this year, says this is the fourth year that her child has gone without an outdoor recess space.

"Little kids need fresh air, sunshine, and most of all, a break in their day to refuel and rejuvenate," she said.

Kids have gym class twice a week, and sometimes have recess at nearby  neighborhood playgrounds, parents said, but have no designated space of their own.

Parents say the fight for the outdoor area has been going on for years at the school, which is sited on the first two floors of the CityLights building at 4-74 48th Ave.

The school originally sent kids outside to play on a terrace on the building's fifth floor, but closed it years ago for safety reasons — concerns over flicked cigarette butts and other items that were being discarded from the windows of apartments above the space.

There was even a proposal by the School Construction Authority to build a cover over the terrace, but it was ultimately shot down by the CityLights co-op board, which disapproved of the design.

Now parents say another plan to construct a play area on a portion of a small public green space in front of the school is being held up by drawn out lease negotiations between the School Construction Authority and the CityLights co-op board.

"It's one of these typical examples where lawyers, administrators, bureaucrats take all the time in the world, and the kids [who] are really affected by it — no one is advocating for them," said Kris Schrey, who has a son starting kindergarten at P.S. 78 next month.

"Even inmates in prison have an area where they can work out and they can exercise," he said.

But CityLights co-op board president Ed Sadowsky says a lease agreement is imminent.

"We're ready to sign it," he said. "There's no reason why this should not be done before the end of the month."

He said the delay was not caused by the board but by Queens West, the development company that granted the land in front of the building to CityLights.

In the original deal to give the co-op owners the space, Queens West included a provision that required the area to be publicly accessible at all times.

In order to approve a plan for a fenced-off children's playground, CityLights had to get Queens West to lift that provision for a portion of the land, which the developer didn't do until this past June.

"It took a year and half for Queens West to get around to thinking they should do it," he said.

A DOE spokeswoman said the project will start once the lease is signed.

Mary Piotrowski, a P.S. 78 mom who is on the school's leadership team, said she's not holding her breath.

"I'll believe it when I see it," she said.

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