CROWN HEIGHTS — Dozens of Crown Heights kids joined more than 200 volunteers who braved a downpour Thursday morning to churn out 15,000 pounds of concrete, rake a mountain of mulch to build a jungle gym for area kids.
“When it started raining I just kept painting," said volunteer Michael Smith, 10, as he took a well-deserved pizza break. “When it became too wet, I started raking instead.”
In just less than six hours, the army of volunteers transformed an underutilized lot at the corner of St. Johns and Buffalo Avenue behind Calvary Church into a safe space for summer fun in an area with few other parks and playgrounds.
"We're creating a space that is safe, clean, and built by people from the community for the community," said Stephanie Smith, board chair for the youth initiative. "We have a lot of activities for youth, but it's a lot of stuff indoors. Now we have a space that will draw community members here."
Bruce Ratner, who donned a plastic poncho alongside other volunteers, said he'd wanted to bring KaBOOM! to Brooklyn ever since working on a playground in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But as the developer well knows, open space is hard to come by in Brooklyn, and often commands a premium price.
"It's very hard to find land to put playgrounds," Ratner said. "This is a particularly good place because this church is very important to the community."
Planning for the playground officially began in March, when children were asked to come up with drawings of their dream playground. Prep work began on Tuesday, construction finished on Thursday, and by Sunday the playground is expected to be open to the public.
"I've never been a part of something like this," said Smith. "It's amazing to watch."