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Village Kids May Gain 'Play Street' Despite Neighbors' Noise Concerns

By Andrea Swalec | February 25, 2013 7:17am

SOHO — Part of Grove Street may be closed to traffic for a portion of every weekday for use as a make-shift P.S. 3 playground, but some locals say they wish the school would keep its kids on its own property.

The public school's request for the creation of a "play street" on Grove Street between Bedford and Hudson streets has gained Community Board 2 support despite concerns from neighbors about noise and potential liability in the event that a child is injured on private property.

With a single abstention to an otherwise unanimous vote, CB2 approved P.S. 3's play street request Thursday night on a one-year trial basis, citing the school's need for additional outdoor recreation room because of overcrowding.

Grove Street resident Tara Leone, one of dozens of locals to weigh in on the play street proposal, urged the board to reject the school's request for use of the street just south of the 490 Hudson St. school.

"This would create 9 million times more noise," said Leone, a 34-year-old media executive.

Grove Street Block Association president Eric Weigel also worried about new noise on the block and said legal stipulations related to liability need to be clearer.

"It only takes one kid to get injured," he said.

P.S. 3 requested the use of the small street as play space for two 50-minute periods somewhere between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. because of overcrowding, principal Lisa Siegman said.

The school, which according to Department of Education figures is 8 percent over its capacity, was recently forced to convert its gym into a cafeteria so kids don't have to eat lunch too early or too late. Its rooftop playground is no longer enough.

"Being able to have a play street available as an alternate space is going to be better for everyone," Siegman said.

The play street would be used by about 100 students at a time, and would be limited to "soft" activities like relay races and the use of lightweight balls.

P.S. 3 parent Nick Gottlieb said his daughter skips recess in favor of indoor activities because the playground is too crowded.

The city's Play Streets program is a joint initiative by the city departments of health and transportation that aims to combat the childhood obesity epidemic, according to its website.

To be eligible to become a play street, a street must run only one way, have little to no traffic, be next door to a school and not be designated as a bus, truck or fire route. P.S. 3 appears to meet these requirements.

In order for the play street to be designated, P.S. 3 will need additional approvals from the 6th Precinct, the Health Department and the Transportation Department.

SoHo resident Craig Walker, who lives near Vesuvio Playground and its wading pool, assured Grove Street residents they would get used to the ruckus of children on the block, noting he often has to mention the background noise when he makes business calls from home.

"I have to explain I'm not playing Marco Polo," he said. "But I guarantee it's something you'll learn to find endearing."