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Forty 'Green' School Playgrounds to be Built Over Four Years, Officials Say

By Nikhita Venugopal | September 19, 2013 4:54pm

BOERUM HILL — Forty new “green” playgrounds will be built in Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx schools over the next four years, officials announced Thursday.

The city has teamed up with California-based Trust for Public Land, an organization that creates outdoor community space, to build “green infrastructure” at the new playgrounds, according to officials.

The announcement was made at P.S. 261 in Boerum Hill Thursday, where the partnership’s first newly constructed $1 million playground was unveiled in front of an audience of mostly kindergarten and first-grade students.

“The turf and the plants make it much better than just asphalt,” said Keel Roven, 9, at the opening ceremony.

Ten student-designed playgrounds have already been planned and the remaining schools are still to be determined, said Mary Alice Lee, director of the organization’s playground program.

The additional playgrounds will “improve the health and cleanliness of local waterways like the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, Westchester Creek, the Bronx River, Flushing Bay and Jamaica Bay" by capturing storm water and "easing pressure on the city's serwer system," according to the statement.

The playground includes “green" infrastructure components like green roofs, rain gardens and artificial permeable turf that absorbs storm water into the ground. 

The city’s Department of Environmental Protections will contribute $5 million a year towards the playground projects, said Commissioner Carter Strickland, in a statement.

As a part of Trust for Public Land’s deal with the city, the new playgrounds, including P.S. 261, will be open to the public, said Lee.

“The community will have year after year of enjoyment,” said Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who attended the opening ceremony along with Strickland, Councilman Stephen Levin, who contributed $200,000 to the project, and other officials.

The school’s custodial staff has agreed to maintain the grounds after school hours and on weekends, when the space will be open to the community, said Principal Zipporiah Mills.

Earlier this year, locals told DNAinfo New York that they were concerned P.S. 261’s new grounds could attract trouble, as had been the case in another neighborhood school.

P.S. 38 had experienced vandalism and unwanted intruders after their playground had been refurbished ten years ago by the Trust for Public Land.

The weekend crowd would leave the school in disarray and custodians would routinely find trash, broken glass and used condoms around the playground, school officials told DNAinfo New York in April.

P.S. 261 does not have a security guard during the public hours but Mills is reaching out to community members to keep the school grounds from suffering the same fate as P.S. 38, she said.

Neighbors and parents have agreed to help but Mills is hoping for the entire community’s support.

“We all have to take care of it together,” she said. “We need them.”

The Trust for Public Land informs schools that they must tend to the space, said Lee, adding that the organization has “a small repair budget” for maintenance.

“We want to make sure the schools understand what the responsibilities are,” she said.