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Crown Heights Parents Band Together to Replace Kids' Play Space

By Sonja Sharp | November 25, 2013 12:52pm
 After losing It Takes a Village, Crown Heights families look to start a infant and toddler hangout.  
Parents Work to Replace Crown Heights Play Space
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CROWN HEIGHTS — A crew of Crown Heights parents is working to replace a popular kids' play space that closed last week.

After learning that the financially struggling It Takes a Village indoor playground on Park Place was going to close, local parents began planning to launch a similar venue called The Stomping Ground nearby on Franklin Avenue.

"We’re excited about opening up this space as a place to go because a lot of us have small apartments," said Crown Heights mom Marie Clevering, 30, who is part of the group trying to open The Stomping Ground. "We want it to be like a second home for us."

The approximately 800-square-foot space will offer a warm spot for kids to play in the winter, as well as music classes and parent-and-child yoga, Clevering said.

The parents are still raising money and negotiating a lease for their new play space at 615 Franklin Ave., but they're hoping to open by Jan. 1.

"We're kind of in this race against time," said mom Aimee Molloy, 41, of the effort to sign up founding members. "Once it’s open it’ll probably attract a lot of people, but in order for us to open the doors we need to get a certain number of pledges in first."

According to the group's business plan, The Stomping Ground needs just 10 families paying between $500 and $700 a year to get the space off the ground by January — far fewer than the 65 to 70 members that would ultimately make it sustainable. A group of 15 "founding families" will pay $1,200 for the first year, and monthly memberships will be available from $50 to $70.

As of Friday, The Stomping Ground had signed up 11 founding families and eight families paying the standard annual membership, Molloy said.

Molloy and Clevering first met at It Takes a Village, which opened as a membership-based indoor place space for infants and toddlers in the fall of 2012 and quickly became a hub for the neighborhood's new nesters. 

But owner Michael de Zayas said seasonal fluctuations in membership made the tot spot unsustainable, forcing the space to close last week.

"The need for a physical space is seasonal in nature — the winter months, the colder months, there’s really strong need for an indoor play space, and the rest of the year there’s much less of a need," de Zayas said.  "It’s hard to sustain the expenses year-round."

However, the families behind The Stomping Ground said they're determined to succeed where It Takes a Village struggled.

"Annual members, we're asking to give the entire [first-year] membership up front," Molloy said. "We're trying to create a model that can be sustained throughout the year."