LONG ISLAND CITY — A brand new playground has finally opened at P.S./I.S. 78 where parents and local leaders have been pushing to build an outdoor recess space for years.
The $350,000 playground is located in front of the school on the ground floor of Citylights Building on Center Boulevard and 49th Avenue. In previous years, students spent their recess at nearby parks or taking a walk around the neighborhood, parents said.
"It's amazing," PTA co-president Leslie Costa said, adding that having a space in front of the school was preferable to sending the children to Gantry Plaza State Park across the street.
"They don't have to cross Center Boulevard, which has always been a little frightening."
The playground will be used by students from pre-k to second grade who are enrolled in P.S./I.S. 78's early childhood center. Older students are housed in another building nearby.
"It's true that we have a park right across the street, but that street is one of the most dangerous streets that we have," City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said.
"Why should the children, four and five year olds from this school, have to cross that street to get to a play area?"
The school has never had a designated play space at the Center Boulevard building. When it first opened, students had recess outside on a fifth floor terrace, but it was closed to the children early on for safety reasons, parents said.
A plan to build a playground in front of the school has been underway for years, marred by red tape over leasing the use of the space which is owned by the Queens West Development Corporation as part of the Citylights Building.
"There were a lot of hurdles that we had to climb and get over and they had to do with who owns the property, who gets the property, who gets to decide," said Lorraine Grillo, president of the city's School Construction Authority.
The new playground includes ropes and bars to climb on, a mini-rock wall and a small seating area with moveable blocks kids can sit on.