LONG ISLAND CITY — More than a thousand residents voted to spend $245,000 in city budget funds to build a playground for special needs kids in Queens, officials said this week.
City Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Costa Constantinides announced the participatory budgeting contest winners in their respective districts Monday, where constituents were asked to choose from more than a dozen local projects they'd like to see funded.
The project that scored the most votes in Van Bramer's district — which includes Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside — was a plan to build a playground for students at P4@Skillman, a school that serves special-needs children from kindergarten to 8th grade.
Staff there said they are "overwhelmed" with excitement by the win, saying they've tried for years to drum up money for a playground to replace the blacktop lot at the school, applying for grants and other funding.
"We've been trying anything and everything," said Assistant Principal Alison Quinlan, noting that they have to walk at least 10 minutes from their building at Skillman and 49th avenues to take the students to an actual park.
"We really need a playground," she said.
Zuleika Tenf, an occupational therapist at the school, said they hope to equip the play space with sensory equipment and other features that would be the most fitting for their students, many of whom have moderate to severe autism.
"It would really help our students initiate play a little more than they do," she said.
Other winning projects in Van Bramer's district include spending $500,000 to upgrade the playground at P.S. 112 in Dutch Kills, $350,000 each to renovate the basketball courts at the Ravenswood and Queensbridge Houses and $100,000 to repair the bathrooms at P.S. 111.
The councilman will also allocate $300,000 for pedestrian safety improvements at two bus stops on 31st Street at 36th and 39th avenues.
In Constantinides' district — which encompasses Astoria and parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights — residents casted the highest number of votes for upgrades at Astoria Park, according to the lawmaker.
These include $500,000 to repair or install new water fountains at the park, as well as $250,000 for new picnic and chess tables for the green space.
Another $480,000 will be used to install two dozen countdown clocks at bus stops along several local routes, including the M60, Q18, Q19, Q33, Q47, Q69, Q101, Q102, Q103 and Q104.